Classroom Behavior Improves with Sensory Spaces

Classroom Behavior Improves with Sensory Spaces

School can be stressful for children with disabilities, leading to behavior that affects the whole class. But in Oregon schools whose students have access to The Shadow Project’s SuperSensory Literacy Spaces, teachers report that 73 percent of children strengthened their behavioral management skills.

Without tools to cope productively with the challenges of disability, trauma, and chronic mental health issues, students can act out and be disruptive, and the effects are immediate and long-term. Instruction time for all students decreases.  Students can be suspended or expelled, decreasing their chances of graduating high school.

Responding to the call from educators to have more resources to address their students’ increasing mental health and behavior needs, The Shadow Project’s SuperSensory Literacy Spaces alter this trajectory.

Our multi-sensory breakout spaces empower children with tools to develop and practice self-regulation skills, a key determinant of life success and mental health.  Last year, 61 percent of students were less likely to have behaviors that interfere with peer learning, and 39 percent increased attendance, according to educator observation.

Read more about student outcomes here, and see our spaces in action at one North Portland school.


Shadow in Oregonian Season of Sharing

Shadow in Oregonian Season of Sharing

The Shadow Project is honored to be one of 10 Portland education nonprofits selected for The Oregonian’s annual Season of Sharing. Read “Empowering Students with Special Needs” and then donate (your gift will be matched!) through the newspaper’s Facebook fundraiser.

The Oregonian highlights Shadow’s Reading Mentoring program in which students up to three years behind in reading have gained as much as two years in ability. The program equips students in special education with audiovisual reading technology, and a trained adult volunteer to help them set and achieve reading goals. The mentoring program is now in eight schools in Portland and McMinnville.

Says Woodmere Principal Katherine Polizos, “The audiovisual technology gives kids who are struggling to decode words at grade level access to text, and to use reading for learning in a way that they are not able to, at a higher level. It’s giant! A lot of kids ask to use the audiovisual technology because it is a cool thing, and cool has a lot of cache with kids.”

Polizos said that the access to assistive technology through The Shadow Project has created a “huge culture shift” at the school. For example, she recently overheard two second graders excitedly discussing Minecraft Ninja, a book they were both reading. One student read the print version; the other used the audio-visual version. In the past, those students would have not been able to connect over a book, she said.

Portland Timbers Mascot Joey Webber, who is a volunteer Reading Mentor with The Shadow Project, had a difficult time learning to read as a child. “Having the opportunity to share that challenge and help these kids realize their potential is a very special experience,” he said.

“The most impactful part of The Shadow Project mentoring program is for the kids to have someone consistent who will show up every week, long term, to help them set goals and motivate them to continuously practice their reading. As they learn they can depend upon their person, they really excel.”



Ready for Middle School Reading

Ready for Middle School Reading

Transitioning to middle school can be a scary step for kids with learning challenges who are worried about fitting in academically. But Shadow Project student Annjel is up to the challenge!

Annjel used to become exhausted when reading. “I would have to read the sentence over and over, just to understand what I was seeing,” she said. “I wanted to know what happened next in the story, but I had to keep figuring out the meaning first. It was tiring.”

Two years ago, The Shadow Project made an audio-visual library available at Annjel’s school. The large font size and text highlighting on the screen as the story moved along, plus the vocabulary repetition, helped Annjel improve. She skipped recess to read with her ears and eyes on the assistive technology, and often stayed up late to read at home, even after her mom, Sally, told her to turn out the light.

By spring of fifth grade, Annjel’s persistence paid off with her reading scores rocketing two grade levels! “I feel like I can read more now,” said Annjel, who loves Junie B. Jones and the Mermaid Sirens books. “Now I’m reading books that are not audiobooks, which feels great.”

Says Sally, “I’m really impressed by how far she’s come. Annjel used to get discouraged some times. But she is more confident now about her reading, and she’s gotten to where she needs to be for middle school.

“Everyone learns differently, and I would like for The Shadow Project to be available to other kids who need help.”

Shadow’s high-tech reading mentoring program is supported, in part, by the Oregon Cultural Trust


Volunteer Audiobook Mentors Needed

Volunteer Audiobook Mentors Needed

Do you want to make a difference for children with learning challenges like dyslexia, ADHD, and autism? The Shadow Project is seeking volunteer audiobook mentors in Portland and McMinnville to empower students with reading struggles to get hooked on literacy and reach their potential. Shadow Project audiobook mentors meet one-on-one with elementary school students once a week, coaching them to use an online audio-visual book library designed specifically for children with learning challenges. Mentors guide children in finding books they love, setting goals, and reading at school and home. You’d make a great mentor for a child with learning challenges if you are able to:

*Commit to two hours a week, during school hours, October to May, for at least three months;

*Interact compassionately with children who are diverse learners, encouraging them to set reading goals, and celebrate their progress;

*Complete a background check.

Many children with learning challenges read one- to three-years below grade level and struggle with the printed word. Audio-visual books give kids with learning challenges a new way to read. They can see and hear the book, which builds their confidence and engagement in reading. Research has found that hearing a book while seeing it can boost comprehension. Paired with a caring mentor to encourage and reward their efforts, once-struggling students become motivated and more joyful readers, and their reading scores improve.

“I had a difficult time learning to read when I was younger,” said Joey Webber, Portland Timbers mascot, who is a Shadow audiobook mentor. “Having the opportunity to share that challenge and help these kids realize their potential is a very special experience. Setting goals with kids is so motivating.”

The Shadow Project partners with teachers at 38 primarily low-income schools to close the achievement gap for diverse students with learning disabilities, whose challenges are often impacted by race-based inequities. Shadow empowers them to be confident, engaged learners who thrive in school and life. For more information, call Alejandra Gurrola, 971-373-3457, or go to

Shadow’s high-tech reading mentoring program is supported, in part, by the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Audiobook Mentoring Life-Changing for Timbers Mascot

Audiobook Mentoring Life-Changing for Timbers Mascot

Portland Timbers mascot Joey Webber visits a lot of schools. But becoming a reading coach in The Shadow Project’s schools has proved life changing.

“This is one of the best things going on in my life right now,” says Timber Joey, who knows what it’s like to have a reading challenge. “Reading coaching has made such an impact on my life.”

Timber Joey volunteers with Shadow kids one- to two-times a week, meeting with students in special education to talk about books and set reading goals, download audiobooks, and practice reading aloud.

“We talk about what’s going to make it better to read at home, and the kind of environment where it’s easier to read,” says Timber Joey. “It’s rewarding to come in here and see where kids need a little bit of help, but also to see the progression of where they’ve come from.”

Setting goals with kids is motivating, says Joey. “With a goal, you always have something to think about, and motivate you to go beyond if you’re needing more time or practice to achieve your goal.

“These reading sessions have really opened my eyes,” he said. “It’s important for people to contribute to projects like these, so it creates a better society.”

Click here to find out why Timber Joey reads to his dogs!