Shadow Unveils Online Store for Teachers

Shadow Unveils Online Store for Teachers

Special education teachers in The Shadow Project were able to access online the organization’s extensive warehouse of student reinforcers–books, pencils, fidgets, gifts–for the first time this fall.

“The move to an online store is a huge milestone for us,” said Christy Scattarella, M.A., Shadow founder and executive director. “For many years, our teachers have physically visited our warehouse to pick up reinforcing motivational materials for kids with learning disabilities in The Shadow Project who meet their academic and behavioral goals. However, with their busy schedules, teachers have been asking for an online presence.

“When we moved our physical warehouse this summer from Portland Public Schools to Madison High School, which is a longer driving distance for many of the teachers in our program, it made sense to transfer all our operations online,” she said.

Top Three Classroom Sensory Tools

Top Three Classroom Sensory Tools

What sensory tools are most needed in today’s classrooms for wiggly learners? Veteran Portland Occupational Therapist (OT) Martha Thomas recommends stuffed balloons, fiddly connectors, and crayons.

“Many children do better when they have something to do with their hands while learning,” said Martha, who has been an OT in Portland Public Schools (PPS) for 30 years. “For many kids, fidgets–handheld squish-ables–are the perfect solution for jumpstarting kids’ attention so they can focus in class without disruption to themselves or others, often without adult intervention. They can even help kids develop hand skills.”

Martha Thomas
Fidgets can be inexpensive and made with household materials. Here are Martha’s top three fidget picks:

#1. Balloons filled with Play-Doh, corn starch, rice, lentils, sand, bird seed, or white flour.

“Filled balloon fidgets are quiet and not too distracting. Students can usually keep their eyes/ears on the teacher when using them. It is important to choose fidgets that don’t promote play. I tell kids that fidgets are tools, not toys. If they become toys, consider choosing a different fidget. Flour balloons are a good choice because they don’t roll our bounce,” said Martha.

#2. Fiddly connectors like two Legos, a piece of Velcro on two small wooden blocks, or anything handheld that connects/disconnects easily.

“These can be great for kids who are overwhelmed and need to take a break,” said Martha. “Fiddly connectors require ‘heavy work’ to get them together and apart, and these repetitive actions can be very calming because they don’t require much thought while the movement can help release some nervous energy.”

#3. Coloring and drawing are old standbys, so having art materials and paper at the ready is important.

“Coloring and drawing help the central nervous system become more organized and calm because they provide an easy task which allows the brain to rest for a few minutes,” said Martha. “It’s quiet work, and anyone can do it, so no one stands out as different, which is important to some kids, and creativity can be very empowering.”

All schools within PPS have an OT assigned to them, and Martha said OT’s are a great resource for teachers who need tips on how to handle fidgety kids.

“We are all sensory beings,” said Martha. “It’s our only way of interacting with the world. It’s important to recognize that children’s sensory needs are  part of who they are, and need to be acknowledged for best success in the classroom to minimize disruptions.” 

Shadow Expands to Head Start

Shadow Expands to Head Start

The Shadow Project is making its first foray into early childhood education this fall, with the installation of a SuperSensory Literacy room at Clarendon Regional Early Learning Academy in North Portland.

“Research shows that children greatly benefit from formal education before kindergarten, particularly children with learning disabilities,” said Shadow Founder and Executive Director Christy Scattarella, M.A. “We are thrilled to be asked by a Head Start to help them meet children’s sensory needs, so they can achieve early and get ready for kindergarten.”

Clarendon Regional Early Learning Academy is part of the Portland Public School District. Shadow will install one of its sensory spaces there to help instill calm and focus, two essential self-regulation and executive functioning skills in the classroom, said Quynh Nguyen, M.A., Shadow program manager.

Shadow Provides Sensory Tools to All Rosa Teachers

Shadow Provides Sensory Tools to All Rosa Teachers

Teachers at Rosa Parks Elementary in North Portland are successfully sharing sensory tools with their students in general education classrooms, after a recent training offered by The Shadow Project. Click here to see a video on how the tools are working.

“The sensory tools have already done wonders for keeping the kids calm and focused,” said Patrice Pierre, who teaches third grade at the year-round Rosa Parks. “I did not know they would be so perfect for my whole class! The kids really understand that these are tools, not toys. A surprise has been my shyest kids who are using the fidgets for anxiety.”

Rosa Park is the first public school in Oregon to ask for and receive the Shadow Project’s Sensory Tool Kits and teacher training. In a June 2015 Portland Public Schools survey, 60 percent of the district’s staff members felt they needed more professional training, mentorship, or other support in serving special education students.

“We have wonderful sensory libraries from The Shadow Project in the learning center and counselor’s office,” said Principal Tamala Newsome. “But kids need to be able to access sensory tools in whatever classroom they are in, so they are supported throughout the day.

“We are so over telling kids not to move in class,” she said. “Our goal is to work collectively to meet kids where they are at, and keep them in the classroom, so they can focus on learning.”

Sensory tools in the classroom
Fourth grade teacher Marsha Wolfe is excited to have sensory tools in her classroom (above) 

Children in special education who are on (IEPs) Individualized Education Programs need the sensory tools for when they are in their general education classrooms and elsewhere in the school. But the tools are also a benefit for the “children of the gray” who have not been identified for special education but clearly need sensory help.

The Sensory Tool Kits for each K-5 teacher included one dozen hand-held fidgets selected by Rosa’s occupational therapist Martha Thomas, O.T., as well as kinetic sand and beanbag chairs. Teachers were trained on how to work with kids on selecting the fidget that works best for them.

“We know the sensory tools are great for empowering students to regulate their own bodies and behavior,” said Learning Center Teacher Kim Giarelli, M.S. “Self-awareness is the first step to student responsibility for setting and achieving academic goals.”

Said third-grader Natalie, 8, who is not in special education: “I talk a lot. When I read, I use Silly Putty and roll it back and forth. It helps me stay calm and quiet.”

Sensory tools in the classroom


Rosa Parks Elementary Receives Classroom Fidgets

By equipping classrooms with innovative tools and strategies tailored to diverse learning needs, The Shadow Project has teamed with schools to foster success for more than 10,000 students who typically read one- to three-years below grade level.