June 2022 - Volume 57
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In this issue:

Elizabeth Bonker was diagnosed with nonverbal autism, and over the weekend she delivered a speech at Rollins College via a text-to-speech computer program.

Important: Consider Accessibility of Curriculum Materials

As you purchase curriculum materials for the coming school year do not forget to consider the accessibility of the content.  Be sure to embed language obligating publishers to submit NIMAS compliant files to the NIMAC.  View sample contract language and learn more about vetting materials for accessibility at the Accessible Educational Materials Center.

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

The Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR) user group recently received an introduction to our friends at Disability Network West Michigan (DNWM). Brad Hastings and Jeff VanDyke from DNWM explained what Centers for Independent Living (CILs) do for their communities.

Designed and operated by individuals with disabilities, Centers for Independent Living (CILs) provide independent living services for people with disabilities. CILs are at the core of Administration for Community Living’s (ACL) independent living programs, which work to support community living and independence for people with disabilities across the nation based on the belief that all people can live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society. These programs provide tools, resources, and supports for integrating people with disabilities fully into their communities to promote equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect.” Source: Administration for Community Living (ACL)

Find your local CIL.

The CIL AMMR April 2022 user group meeting is now available to watch on YouTube. In total it is almost 35 minutes long, but chapters allow you to skip around the content.
The presentation about CILs is only the first eight minutes of the video. The rest is conversation around different topics and Jeff's journey as someone with cerebral palsy attending a commercial arts program at a career tech center and becoming a graphic designer. Some additional stories along the way are also included.

Assistive Technology (AT)

Earlier this year, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) released a position paper on the capacity-building role of assistive technology specialists in PreK-12 educational settings. According to RESNA’s website, “this paper could be used to guide school districts in supporting and enhancing the implementation of assistive technology by utilizing assistive technology (AT) specialists to build staff capacity around AT. It can serve as a tool for AT specialists to self-advocate to improve service delivery within their organization.”

Some key takeaways include:

  • The capacity-building approach focuses on increasing the knowledge and skills of educational professionals through different types of training, including individual coaching, group presentations, and the creation of on-demand resources (e.g., websites, recorded webinars, how-to videos, self-paced training modules) (p. 4, 30).
  • Educators must have the capacity to consider, assess, and implement AT for students with disabilities. This also includes recognizing the potential need for AT. Part of this capacity includes an understanding of the district's assistive technology policies, procedures, and evaluation process when a student needs more individualized technology (p. 11, 29).
  • Training, exposure to, experience with, and general perceptions on the overall usefulness of AT can impact how, when, and how often assistive technology is adopted in classrooms (p. 16).
  • Administrators who actively support organizational processes that support collaboration and communication are paramount to building sustained capacity for AT services (p. 19).
  • If districts or intermediate school districts (ISDs) are considering AT specialist positions, the AT specialist should be recognized as a capacity-leader, not just a direct service provider (p. 27).
  • When an effective capacity-building model is implemented, shared ownership can lead to collaboratively addressing other technology-related responsibilities in an equitable manner, including developing and implementing policies and procedures around access to informational and instructional technology (p. 28).

The position paper is free to download; however, interested parties will need to create an RESNA account before downloading. Michigan AT leaders who are interested in connecting with others who are shifting to a capacity-building approach are welcome to join the AT cohort. Meetings for the 2022-2023 school year are being scheduled. Contact Carolyn O’Hearn for more information.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Including Building Blocks to Autonomous Communication and Comprehensive Literacy for Autonomous Communication Educator Feature

Nichole profile

Nichole Howard
Special Education Teacher
Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District (RESD)

Bre profile

Bre Hof
Speech Language Pathologist
Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District (RESD)

Tell me about how you collaborate together to better support all learners, including AAC users with complex bodies within your classroom?

Nichole: Bre and I value consistent, open communication. We share details and progress of students, successes, challenges, wonderings, and concerns regularly but not perfectly because schedules can be hard to coordinate.
We went to the Teaching Movements for Communication that Alt Shift hosted in July of 2019 and it was a game changer. The intense, five-day training highlighted the importance of focusing on the whole child, not just communication. With that in mind, Bre and I promptly went back to work and talked to the occupational therapist (OT) and physical therapist (PT) on our team. Their responsiveness allowed Bre and I to be better supported and knowledgeable moving forward with teaching literacy strategies and supporting learning AAC to students with complex bodies.
Bre: As an ancillary staff member, who is not in the building every day, I value the collaboration and open communication of our classroom team. Our schedules align, so OT, PT, and Speech are able to be in the classroom on the same day most weeks. We all utilize this time to do push-in therapy, which allows each of us the opportunity to observe what others are working on and get real-time feedback about ways we can support the whole child. Nichole contributes greatly to these therapy days and is an engaging, reflective educator. She listens, observes, and asks questions that make me think and consider things differently than I would if working alone. Additionally, our team takes time to meet monthly to discuss student progress and to brainstorm supports to better meet student needs.
How has this collaboration impacted staff and students? 

Nichole: Having a team of knowledgeable and supportive ancillary staff gave me a lot of confidence to implement literacy strategies and support AAC. I knew if I tried something and it didn't work, I could go back to the team for suggestions and then we could decide specific tweaks to try again. This has given students so many opportunities to learn and watch us learn too! We have students using their AAC devices to tell other students to stop annoying noises. We have a student writing his name. All students believe they are authors and many ask to read books. Paraprofessional staff has seen the excitement of the professional team and students and have enthusiastically learned and joined in the effort. They regularly acknowledge students’ comments and writing.
Bre: I think collaboration in the classroom impacts the staff and students in many ways. Nichole’s curiosity and ability to integrate best practices in the field of AAC into her daily instruction allows students to have access to a caring, language-rich environment throughout the week, not just during therapy sessions. I feel this creates a classroom that prioritizes connection, understanding, and growth for all people, staff, and students alike.This classroom culture lends itself to increased motivation and willingness to make mistakes that lead to deeper learning.
How have you incorporated information from Teaching Movements for Communication and Comprehensive Literacy into your classroom? 

