November 2019, Volume 35
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In this issue:

Featured Video:
What losing my vision taught me about access | Luis Perez

Foundations of Communication (FoC): Implementation Story

Laura A. Getty, Ed. D., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Van Buren Intermediate School District Bert Goen’s Learning Center

How did you get started with Foundations of Communication?

The Van Buren Intermediate School District (ISD) Bert Goen’s Learning Center, our center-based program, began implementing the Foundations of Communication/Core Vocabulary project in September 2018.  As with any new educational tool, some staff were hesitant and others saw quickly the student benefit in utilizing it.

Describe one implementation challenge and how you overcame it or are working to overcome it.

One implementation challenge we have encountered at school has been helping an entire staff of almost 70 see the student benefit in using Foundations of Communication/Core Vocabulary. As with any new initiative, educators may have viewed it as “one more thing I have to do.” In an era when teachers are taxed with continually increasing expectations, the Core Vocabulary team at the Learning Center wanted to implement the universal communication system without putting one more burden on teachers and staff.  As such, last year when we first introduced it, we encouraged staff to begin using it; not whole sentences, just one icon at a time. Slowly but surely, and now in our second year, we have seen more and more staff and students using Core Vocabulary with a variety of fringe words in a very of settings and in a natural manner.

Describe one implementation success or highlight.

Both staff and students are integrating Foundations of Communication/Core Vocabulary into their daily routines. One teacher at the Learning Center reported using the Core Vocabulary to interact with a student who has cognitive impairment and is non-verbal. The student was not participating in the lesson and as the teacher was attempting to engage the student, he used the Core Vocabulary board to point (to say) “you” “go” “finished.” The teacher wasn’t happy with the student’s response but celebrated the fact he was able to express his thoughts on the matter.  In another instance, a young lady, who has a cognitive impairment and is non-verbal was standing in the hallway.  When the SLP asked her what she was doing she used Core Vocabulary and fringe words to say “I” “go” “greenhouse.” That indeed was where she was going. She was just waiting for her class to come out of the room and they would all walk together. How exciting to celebrate students expressing their thoughts!

When encountering change, we need to remember, it takes a village to raise a child and also that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD)

This summer, 50 Michigan educators attended a five-day intensive “Teaching Movements for Communication” workshop presented by Gayle Porter and Claire Cotter of the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) in Australia. As a follow-up to the intensive workshop, a cohort of participants representing all assistive technology regions in Michigan will meet throughout the year to share how they’re building capacity within their own ISDs as well as how they’re implementing these new strategies.
To share this valuable information with more educators, Carolyn O’Hearn presented an overview at #TalkingAAC last month, focusing on key movement issues (e.g, weight bearing, motor planning, muscle tone, etc.) and developing intention and self-talk in students with complex physical bodies. Stay tuned for future resources developed by Michigan educators to help get you started teaching movements for communication with your own students!

Accessible Materials Made Right (AMMR)

It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. This saying holds true in the world of web accessibility as well. Lawsuits directed toward web accessibility are rapidly increasing in frequency. Between 2000 and 2015, there were no Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) web access related lawsuits filed at the federal level. There were 2,282 of these lawsuits filed at the federal level in 2018, and the current pace is one lawsuit being filed each working hour of the day (a rate of 40 per week).
While at the federal level, education related websites account for only 1 percent of these lawsuits (retail and other service related industries account for the majority), it doesn’t mean that they are out of the spotlight. Most schools in Michigan have already had a complaint filed against them through the Office of Civil Rights. It is highly likely that those complaints will resurface in the not-too-distant future as more advocates and resources are freed up to focus on issues surrounding web accessibility.
It is true that the best defense is a good offense This is the time for schools to be proactive in addressing the accessibility of their websites. What are you doing right now to reduce the legal risk and clearly communicate your ongoing commitment to web accessibility? What are you doing to remediate your websites and resources? What are your plans to maintain and document all that you have done?
If you want to learn more about creating accessible content, join the growing community of educators in and beyond Michigan who are participating in the EduPaths courses or feel free to contact Alt+Shift to learn more about what you can do to make your websites more accessible to everyone.

