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Winter 2024 Newsletter

Winter 2024 Newsletter

Welcome to the first quarter newsletter of WI AAC Network. 

Click here to view the newsletter in Google Docs: Wisconsin AAC Network – Winter 2024 – Newsletter

Man, this will be nine years of doing the network for us. How can it be?? When I thought up this idea, I didn’t realize how big this would be. At this time I was a crazy teenager who had an idea of something to do. I have been using a device for 14 years and I have been to an AAC camp for 7 years, but I didn’t realize that I could be doing speeches, blogs, learning about assistive technology and special education, and serve on committees and organizations.

I was helping a few local friends with trying to make them want to use their device. I need to tell you a quick story. One of the first children that I helped, they liked to fall asleep every time I came to work with them. I would have written up my lesson plan for my visit and maybe we would get to a half way through the visit and they would fall asleep :). I laughed at this now. But I didn’t know how to work with children with a communication disability. I was just teaching things that it worked with me and it worked. 

If you work at a therapy or a school district, please consider having one of your students as a mentor to the younger students. It might help younger students, but the mentor will benefit them too. The mentor needs to come up with an interesting activity to do, communicating with the student’s team and their family, and know their role. Mentors do not need to know the student’s personal information, student’s IEP, and student’s day to day. What a mentor’s job is to show students what they can do with their communication device. I had and still have mentors in my life and they were and still are helpful in my life. I hope you will choose to have mentors in your work or student/child’s life. Who knows they might become the next me. 

Newsletter Contents:

In this issue, you will find a review of ATIA both in person and online, updates on the AT Forward and AAC ECHO programs, and more. 

  • Page 1 – Welcome   Mike Hipple
  • Page 2 – Review of ATIA Kelly Fonner
  • Page 3 – ATIA Online & new Federal Documents   Mike Hipple
  • Page 4 – WI presentation Jennifer Schubring
  • Page 5 – AT Forward Kathy White
  • Page 6 – Waisman Center AAC Jean Marie Seale
  • Page 7 – Being an AAC Lecturer Mike & Kelly
  • Page 7 – Interview with Kanaveer Singh

The State of AAC Survey We email this survey, please take it and share with others https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdCkzZu-z-4juPqJAURh64Z8tvNQoNTdaS_uUAFUnqNyLWTLA/viewform 

The 24th Annual Assistive Technology Industry Association conference was held in Orlando, Florida. January 25 – 27, 2024 & Preconferences January 23&24.

This year the event was held at a new, much bigger location, the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort. There were more on-property activities & locations to explore than in previous locations of the conference. There were over 5000 people involved in the in-person & online events. Many attendees & presenters used this as a family winter break and came with children and significant others in tow. Others are making plans to do the same thing next year, January 30 – February 1 2025, for the main conference event. And remember! The Virtual event is still happening through April 30th, 2024. You can register https://www.atia.org/atia-2024-registration/ 

Main highlights for this year’s conference include: 

  • The Joy Zabala award winning presentation from the state of Wisconsin titled “Moving Assistive Technology Forward Statewide”. See page 3 for a synopsis of the presentation by one of the presenters, Jennifer Schubring. 
  • The Prentke AAC Distinguished Lecturer award speaker this year was Karanveer Singh. He gave a presentation to a packed house in-person and virtually on “Finding Your Passion”. Our own, Mike Hipple, has presented at CTG with Karanveer. You can find the video of this presentation free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWPiwPebPEI 
  •  Assistant US Department of Education Secretary Glenna Wright-Gallo gave a presentation in which she shared information about the Department’s first guidance on assistive technology. It was helpful to hear this in the same week that the directive was released. Watch this video free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49Zxug5a7uw 
  • Over 300 sessions by 500 speakers. ATIA offers plenty of opportunities for you too to share! Think about submitting a presentation for 2025 – They usually are due in June.
  • The Poster Sessions get to be a bigger deal every year, with so many interesting things to learn & the ability to talk directly with the presenters.
  • EdCamp Access International is an option event to attend on Friday evening. It gives attendees an opportunity to choose what topics they want to discuss. Over 300 people attended this year and had 3 rounds of discussions in 5 to 6 small groups. It’s a great way to pull your ideas together and get to meet people who share your interests in AT. 
  • Maker Day – every Saturday for the last 5 years, there has been dedicated space for Maker Teams showing the low tech AT adaptations that they make from pool noodles, PVC pipe, 3D printers, and it is lots of fun. They often have directions to share & giveaways! If you are not familiar with the AT Maker movement, link to http://atmakers.org/ 
  • An expanded exhibit hall (free to the public – some people attend just this portion of the conference. There are lots of families that come in the afternoons and on Saturday)
  • Thursday night celebration party for all conference participants (with lots of deserts!) The donut wall was my favorite!

