Brock’s Special Needs Activity Program (SNAP) is a program held on campus that provides children and youth from Niagara with developmentally appropriate physical education experiences that enable participants to develop their gross and fine motor skills. Additionally, it helps enhance their fitness and conditioning levels. Students are welcome to volunteer and the program offers credits for Child and Youth Studies and Kinesiology students.
Alexa Oakley, a Brock teachers college student, has been with the program for four years, first as a volunteer and then as a program coordinator.
What’s a typical day like at SNAP?
“Program coordinators come in at 7:30 a.m. on Thursdays to set up the gym for the activities. Volunteers come anywhere between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.; the kids attending the program come in at 9:30 a.m. When everyone has arrived, it’s the responsibility of the program coordinators to match each child with a volunteer for the day.”
What are the most common conditions that the kids attending the programs have?
“Autism is definitely the most common. We also see kids with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, tourette syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome.”
What kind of activities are available for the kids?
“The program is held in the Ian Beddis gym, where we take up three divided sections. The first section is dedicated to fine motor skills and we have puppets, puzzles, a ball pit and a parachute. The second section is for gross motor skills which has a fitness section containing medicine balls and skipping ropes, a crash mat, trampolines, spring boards and balance beams. The third section is for sports and has hockey, soccer, badminton, volleyball and scooters available. We also have a media room that has Wii fit and Wii sports, as well as a sensory room for overstimulated kids.”
How do you know when to use the sensory room?
“Typically when a child is overstimulated it’s clear because they begin to moan loudly. Sometimes the child starts to run, jump and flap their hands excessively. At that point, we would take the child to the sensory room, a dark room with Christmas lights, blankets and books, to have them calm down.”
What’s the most rewarding part of being a part of this program?
“It’s amazing to watch kids learn new movement skills and practice them. Sometimes kids with special needs don’t get a lot of physical activity at home or at school, SNAP gives these kids a place to practice some skills and interact with new people.”
Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to improve their interactions with developmentally delayed children?
“Be really patient. Talk to them like you would talk to anyone else their age. If they are 15, talk to them like they are 15. It’s important to focus on them, no matter how busy it is. Kids with autism need to know that there is a schedule, otherwise they get anxiety, so it’s helpful to utilize countdowns and to remember that you’re in charge.”
Alexa invites anyone who has any questions to email the program director at firstname.lastname@example.org or to herself at email@example.com.
-Monika Pawlak, Contributor