Comprehensive Literacy Instruction

Our Emergent Literacy trainers were busy providing two trainings to more than 90 participants during the past month!  The training was offered for the first time above the bridge in the Upper Peninsula. Participants learned about the power of Universal Core vocabulary in addition to the five emergent literacy strategies which include shared reading, predictable chart writing, alphabet and phonological movement, independent writing with access to the full alphabet, and self-directed reading. Alt+Shift will host a conventional literacy training in St. Johns on February 17-18, 2020. If you'd like to register, please utilize the Comprehensive Literacy Instruction registration link

Assistive Technology (AT) Journey Update

The AT Journey is heading to Orlando in January 2020! Mike Marotta and Jeff Diedrich are presenting at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) national conference. Their breakout session, entitled “The Michigan AT Journey: From AT Experts to AT Teams,” will discuss how the AT Journey was designed and developed, as well as share examples of learning experiences (live training, webinars, book study, social media chats, etc.) and team outcomes from those who participated in the 40-hour live AT Journey.

(Mi)^2 Update - Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties

Four educators from the Ingham ISD were recently certified to facilitate the Enhancing Math course for their district. Tara Becker-Utess, Jennifer Bricarell, Deb Carl, and LaVendee Fulton (pictured below) sought out the training as a way to support general and special education teachers as part of their district improvement plan. What follows is their implementation story of why and how they became trainers. 

At Ingham ISD we are frequently asked by our local schools to support students who struggle in mathematics at the secondary level. Before Enhancing Math, our efforts were based on a school-by-school need and rarely involved the special education teachers. Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties provided a coherent framework for supporting ALL math students, while focusing in on those who struggle (whether identified with a learning disability or not). We also appreciate the focus on bringing mathematics teachers and special education teachers together and supporting their learning in mathematics content and planning accessible lessons.
The facilitator certification process was really well done. The most challenging part was finding a person with a special education background to join our team; however, we found that this was worth the time and effort. LaVendee brings such a wonderful perspective and unique expertise to our team of general education teachers.
We are excited to be partnering with Eaton Regional Education Service Agency (RESA) to make this training available to more than 18 public and private school districts in our service areas. The participants are asked to come as a team of special education and general education teachers. They will complete the three days of training. On the third day, they will be asked to create an action plan for follow-up coaching on one to two strategies from the course that they want support in implementing, and what these strategies will look like when implemented fully. The action plans will guide the follow-up coaching which may include observations and feedback, co-planning, co-teaching, modeling, or co-observations. Teams that complete all homework and engage in a follow-up coaching cycle will receive a classroom set of algebra tiles.

Upcoming Events: Alt+Shift

Assistive Technology Leadership Meeting
November 26, 2019
Clinton County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA)
St. Johns MI
Conventional Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs
February 17-18, 2020
Clinton County RESA
St. Johns, MI

Upcoming Events: Michigan

Assistive Technology Playdate
November 15, 2019
Battle Creek Math and Science Center
Battle Creek, MI
Michigan Council for Exceptional Children (MCEC) Conference
March 4-6, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI
2020 MiAEYC Annual Early Childhood Conference  (Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children)
March 26-28, 2020
Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place
Grand Rapids, MI

Upcoming Events: National

National Association for the Education of Young Children
November 20-23, 2019
Music City Center, Nashville, TN
American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Annual Convention
November 21-23, 2019
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL
Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference
January 28-February 1, 2020
Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center, Orlando, FL
CEC 2020 Special Education Convention & Expo
February 5-8, 2020
Portland, OR

Lending Library Update

There are 74 items out on loan. 
Hook plus device

New Item:
Hook+ Switch Interface

You can now use switch control without bluetooth! Hook+ is an Apple MFi approved switch interface that provides a reliable wired connection to the iPad and iPhone via the Lightning connector. Hook+ is compatible with Switch Control found in iOS 8 or later.


The way you approach augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) when modeling or waiting for a student’s response can make a bigger impact than you expect. One set of researchers, von Tetzchner & Grove (2003), reported that “the attitudes and expectations of people in the environment may to some extent influence all children’s language development, but they may be critical for children who use alternative forms because these children depend on the means and opportunities provided by professionals.”
If you convey the attitude that AAC is inconvenient or “one more thing to do” or that PODD is overwhelming, you could be sharing these views with your students and colleagues (even if it’s not what you’re intending). If you don’t value that form of communication, why would the student? When you’re new to PODD or AAC, remember that you’re all learning together! One SLP provides ideas for "5 Steps to Improve Your AAC Skills" on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) blog. Have fun with this new adventure and be open to providing additional opportunities for your students to communicate. How can you reframe your attitudes or expectations with your students this month to promote PODD or AAC use?

Our other Newsletter

Subscribe to the (Mi)2 Newsletter for more information about Mathematics in Michigan.

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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.