May 2018, Volume 17
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
The all-stars of Beep Baseball

What Happened to the Summer Institute?


This year the traditional Alt+Shift Summer Institute is being replaced with the Alt+Shift Summer Retreat for implementation teams. This format more closely aligns with our mission of collaboration with local districts and implementation for positive impact on students. Over the past few years, Alt+Shift has offered both state-level, general audience trainings and implementation site partnerships to engage in co-construction of implementation plans and supports for those trainings.


Trainings include:

  • Foundations of Math.
  • Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties.
  • Delta Math.
  • Accessible Materials Made Right.
  • Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD).
  • Foundations of Communication.

Implementation sites submitted applications, engaged with Alt+Shift consultants for a long-term implementation effort, and formed implementation teams. The sites also provided time and space for the teams to meet on a monthly basis to engage in problem-solving cycles, reflective practices, and strategic planning for getting the training implemented into classrooms with students. Sites have participated in evaluative activities such as surveys, observations, and interviews, that allow Alt+Shift to better understand how to support implementation of new practices into local settings.


The Summer Retreat is for those sites that have been actively engaged with us over the past one to three years working on and studying implementation. The retreat will provide an opportunity for those teams to continue that work by learning from each other, learning more about the change process, developing a strategic plan for the coming year, and starting work on that plan.

Alt+Shift Update: Foundations of Communication


Foundations of Communication implementation teams are developing strategies and techniques to use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) across the day, and for multiple functions of communication. A staff self-evaluation observation form has been drafted and piloted. Teams identified areas in which they can model Core vocabulary with more frequency and with a greater variety of communicative functions. This co-constructed tool is helping staff to understand the types and amount of modeling they are doing in short periods of time. The value in looking at the types and frequency of modeling enables the staff to adjust and improve the types of modeling they are doing for students. Modeling appropriately for students using AAC had been difficult in the past, but with Core vocabulary and some self-evaluation, students are responding very well by using Core with increasing complexity. Staff also report that student growth has been abundant. Those reports have identified a need for the teams to collaborate on ways in which they can better track student progress. The teams continue to work to solve problems in a collaborative way.

Introduction to PODD Communication Books and PODD Implementation Sites


Alt+Shift is pleased to offer two training options for Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) books.


A two-day Introduction to PODD Communication Books training will be offered June 27 and 28 at Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA). Participants will learn strategies for, and gain hands on experience with, using PODD communication books as a part of a robust communication system for students with complex communication needs.


For more information, download the PODD flyer. To register, complete the online PODD training registration form.


PODD implementation site applications are being accepted through May 15. PODD implementation sites receive the two-day introductory training described above. The sites then engage in implementation work as they co-construct an implementation plan with Alt+Shift, local district/building administrators, and staff, and collaboratively work to put new practices into place.


For more information on PODD implementation sites, download PODD: A Brief Introduction for School Decision-Makers. To apply to become a site, complete the online PODD Implementation Site application.

(Mi)2 Update

Fall 2018 Foundations of Math registration and Foundations of Math: Teaching Students With Significant Disabilities registration are now open.

The two 5-day trainings will again be offered at Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) in St. Johns from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Foundations of Math
August 1 and 2, 2018
October 3, 2018
November 5 and 6, 2018

Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities
August 3, 2018
October 4 and 5, 2018
November 7 and 8, 2018

Upcoming Events: Michigan


Start the Assistive Technology Journey
May 14, 2018 - Gaylord, MI
May 16, 2018 - Marquette, MI


Introduction to PODD Communication Books
June 27-28, 2018
St. Johns, MI


11th Annual Life without Limits Through Assistive Technology Conference
May 10, 2018
Detroit, MI


Michigan Reading Association 2018 Summer Literature Conference
August 1-2, 2018
Shanty Creek Resort
Bellaire, MI


2017 MCTM Conference
(Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics)

July 25–27, 2018
Traverse City West Senior High School
Traverse City, MI


Foundations of Math
August 1-2, October 3, and November 5-6, 2018
St. Johns, MI


Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities
August 3, October 4-5, and November 7-8, 2018
St. Johns, MI


Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities - SAVE THE DATE
September 24 and 25
St. Johns, MI

Upcoming Events: National


CSUN - Assistive Technology Conference
March 19-23, 2018
San Diego, California


Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network (UDL-IRN) Summit
April 25-27
Orlando, Florida

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 11-15, 2018
Arlington, Virginia


International Literacy Association 2018 Conference
July 20-23, 2018
Austin, Texas