Find a link to images and other information on the highlights at https://www.atia.org/highlights/

ATIA online by Mike Hipple

COVID19 did bring some great things. Attending a conference online is one of the good outcomes, I hope that it will be here to stay! For myself and people who can’t travel to the place where the conference is being held, we can learn what is new, talk to our friends that we have met over the years, and hear and learn from each other and leaders in the field. Like Kelly wrote about a person who works for the education department for the country did a workshop on the assistive technology guidelines and policies. That workshop on Zoom had around 350 to 375 people, it was on YouTube and the conference’s Facebook too. That was so cool to see, I hope that the government officials saw how many people took time out of their day to learn what was coming and how it would impact our community. Other workshops had around 30 to 80 in it. One of my favorite and the most interesting ones was an inclusive mathematical journey: everyone deserves a slice of the Pi. They talked about how to make higher levels of math classes work for AAC Communicators and or people who use assistive technology tools. Man, I needed to know this information when I was in school. I hope you will think about attending ATIA in person or online next year to keep learning about the new tools in assistive technology and hear from some phenomenal speakers. And remember about CTG in the fall right across the Wisconsin and Minnesota line. 

ATIA Virtual Event is available until April 30th – https://www.atia.org/path-lms/?pathPage=%2Fatia%2Fcourses%2F54618 

New AT Guidance from US Department of Education

We have new guidelines on assistive technology. It is very important for the community to read this dear colleague’s letter. Please notice how they used language, they use all where they talk about who this document is for. This is new and we need to take some time to learn how and what might be some changes to our work with students who use assistive technology. We will have updates on this in the future.

  • Also the US Department of Education has released the U.S. Department of Education 2024 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), go to download this at  https://tech.ed.gov/netp/ 
  • There is a Dear Colleague letter that points to the assistive technology and special education references within this document 
  • During the same week, OSEP: Office of Special Education Programs released a Document about the Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services in the Schools. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/Myths-and-Facts-Surrounding-Assistive-Technology-Devices-01-22-2024.pdf 
  • There is a video that you can watch about this new information  Assistant US Department of Education Secretary Glenna Wright-Gallo gave a presentation at the ATIA Conference in which she shared information about the Department’s first guidance on assistive technology. It was helpful to hear this in the same week that the directive was released. Watch this video free at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49Zxug5a7uw

Wisconsin presenters are awarded the Spirit of Joy Zabala award for their presentation titled “Moving Assistive Technology Forward Statewide”

Five women holding Joy Zabala award plaques.  Silver balloons that spell out ATIA are behind the recipients.

(From left to right: Laura Plummer, Kathy White, Iris Jacobson, Jennifer Schubring, Dawn Merth-Johsnon.  Not pictured: Stacy Duffy, Daniel Parker)

Assistive Technology (AT) has been moving forward in the state of Wisconsin since legislation  for the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (Tech Act) was first passed in 1988.  The Tech Act authorized grants to states to create a national network of state programs.  WisTech, Wisconsin’s state AT program, first received permanent funding through this legislation to support individuals with disabilities to live, work, and thrive in the state of Wisconsin.  Over the years the field of assistive technology has ebbed and flowed in the state.  The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative (WATI) supported educators, students, and families beginning in 1994, but funding for WATI was eventually cut.  WisTech launched the Wisconsin AT4ALL short-term loan program in 2008, giving Wisconsinites the ability to try AT equipment before purchasing. Fast forward to 2020 when the Department of Public Instruction (DPI)  was able to secure funding through the CARES Act to continue to build support for assistive technology through multi-agency partnerships between DPI, CESA 2, WisTech, and the Waisman Center/Communication Aids and Systems Clinic (CASC).  

The aforementioned agencies have worked together to share resources and build the six Assistive Technology Forward components.  

  1. The AT Forward Connections include a free monthly Community of Practice (CoP) meeting for families and professions at any AT level along with a monthly newsletter highlighting a variety of tools, resources, and topics.  
  2. Additionally, a video resource library is available that breaks up recorded CoP meetings by topic area and into 10-15 minute sections, created to support on-demand learning. 
  3. The AT Forward Microcredentials are free learning opportunities that give educators the opportunity to earn badges in specific skill areas of assistive technology.  At the time of the presentation at ATIA over 360 badges had been earned through the micro-credentialing program, helping to build capacity in AT across our state.
  4. Another collaborative resource connected with the AT Forward Project includes the Wisconsin Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) Center.  Have you checked out the AEM Decision Tree and Next Steps for Providing AEM when deciding what accessible materials your students need?  (Links in the presentation slides.)
  5. AT Devices, Services and Resources included combining statewide AT lending libraries.  Wisconsin educators now have access to WisTech’s vast lending library and the DPI’s Assistive Technology Lending Center (ATLC), which includes low-mid-high tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) through the WisconsinAT4ALL platform.  Other resources developed through CARES Act funding of the AT Forward Project included development of a map to guide individuals in their search for AT resources throughout the state.  
  6. A final component of the AT Forward project was development of the AAC Partnership Program with the Communication Aids and Systems Clinic (CASC) at the Waisman Center at UW-Madison.  The goal of the program is to build capacity for school teams and reach individuals living in rural communities.  The program works to mentor school teams to assist in acquire insurance funded speech-generating devices for students.  

