Project helps kids reach full potential

 

Last updated 7/18/2023 at 10:28am

Photo provided

Rishi Kaushal has benefitted from programs designed by The Shadow Project to help special needs kids.

The Shadow Project is an organization dedicated to making school more accessible and engaging for children with learning challenges so they can achieve their full potential in school and beyond. The organization is looking to partner with Sisters students and Sisters schools and get the word out about their programming.

The Shadow Project was created by a mother who advocated for her special needs son's learning. She ultimately built a business around helping other kids who have learning disabilities enjoy school and social activities. The Shadow Project works in partnership with schools and special education classes as well as individual families. It offers specialty programming within schools and over the summer to assist parents in continuing a routine for their kids.

The Shadow Project is currently opening registration for its online summer goal-setting program. The program aims to give kids activities and structure during the summer months, when it's harder for parents to give their kids a structured routine. The summer program is taking the classroom-based teacher program and making it into an at-home parent version over four weeks, where families use the same approaches the teachers might use to help kids set learning goals.

Executive Director Sharon Juenemann spoke with The Nugget about the program and getting the word out to parents in Sisters about their programs and their goal of partnering with Sisters schools.

"For example, students who are neurodivergent, that's the whole point, their brains are created differently, different chemicals are firing in different ways," Juenemann explained. "Their brains are responsive to rewards, surprises, incentives, and things that keep them interested. If you have ADHD, you build in little rewards throughout your day to keep yourself focused. So those are the types of tools that we have and the structures that we provide teachers with, to help them do that; we help schools install and build sensory spaces."

Once the programs are in place within a school, the Shadow Project group assists educators with classes to understand how to utilize the space best and ensure it is well aligned with their goals for students.

One of their other projects is a reading program for students behind in their reading grade level. They have programs where students have a mentor and read physical books paired with an audiobook. Kids can read books they want to read with someone reading along with them.

"The mentors helped them learn how to use the technology, and then helped them set goals, get excited about reading, and find books they want to read. So, it's kind of that motivational component, along with the literacy component. And it nests nicely alongside the actual literacy instruction the school already provides," said Juenemann.

The summer goal-setting program is designed to bridge the gap between school years to mitigate the "summer slide." Many students fall behind during the summer months, making it especially difficult for special needs students.

"Many kids experience a learning loss," said Juenemann. "But for students with disabilities, that's even more difficult and troubling because they were already lagging in skills before. What the summer goal-setting program allows families to do, is to create a structure, like to have a set structure where they can help their kids at home and keep on learning throughout the summer by identifying what are some small goals that they can work on."

Juenemann recounted the story of Rishi, a student who participated in the goal-setting program.

Learning and attention challenges meant Rishi struggled in school. But with the help of The Shadow Project, Rishi started meeting goals he set for himself - including going to bed on time, starting a new morning routine, and reading 15 minutes every day. He even devised his own strategies for meeting these goals when it seemed he might stray off course, like going for an evening walk to help him "get tired," and setting an alarm so his mom wouldn't have to remind him to do things.

"I feel good," Rishi said. "I'm starting to read every night - not because I have to but because I want to."

Rishi's mom is thrilled.

"Shadow Project really helped him with accountability," she said. "Honestly, he was really resistant to daily reading, and now he is into a whole new book series!"

Rishi is one of many students who has worked with The Shadow Project and benefitted from their types of programs.

Access some of the free family resources at https://www.shadow-project.org/family-resources.

The Shadow Project goal-setting program for students and parents kicks off July 23.

To register for the summer goal-setting program visit https://www.shadow-project.org/summer/.

 

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