Closing The Gap 2018
September 26-28, 2018
Prior Lake, Minnesota


11th Annual Clinical AAC Research Conference
September 28-29, 2018
Fontbonne University
St. Louis, Missouri

Lending Library Update

There are 65 items out on loan. 
New item:

Smart/Scan 32 Pro by Advanced Multimedia Devices, Inc. (AMDi)

The Smart/Scan 32 Pro is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device from AMDi. It has multiple scanning options, scanning speeds, auditory prompts, and an option for customized scanning patterns. The amount of cells that you want to scan can be programmed to allow the device to grow with the user’s abilities. Recording capabilities are 32 messages per each of the six recording levels, or 192 possible message recordings. Each cell has a maximum recording time capacity of ten seconds per message and is digitally stored. The Smart/Scan 32 Pro has surrounding LEDs that illuminate each cell from three sides, giving a clear visual prompt of the scanning pattern in use. With single or double switch input options, it can also be used as a direct select device making it ideal for switch users with specific needs or schools where one device is needed to be an all-purpose device.

Lending Library: Interview With a Borrower

Megan Hojnacki

Alt+Shift: Describe your work and how you use the Alt+Shift Lending Library.

Megan Hojnacki: I am a speech-language pathologist with Caledonia Community Schools. I work mostly in a consultant role with other itinerants and special education staff who have students ranging from birth to age 26. My co-worker, who is an occupational therapist, and I created an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) support team for our school district five years ago through which we are able to build capacity for AAC within our area’s teams.

We train teachers, parents, peers, and other itinerants on best practices for working with students with complex communication needs. We also provide ongoing support as they navigate this journey.

I heard about the Lending Library in graduate school at Central Michigan University and have been using it for five years. I have borrowed Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) books, a variety of dedicated AAC devices, and different mounting systems. My students have celebrated many successes that started with a Lending Library communication tool. A few students have responded better to using a dedicated AAC device (such as an Accent 1000 from Prentke Romich). We had barriers with using an iPad with a communication app as a communication tool, including not having a loud enough voice output and it looking too much like the other "gaming" iPads in the classroom. Allowing my students to trial these dedicated devices has made implementation more successful. We have also been able to use documentation from these trials to help write funding reports so students can secure their own dedicated devices.

Alt+Shift: How could other educators and related services personnel use the Lending Library?

MH: I would recommend the Lending Library to others for the fact that you can try it before you buy it...AND have the data to prove it's the right fit!

Alt+Shift: What are some tips for other Lending Library borrowers?

MH: First, don't let the waiting list scare you! I've been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I have been able to borrow items despite the long wait lists. Second, try something new. You never know what might work for a student unless you try it. You've got nothing to lose! Third, want a longer loan period? Just ask! If the item is not on a wait list, the staff usually is more than happy to extend your loan. And fourth, plan ahead. Write the due date for items on your calendar and have shipping materials ready to go. Make sure to save all of the packaging materials that come in the box.


Now that some of our teams are progressing through the stages of beginning modeling, increased modeling opportunities, and using more complex forms of modeling both with Core vocabulary and PODD, we are seeing increasing use and complexity from our students.  We continue to develop strategies for tracking those utterances, but we have the following tool that can be extremely useful for developing baseline, setting goals, and tracking progress.

The Communication Matrix is a free online assessment tool to help families and professionals understand the communication skills of students in the beginning stages of communication. The Communication Matrix is free, easy to use, helps to establish baselines, helps to track progress, and is available in multiple languages.  

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Corner

PODD vs Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) vs Proloquo2Go (P2G) vs Speak for Yourself vs…….

If you’ve attended a PODD training, you’ll know right away that communication isn’t one system versus any other. PODD trainings emphasize that PODD may be but one of many different “things” included in an individual’s communication SYSTEM. The very definition of system: a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.

What is important is that the features of any given system are matched to the needs of the individual. Which means not only do we need to consider the type of communication system (paper-tech, mid-tech, high-tech; core vocabulary; communication designed by category, by function, etc.) but the language development needs of the individual as well. When Gayle Porter created PODD, she understood the development of language and realized that the individuals she was creating the system for did not have the same opportunities to use all of the functions of language as their typically developing peers.

When we’re looking at the different types of PODD books available for individuals, remember that they can be introduced to the early communicator (to teach the language) and to the communicator who has more developed communication skills (to grow their language). The one-page opening books are designed to teach the language functions, and the two-page opening books are designed to grow and expand on an individual's language development.

Alt+Shift, encompassing Michigan's Integrated Mathematics Initiative, is an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Grant Funded Initiative out of the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education.

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