September 2021 - Volume 57
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In this issue:

Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon.

Register Today for the 7th Annual Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together Conference

The 7th annual Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together (MRALT) conference is an opportunity for general and special education staff, elementary through secondary, to participate in shared learning experiences focused on meeting the needs of our diverse learners. We are excited to share that the conference will be offered virtually this year and include synchronous and asynchronous sessions.
The asynchronous sessions will cover a wide range of topics and be available for viewing at your convenience, October 18-29, 2021.  The synchronous, or “live” portion of the conference, will take place on Monday, October 25 with keynote speakers Ruth Anne Hodges and Rashell Bowerman. The keynote session, “Keep Students Moving Forward Through Accelerated Learning," will be an interactive experience and dive into Accelerated Learning as well as aligned topics such as Tier 1 instruction, Tutoring, and Student Engagement with an emphasis on how this guidance can benefit and be applied to students with disabilities. In addition to the keynote speakers, there will be live question and answer sessions with the asynchronous session presenters. 
To learn more about this great opportunity, or to register now, please visit the MRALT Conference website!  7th Annual MRALT Conference Information and Registration

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been asked multiple times, “Do you know of any good resources to teach someone how to make things developed for our websites accessible?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) is still one of the best resources to teach you the why’s and how’s of accessible documents, presentations, and PDFs. If that isn’t enough, AMMR is available on EduPaths at absolutely no cost to you or your district.
Even if you have participated in an AMMR in the past, live or online, it’s always a good reminder that this resource is available for everyone, whether you're new to accessibility or you are looking to brush up on your skills!

Assistive Technology (AT)

Are you or your colleagues interested in learning more about assistive technology for writing tools and supports but need something that fits into your schedule and is easily digestible? Gayle Evans, an AT consultant for Allegan Area Educational Service Agency (ESA) and Van Buren Intermediate School District (ISD), developed “bite sized” professional development (PD), being delivered as a monthly e-newsletter containing links, tips, and videos. Each newsletter takes approximately one hour to read through. If you’re interested, you can earn 1.0 State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) per newsletter, up to 10.0 SCECHs total. In addition to the newsletter, there will be live training sessions on the content via Google Meet. AT teams consisting of general education coaches and ancillary staff will be supporting these training and coaching sessions. Training sessions will be recorded and available for those who register. Interested participants can learn more about the bite sized PD topics and register for the AT newsletters.

Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication

Alt+Shift’s newest Professional Learning Opportunity (PLO) is officially kicking off later this month in two ISDs here in Michigan. Teams consisting of administrators, special education instructional personnel (supporting birth through transition-aged students), and a wide range of ancillary staff will grow their knowledge and skills in how to support their learners with complex communication needs. Each session will allow for participants to process, reflect, and apply the content related to their own students.    
Interested in learning more? Preview this PLO or learn more about Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication on our website.

Delta Math

The Delta Math implementation support website has a new page to support professional learning aligned to the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recommendation, “Intervention materials should include opportunities for students to work with visual representations of mathematical ideas, and interventionists should be proficient in the use of visual representations of mathematical ideas.”
The Delta Math Progressions page is a collection of articles, videos, and support guides to help interventionists deepen their understanding to provide math intervention using evidence-based recommendations.
This new web page begins with tables highlighting mathematical progressions of the Delta Math readiness standards for whole numbers, fractions, and algebraic expressions within number sense, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  The web page ends with samples of the “Build, Draw, Write” instructional sequence integrated into the lessons for each readiness standard on the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention tabs. The articles and videos in between supported our development of the Delta Math intervention lessons to integrate the Concrete, Representational, Abstract (C-R-A) instructional sequence and precise mathematical language used within each lesson. We will highlight many of these resources in future Alt+Shift newsletters.
If you have any questions about Delta Math Response to Intervention (RtI) program resources or implementation opportunities, please contact Mike Klavon at

Foundations of Math

Last month at the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference, Alt+Shift talked about accelerating learning by, to quote Pamela Harris, teaching “real math” instead of “fake math.” Harris defines fake math as “a disconnected set of facts to memorize and rules and procedures to mimic.” She defines real math as “using what you know, using the relationships and connections that you own to solve problems and, in the process, constructing new, complex math.” 
As you set goals and plan lessons this year, think about the math your students already know, even from several grades previous or from their outside lives and activities, and look for ways to help them see how that math connects to grade-level math this year.

Lending Library: Borrower Highlight

Jordan Murray
Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)
Gratiot Isabella Regional Educational Service District (RESD)

Alt+Shift: How did you hear about the Lending Library?
Jordan Murray: I learned about the Lending Library during my internship in graduate school.

AS: How long have you been using the Lending Library?
JM: This will be my 5th school year, and I have used the library each year.

AS: What items have you borrowed?
JM: I have borrowed a few eye gaze devices such as the Tobii Dynavox I-16 as well as the Tobii Dynavox I-110.

AS: What are the results from borrowing?
JM: Borrowing devices from the Lending LIbrary is a vital part in the process of getting my students a dedicated communication device. The trials allow teachers and I to not only see if the device works for the student, but determine what features are necessary and most appropriate before a full augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) evaluation. We are able to collect data in the classroom setting during familiar routines and events for the student. It is often the most efficient way to get a device in the hands of a student while we are trying to figure out what would be best for him or her. During AAC evaluations, students are in a different environment and working with unfamiliar people. The data collected from Lending Library loans often guides our decision during the evaluation. We are then able to recommend a device with data from several trials in different environments.

