May 2019, Volume 29
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
What is a learning disability?

Foundations of Communication Update: Educator Feature

Toni Kucharczyk
Speech Language Pathologist
Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District (ISD)

Alt+Shift (AS): In what ways have you implemented ideas and information from the Foundations of Communication (FoC) training/implementation process?
Toni Kucharczyk (TK): The first thing we learned is that everyone needs to have access to the core boards within our school. We put up poster-sized core boards in all classrooms, the lunchroom,  bathrooms, and the gym. We even put small boards on the buses for students to use. We are fortunate that all of the staff in the building participated in the initial core board training, and we were able to meet as classroom teams to see how we can take what we learned and use it the next day in the classroom. The first step for many of the classrooms was using core boards during guided reading in large groups.
AS: What impact has the training/process had on you and those you work with (e.g., teachers, students, ancillary staff, administrators, parents, Community Mental Health (CMH), etc.)?
TK: The Foundations of Communication training has really helped us to develop a school-wide aided language system that is consistent across classrooms and ages. It has greatly impacted my therapy sessions as well as the carryover into the classrooms because it is a consistent system used in the entire school. The teachers and paraprofessionals at the Learning Center have adopted the system and are helping to develop new ways to use the core board during the school day. I believe that it has made a positive impact not only in the students’ communication but in their behaviors as well.
AS: Describe one implementation highlight or success.
TK: One implementation highlight is our Core Board Activity Boxes. We wanted to have an easy way for everyone to get started using/practicing the core boards. We received three different grants to help fund 60 boxes of activities that focus on 8-10 core words per box. It is a grab and go system that everyone (speech and language pathologists, teachers, paraprofessionals, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and even substitute teachers) can use to reinforce the core board use. This has been a way for everyone to become comfortable in a variety of ways to use the core boards.
AS: Describe one implementation challenge/barrier and how you're working on overcoming it.
TK: The biggest barrier we have encountered is using our core boards with the older students. We are working toward having the students interact with their peers using the core board while playing different games. We are also encouraging them to design their own pictures (e.g., emojis) for the core board words to get them involved in the process.
AS: What are your next steps in the implementation process?
TK: Our next steps include doing our end of the year staff survey to determine their use and comfort level using the core boards, doing an observation on our focus students to collect data on their use of core boards, and to develop more Core Board Activity boxes with the focus on science and math. In addition to that we are in the process of starting a library with a variety of books that incorporate core words as well as fringe vocabulary that will be available to the entire school.
AS: How has Alt+Shift supported your district's FoC journey?
TK: We have had a great deal of support from Alt+Shift! They have provided initial trainings for our entire staff, helped us to develop our three-year timeline for our implementation plan, and have provided monthly check-ins to help keep us on track and to problem solve and discuss new ideas.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Update

Staff from the implementation teams had the opportunity to attend a Zoom meeting involving all seven implementation sites. These meetings allow teams to share successes that have come from PODD implementation (both student and staff successes!) as well as work together and brainstorm how to overcome barriers that may arise. Several of the sites agree that it’s a great way to network and foster statewide collaboration in PODD implementation.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) Update

A common misunderstanding surrounding the world of online accessibility is that we are focused exclusively on providing access to people with visual impairments. Although it is true that good accessible design has a great impact on those with visual impairments, it impacts many others as well.
It is important to remember that our goal is to provide greater access to as many people as possible. Limitations in our understanding of what makes something accessible and who needs accessibility will ultimately result in a smaller audience that can benefit from the resources we create. This is why the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) specifically state that adherence to the guidelines “will make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations.”
Check out our free online courses at EduPaths if you would like to learn more about how you can make content accessible to all of your constituency.

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction Update

Jacqueline Gale, Megan Hojnacki, and Bethany Vandenbrand, along with Dr. Karen Erickson, just completed a 2-day Conventional Literacy offering at Kent ISD. This was the final component of our first Conventional Literacy trainer development process, and feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the training and about our Michigan trainers.
Participants reported that the training caused them to shift the way they think about teaching and learning in their classrooms and how they can explicitly teach literacy to students with significant disabilities. Participants also said they learned, among other things, specific strategies for engaging writing activities, implementing word walls, and promoting literacy through activities like word sorts and key words.