The AT Forward Project currently is funded through IDEA Discretionary grants and collaboration/funding between the four different agencies.  The AT Forward Project continues to evolve to build even stronger Assistive Technology support and resources for individuals with disabilities throughout the state of Wisconsin.  

The presentation, “Moving Assistive Technology Forward Statewide” received the Joy Zabala Spirit Award, which is a recognition program, hosted by ATIA, that celebrates Joy Zabala’s work in assistive technology and education.  The award was given to speakers whose sessions were selected as exemplifying the passion Joy brought to her work in AT and education.  Award Recipients included: Dawn Merth-Johnson, Iris Jacobson, Daniel Parker, Stacy Duffy, Kathy White, Laura Plummer, and Jennifer Schubring.

To see the full presentation, with resources and links in each of the component areas, please click on the link for the full ATIA presentation.

Update on AAC Team at Waisman Center

The Waisman Center AAC program continues to provide outpatient services through the Communication Aids and Systems Clinic (CASC) in partnership with UWHealth. Our team of therapists include six SLPs and one occupational therapist. The Waisman center’s oldest program, the Communication Development Program (CDP) also continues to serve children in Dane county by supporting their teams in providing opportunities to practice AAC in the community. Our two newer programs: the AAC Partnership, and ECHO-AAC continue to aim to build capacity statewide and ultimately increase access to AAC services for all Wisconsinites. The AAC Partnership project is piloting collaboration with the Department of Public Instruction to support school teams in becoming familiar and comfortable with the AAC evaluation process and implementation.ECHO-AAC has been on hiatus this Spring but stay tuned for exciting announcements early summer. If you missed our open house last fall, check out our ECHO-AAC Open house to meet some of the new faces in CASC (https://uwmadison.box.com/s/s8c5wks2th74lihgp03p7j7g6y1m2axc ). 

This spring Waisman Center AAC program staff will be busy with strategic planning and chipping away at our waiting list. Additionally, we have visitors from Seoul, South Korea coming to observe state of the AAC science practice as part of a national grant they received aimed a developing and improving access to AAC services in Seoul Rehabilitation Hospital. We are looking forward to this exciting international collaboration.  The Waisman AAC team is also a partner in a year-long project aimed at exploring and expanding peer-mentorship models in AAC nationwide. 

Individuals who use AAC are encouraged to respond to a survey being distributed by Oregon State Health Sciences University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities and Communication First. The survey closes on March 16, and can be accessed here: https://forms.gle/oRBUQMu7c6XhiFqj6 

Finally, and unfortunately, we continue to see challenges in funding for AAC services and speech generating devices. The CASC team is actively working to appeal blanket service and device exclusions from insurance providers.  If you would like to join our advocacy efforts or have been impacted by similar decisions please contact: mvlasak@wisc.edu.

Being an AAC Lecturer 

There are several opportunities for AAC Communicators to share their stories & knowledge with others. USSAAC, The United States Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, developed and manages a Speaker Connection at https://speaker.ussaac.org/speakers/. You can browse who the speakers are, what topics each speaks on, and if you are so included, register to become a part of the Speaker Connection. You do not need to be a member of USSAAC to use or be a part of this service.

A report at the most recent USSAAC meeting at the ATIA conference shared that there have been over 50 presentations given this year from people who use AAC that are a part of this project. Some speaking engagements are voluntary, but there are a growing number of paid engagements for people who want to use their voice to share, make change and educate others.

Image of Kanaveer Singh presenting as the Prentke AAC Distinguished Speaker at ATIA 2024 – watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWPiwPebPEI 

Mike and Kelly were lucky enough to interview Karanveer Singh. He won this year’s Prenke AAC Distinguished Lecture which that award goes back to 1997. To learn more about the award please watch this video and his speech. Please read our interview with Karanveer. 

The History of the Prentke Lecture Newsletter .docx

The State of AAC Survey 

We email this survey, please take it and share with others. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdCkzZu-z-4juPqJAURh64Z8tvNQoNTdaS_uUAFUnqNyLWTLA/viewform 

1 Comment

  1. Cassandra Powell

    I am a speech pathologist, new to Wisconsin. I am looking for a speech pathologist or another experienced professional, who is an expert in augmentative communication for a patient of mine who has pseudo bulbar palsy. She is an adult and is able to spell out words with a stylus but my experience is limited in this area. Do you have some professionals who you can refer me to? The patient is near Wausau, WI.


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