The S.N.A.P program hosted the last of their weekend sessions for the Fall 2018 semester on November 19. The session, which was held in Ian Beddis gymnasium, was spearheaded by Brock student volunteers and geared towards the development of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Short for Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming, S.N.A.P has completed its sessions for the Fall term and is looking for volunteers to support the program in the Winter term.
Elyse Lappano, Experiential Education Coordinator for Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity, currently coordinates the sessions and has been involved with the program for a number of years.
“Originally I was a Brock undergraduate student in the physical education department and one of our course requirements in third year was to volunteer with a special needs population. S.N.A.P was a very large program and so I thought it would be a convenient place to do my placement,” said Lappano.
From there, Lappano’s interest in the administrative and organizational aspects of the program helped her become a program coordinator, then mentor and now staff member.
S.N.A.P sessions are held on both Thursdays and Saturdays and have a different target demographic, time-frame and set of activities based on the day that session is held. Saturday’s session, which was one of the seven that occur throughout the year, saw participants engage in activities that develop or refine their motor skills and fill in the gaps in their range of motion while also enhancing their fitness and conditioning levels. These activities serve to make them more independent and able to function fully in their daily lives.
Lappano ran through a typical schedule for S.N.A.P on Saturday: volunteers prepare visual schedules for their participants, then the gym is set up. Participants go to the pool for aquatic programming, then return to either the gym, the Zone or the spin studio for further activities.
The program caters to school-aged participants on Thursdays and is held in the Ian Beddis Gymnasium, with orientation for these sessions beginning at 8:00 a.m.
“These orientations see volunteers briefed and paired with specific children based on a number of criteria which ensure that every pairing is as perfect as possible and good for both the child and the volunteer,” said Lappano. “Participants arrive around 9:30 a.m. and work with their designated partners until they leave at about 11:45 a.m.”
The program has been running since January 2011 and has happened every semester since. Weekly one-hour meetings are held for the volunteers of Saturday S.N.A.P because the population that participates tends to have more complex profiles and require a much more intensive experience. These meetings are where volunteers are extensively and continually trained to ensure they are ready to provide safe and engaging programming with the participants. Some volunteers are paired two-to-one as some of the participants require additional support. These scenarios require a lot of experience and training to handle appropriately.
Any student interested in supporting the S.N.A.P program and volunteering at the sessions can do so, but they must maintain their commitment to the cause and be willing to devote their time on a weekly basis.
Students can begin volunteering during the Thursday sessions at any time throughout the term and attend the orientation session after which they receive the profile of the child they will work with that day. Volunteers for the Saturday sessions must commit to attending each session and begin at the start of the term.
Lappano highlights that this program is open to volunteers from any program.
“Even if this is not a field that you think you want to work in, it’s nice to be exposed to this type of work because you’re always going to take away a new and different skill set. Whether it is in terms of communication because you’re working with people who communicate in so many different ways, how to adjust or plan and be flexible in the moment or how to problem solve in the moment,” said Lappano. “There are so many things you can take into various careers and it doesn’t have to be just in the field of disability. The more volunteers we have then the more participants we can accept and better serve the community.”
Individuals seeking to get involved with S.N.A.P can find further information online on ExperienceBU or through the social media accounts of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.