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey Symposium Update

Last month, the teams participated in the final live training for the 2018-2019 school year. The teams spent the year developing an implementation plan revolving around growing their assistive technology teams; eliminating information silos by sharing more information; and refining their process for considering, selecting, and implementing AT so the needs of more students are met throughout their counties. Join us for our final Twitter chat on May 14, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern standard time. Follow @AltShiftEd and #ATinMI to join in.

(Mi)^2 Update - Foundations of Math

As Alt+Shift prepares to shift our focus from implementation at the building level to the ISD level, Alt+Shift’s state-level offerings of the Foundations of Math course will be put on hold. We will not offer a state-level training this fall for Foundations of Math or Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities. Our focus over the next year will be to restructure these courses to better align with site-based implementation, allowing for the most impactful experience for our future participants and strengthening both the training and our ability to support ISDs with whom we will partner.
Data collected over the past four years has informed multiple reviews of our goals, progress, and scope of work as we work to develop the course into a version conducive to implementation.  As we say in the course, we have to go slow to go fast, and that is what we at Alt+Shift are working to do. Our goal is to restructure the course into shorter trainings over a longer period of time which will allow participants a chance to really engage in the strategies and practices we hope to empower them with. We will also seek out partnerships with ISDs to spearhead the implementation work regionally so the training can be implemented at a greater rate across the state. 
We appreciate your patience, feedback, and support. We will continue to offer support via our newsletters, social media, and our listserv (  If you have any questions, please feel free to email the Math Accessibility Specialist - Briana Bancroft (

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Alt+Shift Implementation Team Summer Retreat
June 18-20, 2019
Traverse City, MI
*This event is open by invitation to our current implementation teams. More information to come.

Teaching Movements for Communication
July 15-19, 2019
Wesley School in Muskegon
Alt+Shift has 25 seats and there was an application process for those seats
Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference
“Overview: Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties.” pre-conference session
July 30, 2019
Eberhard Center
Grand Rapids, MI

2-Day Introduction to PODD
August 7-8, 2019
Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)
St. Johns, MI
Registration link to come

Upcoming Events: Michigan

12th Annual Life Without Limits Through Assistive Technology Conference
May 9, 2019
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Detroit/Dearborn
Detroit, MI
AT Maker Extravaganza!
May 10, 2019
Washtenaw ISD
Ann Arbor, MI
PODD Alternative Access and Speech Generating Devices
July 22-23, 2019
Lansing Community College West Campus
Lansing, MI
*prerequisite: Introduction to PODD Communication Books training (2 or 3 day)
Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM) Conference
July 30-August 1, 2019
Eberhard Center
Grand Rapids, MI
Zones of Regulation
August 16, 2019
Holiday Inn - Muskegon Harbor
Muskegon, MI
#TalkingAAC (registration not yet open)
October 14-16, 2019
Kellogg Conference Center
East Lansing, MI
Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together Conference (registration not yet open)
October 28, 2019
Lansing Community College West Campus
Lansing, MI

Upcoming Events: National

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
June 24-28, 2019
Toronto, Canada
ASHA Connect Conferences - 2019
July 19-21, 2019
Chicago, IL
Closing The Gap 2019
October 2-4, 2019
Prior Lake, MN
International Literacy Association 2019 Conference
October 10-13, 2019
New Orleans, LA

Lending Library Update

There are 102 items out on loan. 
Proloquo Keyguard

New item:

Key guard for Proloquo2Go on iPad Air 2 

Custom made landscape orientation keyguard with four rows and four columns. For use with the Proloquo2Go app on the iPad Air 2. Keyguard slips into the case provided with each iPad Air 2 in the library. Attaching a keyguard to the iPad while using Proloquo2Go helps eliminate accidental button selections as students are communicating.

Opportunities to Learn More

Help us keep our lending library up to date with the assistive technology products you want to trial with your students. Is there a new device, software, or iPad application that is not available for you to borrow in the lending library? You can find the request a new product form on the lending library home page. Once the form is filled out, your request will be considered for the library, and you will be contacted by email with the result of your request.


Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC in the Cloud is a free online conference with a variety of breakout sessions that focus on AAC. It aims to strengthen the AAC community by providing the opportunity to refuel, increase understanding, and collaborate with others. This year’s conference is June 25-26, 2019. You may also access the breakout sessions from 2017 and 2018.

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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.