Nichole: It was key to me to have input and support from the OT and PT to ensure students were in the best positions to access AAC devices and learning materials. Consideration has gone into how to present materials for alphabet awareness, independent writing and reading, as well as how students can cut words or indicate to an adult where to cut words within predictable chart writing. The PT has given suggestions on seating for students and the OT has been key in determining alternate pencils. It also helps that Bre attended the training with me so we can brainstorm options as well.
As a speech-language pathologist (SLP), how do you support comprehensive literacy instruction and AAC within Nichole's classroom? 

Bre:  I’ve been able to work closely with Nichole, her paraprofessional staff, and students during literacy instruction. Often, I push-in to the classroom during independent writing, predictable chart writing, or alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness activities. During push-in, I support AAC users by modeling ways they might participate using gestures, facial expressions, or AAC. I have also done whole group lessons, which have included shared reading and predictable chart writing. During these whole group lessons, we intentionally incorporate the letter of the day and core words to provide repetition with variety in natural contexts.

Delta Math

The Delta Math Tier 2 and Tier 3 Intervention tabs provide lessons, as well as targeted practice, for each Delta Math standard from the Institute of Education Sciences that integrates evidence-based recommendations.
Visual Guided Practice is one kind of the targeted practice available. These resources include graphic organizers that integrate visual representations and precise mathematical language that is consistent with the use of physical manipulatives and math drawings integrated throughout the Delta Math intervention lessons. Three different forms provide the opportunity for students to revisit each standard up to three times while utilizing “We Do Together” problems, reflection questions, and “You Do Together” problems. And, form A solutions are provided for educators who may not be familiar with the visual representations used for each Delta Math standard.
Explore the Visual Guided Practice for your grade level’s tier 2 or tier 3 standards and consider using them with your students as a warm-up or center activity, or embed them within your classroom instruction.
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

Numberless Word Problems
Students benefit from developing a conceptual understanding in order to better apply procedures to math problems. Numberless word problems can help by scaffolding a word problem and drawing attention to the underlying mathematical structure.
Brian Bushart’s blog post, Numberless Word Problems, shares what numberless word problems are and how they address these types of challenges. He shares his own numberless word problems (all set and ready for you to try out or adapt for yourself) and how to write your own.


* Perspective is written 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 where he received special education from 7th grade on. So far he has lived in six cities. Even though he is an adult, he still enjoys building Legos in his spare time.

As we enter June 2022, millions of public school students will have a three month long vacation. It is important for most students to have a break in order to relax and unwind after working very hard academically during the year. On the other hand, the traditional vacation that Americans look forward to has its downsides also. Most educators, though not all education researchers, agree that school students suffer significant learning loss over the summer. This loss, measured in research using test results, varies widely between students and is taken into account in most schools’ teaching.
For educators and  parents as well as students, there are both opportunities and challenges associated with the extended break. So in normal years, any learning loss/stagnation associated with the long summer vacation may be offset by the opportunities students and educators have for extra-curricular growth. Socialization, work experience, and a period in which to regain one’s balance are all potentially valuable.
Recently however, students’ education has been badly disrupted by COVID-19, which has posed serious issues for parents, educators, and students. One of the most significant disruptive effects brought on by COVID-19 was extended periods of time in which students were not able to attend school and in many cases had severely diminished learning opportunities. Especially in light of the disruptions of the school year of 2020 to 2021, it is important to consider different ways to give students a better chance to catch up as well as to retain the knowledge that they acquired in their previous academic year.
One promising potential action to address the legacy of COVID as well as minimize learning loss over the summer break could be for educators to provide students and parents with supplementary academic material. If implemented correctly, this might give students the opportunity to practice grade appropriate academic skills over the summer. One way to minimize learning loss over the summer could be to provide information and connect families during the school year with local libraries, museums, and local public resources that enable learning opportunities over the summer. All students and families have different situations but providing additional learning opportunities over the long summer months might allow students to maintain their academic skills while fitting flexibly into most learners' summer schedules.

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM)
Saturday, October 22, 2022
Live - Virtual Conference

Upcoming Events: National

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Schools Connect
July 13-25, 2022
Virtual Conference

Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Conference
July 14-16, 2022
Arlington, VA

Lending Library Update

There are 98 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

Round device with four arrows indicating directions and a large joystick in the middle

4-in-1 Joystick Switch

Need to activate more than one switch? This 4-in-1 joystick switch is great for the user who needs to access multiple switch-adapted devices or a single device with multiple switch inputs. It can also be used to teach directionality—left, right, up, down.


Many amazing podcasts can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and Google Podcast. This format can be a great resource to support professional growth and development in manageable chunks! Consider exploring these podcasts: 

  • NCSM’s Leadership in Mathematics
  • Math is Figure-Out-Able with Pam Harris

Connect to Other MDE OSE Grant Funded Initiatives

Michigan Alliance for Families

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 Support Technical Assistance Center

Michigan's Multi-Tiered System of Support Technical Assistance Center (MiMTSS TAC)

Visit the MiMTSS TAC website and look under “Announcements” for updates and events.

 Special education mediation services

Visit the SEMS website for updates and information.

Statewide Autism Resources and Training

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.