July 2018, Volume 19
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
Sam Berns: My Philosophy for a Happy Life

Alt+Shift Update

Implementation teams representing Foundations of Communication and Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) were among the 15 teams at the first ever Alt+Shift Implementation Team Summer Retreat. In addition to those teams, Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) and Math Teams also participated in the training.

The teams spent three days learning from each other, Alt+Shift consultants, and our presenters from New York as they shared their work, received feedback, learned about the change process, and engaged in a process for strategic planning.

In their own words, participants said:

“The discussions! It was great to collaborate with peers in different places in this process. It was beneficial to connect with other groups here at the beginning and the end to continue the communication.”
“Being able to network with other teams, the suggestions for our challenges were really helpful.”
“Hearing about challenges that other districts are also having and talking about solutions I loved the time we had to hear how other areas are implementing similar practices. It allowed time to problem solve our areas of need.”
“I particularly liked the breakout sessions where we heard other school districts' plans for implementation of various Alt+Shift initiatives.” “It was fantastic to sit and talk with other groups and get different perspectives. Great hands on work to apply what we have learned and done throughout the year in the classroom and in trainings.”

Thank you to all the teams who attended and continue to push forward with Alt+Shift’s initiatives. Our collaborative process to build capacity around our state and improve student outcomes continues to grow and build momentum.

kate fanelli presenting at the summer institute

3 participants collaborating with one another

a breakout session with team members sitting together on the floor

one group showing other groups a posterboard with sticky notes on it

(Mi)2 Update

Register Soon: Foundations of Math registration for training in St. Johns ends this month, July 19.

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

Save the Date: Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

*January 29, 30, and March 5, 2019*

The 2018-2019 state-level offering for this 3-day course will be at Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) in St. Johns on January 29, 30, and March 5. The course focuses on using the Math Accessibility Framework to align accessibility strategies to students strengths/challenges, math content, and instructional barriers to learning. Content examples will be pulled from grades 4 through Algebra 1, although the accessibility strategies are applicable at all ages. Teams of general and special education math educators are invited to attend.

For those interested in becoming a facilitator of the course, an application will be available and successful applicants will attend the three-day training plus a fourth day (on March 6) for facilitators-in-training, focused on facilitation of the course.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference

Two breakout sessions with Kate Fanelli (“Strengthening Mathematics Instruction for Students with Disabilities” and “Building Thinking Classrooms”)
July 24-26, 2018
Grand Rapids, MI

Foundations of Math
5-day training with Dr. Chris Cain
August 1-2, October 3, and November 5-6, 2018
St. Johns, MI

Foundations of Math: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities
5-day training with Dr. Chris Cain and Kate Fanelli
August 3, October 4-5, and November 7-8, 2018
St. Johns, MI

Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities
2-day training with Marlene Cummings and Megan Zell
September 24-25, 2018
St. Johns, MI

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together
1-day conference
October 22, 2018
Lansing, MI

Upcoming Events: Michigan

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

2018 Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference
July 24–26, 2018
Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center
Grand Rapids, MI

36th Annual Van Riper Lecture Series
October 25-26, 2018
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI

Michigan Reading Association
MRA 2017 Summer Literature Conference
August 1-2, 2018
Shanty Creek Resort
Bellaire, MI

2018 MCTM Conference (Michigan Councilers of Mathematics)
July 24–27
Grand Rapids, MI

6th Annual Michigan Autism Conference
October 11-12, 2018
Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites
Kalamazoo, MI

#TalkingAAC 2018 Conference
November 28-30, 2018
Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center
East Lansing, MI

Michigan POHI/SXI Conference November 8-9, 2018
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI

Upcoming Events: National

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

ASHA Schools Connect 2018
July 20-22, 2018
Baltimore, Maryland

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

National Autism Conference
August 6-9, 2018
Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center
State College, PA

Lending Library Update

There are 46 items out on loan. 

New item:

AACORN app on iPad

AACORN is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app for non-verbal and speech delayed children. AACORN’s easy-to-use design makes assistive speech accessible to children of all ages and abilities. AACORN focuses on both speech and language development. The user makes a single word choice and AACORN finds and presents additional words automatically, just like predictive text but with word pictures. AACORN works because its branching pathway design visually shows the 'relationships' between words, teaching language through word association at the same time as providing assistive speech.

Lending Library: Borrower Interview

nikki stempien

Nikki Stempien
Speech Language Pathologist
Hillsdale County Intermediate School District

Alt+Shift: How long have you used the Lending Library?

Nikki Stempien: I started using the lending library this school year, so for about 9 months now.

AS: What items have you borrowed through the library?

NS: I have borrowed quite a few items, including a laser pointer with glasses mount, bluetooth super switches, iPads with LAMP and durable cases, and a big red switch.

AS: What has resulted from borrowing items from the library?

NS: I've had a variety of results come out of borrowing devices. I have multiple students who are becoming very independent communicators by using the iPad with LAMP. These students have used LAMP before and during therapy sessions with me. However, now that they have access to it all day, they've been able to more effectively communicate their wants and needs. I also had a student that I borrowed the laser pointer for and it didn't work out for him. However, it's great that we were able to borrow it to determine that it was not the best access to communication for him instead of spending the money on something that didn’t work. We also have a student who is very "locked in.” It's clear she has a lot of receptive language, but she isn't able to communicate verbally. She has many physical limitations that have made it difficult to determine the best method for her to access communication. We are currently trying a bluetooth super switch with her. It's been a lot of trial and error playing with different scanning settings, but we are getting there and excited to see what she is going to be able to start telling us!

AS: Would you recommend the lending library to others?

NS: Absolutely! It's a great way to trial devices with individuals to determine if they will be successful with them, before putting the money into it and just "hoping" it works. I think taking a lot of data during the individual’s time with the borrowed item(s) is also important. This way, if the device was successful with the student, you have data to back it up and could use that data to apply for the individuals insurance to pay for one for them to keep.


Dynamic Learning Maps is a valuable resource for teachers who are working with students with significant disabilities. There are modules for learning in the areas of mathematics, science, and language arts instruction. Teams and individuals can participate in virtual trainings via an online self-directed model or by using the online facilitated model which usually includes  handouts, video, powerpoints, pre and post learner assessment, and CEU information.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Corner

Summer is in full swing. Your students may be home for the summer, attending an extended school year, or attending school on a balanced calendar. Whatever situation they’re in right now, communication opportunities must be available to them every waking moment.

Home for the summer? Have your students’ families become familiar with their devices enough to take them everywhere they go? Do your families understand the importance of “Communication everywhere?”

Extended School Year? Different staff may be working with your students this summer than those who did during the school year. Are they all “on board” with communication supports during the school day? Do they understand the importance of “Communication all the time”?

Balanced calendar? Continue to provide what communication supports your students need, and you’ll see the results in continued language growth and communication functions without the regression other students might see.

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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.