Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming provides online activities

For the first summer in 17 years, 22-year-old Carter Smith won’t be able to participate in Brock University’s Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming (SNAP) and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Summer Movement Camp due to COVID-19 — but SNAP is still striving to make a difference.

With in-person spring and summer programming cancelled in order to maintain physical distancing measures, SNAP is alleviating stress and keeping participants active and in routine with online home workouts.

“Similar to Carter, most of our participants have been attending our Brock-led inclusive and adaptive programs since 1996,” says SNAP Founder and Kinesiology Professor Maureen Connolly. “For those who joined SNAP in its fledgling years and grew along with us, this will be the first time they are not a part of our summer programs.”

SNAP and the ASD Camp provide developmentally appropriate movement education-based embedded curriculum to children and youth ages five and up experiencing disability in the Niagara region. Beginning June 1, home workouts will be posted online on the first and fifteenth of each month until the end of August.

“This population of our community rely on structure and predictability,” Connolly explains. “We understand how these individuals process logic and the COVID pandemic is not logical for them. This is highly stressful for them and everyone around them.”

Concerned for the health and well-being of SNAP participants and their support systems, the Brock team reached out to their dedicated student volunteers for assistance in creating video content in five categories which support skill and motor development while mimicking familiar activities. Doctoral student Steffannie Hancharyk (BPhed ’08, BEd ’08, MA ’14) has also provided guided martial arts lessons on the webpage to help participants work on developing fundamental movement sequences.

“We wanted to develop a resource for a population that is under-resourced and where no resources exist,” says Experiential Education Coordinator, Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity Elyse Lappano. “Our regular volunteers have meaningful relationships with our participants and have created thoughtful, educational movement videos that can be used in several different ways.”

Each video can be played so the participant and parent or caregiver can do the activities with them and repeat over and over, or they can be previewed and then embedded into the daily activities of the household.

“Activity is important, but having a schedule and routine is just as important,” Lappano says. “We are providing resources with familiar faces to help keep our participants moving and provide the continuity that has been such a big part of their lives since they were young children.”

The video content is created with consideration for who is in each participant’s household. This may include parents who work, siblings who have school and are now at home and people who no longer have respite.

“One of the first things we needed to ask ourselves was, ‘How do we do this in a way that is not laboursome, but embedded into a daily routine?’ We want our participants to contribute to daily household tasks while developing their movement repertoires,” Lappano says. “We do not want this to be an extra to-do item on an already stressed home.”

To incorporate activities in a seamless way, Connolly suggests examples of the participant being active while helping a parent in the laundry room or transporting items from one room to another.

“This is called embedding,” Connolly says. “We have been designing programming for the people who trust us for years, and the beauty of embedded curriculum is that it can happen everywhere.”

The creation of the home workout videos is entirely volunteer-driven and goes above and beyond what is expected of Brock students.

“All of our volunteers are very excited to have the opportunity to help our participants at home,” says Inclusive & Adaptive Physical Activity Specialist Demi Toms. “We want our participants and their families to have the opportunity to see familiar faces on the screen in front of them, and know we have not abandoned them. We are still trying to stay connected.”

The new SNAP Home Workouts webpage will be updated on the first and fifteenth of each month until the end of August

The SNAP team anticipates gaps in programming for the fall and are currently determining how to prepare resources for all three school boards in the Niagara Region which access the Thursday SNAP program. More information will be announced when it becomes available.

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