AS: Would you recommend the Lending Library to others?
JM: Yes! I would highly recommend the library because it has helped many of my students and their families. Communication devices are expensive and the process to get one is extensive. The Lending Library allows students to have access to a variety of communication devices quickly and without charge.


Michigan is full of well-known and hidden gems throughout the state. We’re looking for your support in developing the Alt+Shift Guide to Michigan! Add your favorite places to eat, explore, and experience where you live or in your favorite Michigan spots. Also, use it to guide your next vacation or place to eat/explore/experience as you plan your fall getaways (and beyond). To contribute, select the pink “+” sign in the upper right corner, type in your favorite place, select the correct location, then publish it to the map.


In fall semester 2021, students across the country will experience a transition that few of them have had to face in their educational journeys.

Although my experience was very different from what students are experiencing now, big disruptive events for me, and now for millions of school-aged students around the country, have caused much fragmentation in education.

In 2002 I started to attend East Lansing Middle School part time after a three year stretch of cancer treatments. Before this period, there were long stretches of times where I was not up to any formal schooling. When I was not in the hospital or heavily medicated, I tried to keep up my schooling and to follow the public school curriculum even while not being able to come into school everyday. Only after eventually winning my struggle with cancer in 2002 was I able to refocus the majority of my time and energy on education.

My transition to middle school was challenging. I had difficulty adjusting, especially after being physically out of school for so long. I not only returned to school after a three-year break from formal education, but I also needed to learn new ways of overcoming a whole new host of disabilities and challenges related to cancer.
I eventually regained my comfort and confidence in 7th grade after a few weeks of consistent and predictable education. In my experience, just going into the same school building at the same time Monday to Friday provided a very helpful structure to my everyday life.

Although my educational experience was unique, I imagine it could be similar in some ways for many students this fall. Stressors that have arisen from the pandemic will need to be acknowledged and sorted out in order to create an ideal learning environment for those returning to school.

Educators across the country should expect differing levels of learning growth in their students during this very fragmented period. Some students have continued to study and learn almost as normal, with the biggest change being a computer monitor presenting educational content rather than a teacher in a classroom. On the other hand, there will most likely be a higher proportion of students who were not able to continue their education and learning as smoothly.

As you prepare to begin the 2021-2022 school year, here are some things to keep in mind about students returning to school after disruption:

  • Students may be out of practice with structured lesson plans.
  • Students have not needed to wait their turn regarding raising their hands to ask their question or to suggest an answer.
  • Students may be easily distracted after meeting peers either for the first time or after a long stretch of separation.
  • Students with an individualized education program (IEP) or accommodations may need reminders from staff regarding their accommodations in school.

*Perspective is a new monthly section of the newsletter provided by David Shachar-Hill. David is a Michigan State University graduate in the area of social science. Prior to that, he attended Okemos Public Schools. So far he has lived in six cities, and even though he is an adult, he still enjoys building Legos in his spare time.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

MASA Fall Conference (Michigan Association of School Administrators)
September 22-24, 2021
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
Traverse City, MI

Alt+Shift Emergent Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
Days:  October 5, 2021, November 3, 2021, December 9, 2021, and January 11, 2022
Time: 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. EST (Registration); 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. EST (Training)
Virtual Conference
Alt+Shift Conventional Literacy for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication
Days:  October 5, 2021, November 3, 2021, December 9, 2021, and January 11, 2022
Time: 12:00 - 12:30 p.m. EST (Registration); 12:30 - 3:30 p.m. EST (Training)
Virtual Conference

9th Annual Autism Conference
October 7-8, 2021

Mathematics: Reaching All Learners Together
Asynchronous conference October 18-29, 2021, synchronous conference October 25, 2021
Hybrid Virtual Conference

Pre-Conference: November 4-5, 2021
Conference: November 8-9, 2021
Virtual Conference

Upcoming Events: National

NCSM Annual Conference
September 20-22, 2021
Atlanta, GA

Closing The Gap 2021
Pre-conference Workshops: October 7-8, 2021
October 11-13, 2021
Virtual conference

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Regional Conference
October 27-29, 2021
Phoenix, Arizona

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention 2021: Rising United
November 18-20, 2021
Hybrid Virtual Conference (Washington, DC)

ATIA 2022 Conference
January 26-29, 2022

Lending Library Update

There are 31 items out on loan. 

The Alt+Shift library is open.
Please return items/devices to the Alt+Shift office at:
1037 S U.S. Highway 27
St. Johns, MI 48879


PCEye 5

PCEye is a compact eye tracker that enables people with physical disabilities to control a Windows computer with their eyes. Connect the PCEye to your Windows device via USB and access your computer with the Computer Control software. Use the PCEye with a wide selection of devices. It attaches to most Windows tablets, laptops, and desktop monitors with screens up to 27" in size. It can be used both indoors and outdoors, even in bright light.

Keyguard Printing

We are excited to announce custom keyguards are currently being 3D printed and shipped at no cost to Michigan public schools. Please check out the KeyGuard Order Form to find out how to order a keyguard, or email if you have any questions.

Connect to Other MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiatives

Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF) - Subscribe to the newsletter to stay up-to-date on events and special education news.
Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) - Sign up for email notifications and the newsletter from MDE-LIO.
Michigan Multi Tiered System of Supports Technical Assisitance (MiMTSS) - Visit the MiMTSS website and look under “Announcements” for updates and events.
Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) - Visit the SEMS website for updates and information.
Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) - Subscribe to “START Connecting,” a monthly email with an article and information about START’s project activities, events, and resources.

Request Technical Assistance

If you have any questions about our offerings or resources, request technical assistance and someone from our staff will follow up with you.

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