Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming launches SNAPsacks

After keeping participants active and in routine with online home workouts over the summer, Brock University’s Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming (SNAP) is further responding to ongoing community needs with the launch of SNAPsacks, a one-stop way of getting all of the recommended equipment needed to keep moving.

“We have created SNAPsacks as another way to keep participants engaged at home,” says Experiential Education Co-ordinator, Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity Elyse Lappano. “SNAPsacks are bags which contain a booklet of activities we created with step-by-step written and visual instructions, as well as the corresponding equipment needed to do the activities.”

Each SNAPsack is thematized into various movement categories, including fine motor, fitness and game skills, and body management. They are reusable, versatile and intended for participants to use the items for activities other than the ones specified in the booklet.

“We were extremely successful at transitioning our participants to online home workouts this past summer,” says Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity Specialist Demi Toms. “Our resources have been shared by provincial and national organizations including Autism Ontario, PHE Canada, Ability Online, Community Living Ontario and more.”

After an influx of feedback from several health professionals, including Occupational Therapists asking to share SNAP resources with clients and colleagues, as well as parental inquiries about equipment purchases, the decision was made to create and make SNAPsacks readily available for purchase at Brock’s Campus Store.

“One of the crises in Niagara and Ontario is that we have aging parents caring for aging children,” says SNAP Founder and Kinesiology Professor Maureen Connolly. “As the health of disabled people improve, they are living longer than ever before. There are so few programs to support them as they age. Any resources we provide to parents can’t be more work, but must help the parents in daily life and be designed for adult children as well.”

The SNAP online home workouts and SNAPsacks have been designed to further alleviate stress on families and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to provide a much-needed service to the community.

“The activities we teach transfer to tasks of daily living such as going up or down stairs, getting into and out of vehicles, stepping onto and off of curbs, and navigating obstacles in the environment,” says Connolly.

Some of the ways the SNAP at-home workouts have been used over the summer include parents, caregivers or respite workers watching the videos with the participant and empowering them to pick which movements they would like to try.

“Each video has multiple variations for completing the target skill,” says Applied Disability Studies master’s student and community respite worker Kirsten Young. “Watching these videos helps my participants feel happy because they see familiar faces during a time when they are feeling less connected with their social circles due to current COVID-19 restrictions.”

Participants also report looking forward to completing the tasks and having something to talk about with fellow SNAP members when the program eventually resumes in-person, says Young.

With the Fall Term underway and primarily online, for the first time since 1994, Thursday SNAP is not operating on-campus. This means the 600 students and 50 learning resource teachers from all three school boards in the Niagara region who would normally access the program are having to go without the customized one-on-one facilitated instruction and physical activity experience.

“One of the reasons SNAP has been so successful for more than 25 years is because we are constantly adapting our programs to meet the ever-changing needs of our participants,” says Connolly. “The new resources we have created can be transitioned to a teaching and learning environment that puts the health, safety and well-being of those students who thrive on routine and planned schedules at the forefront. School administrators and educators are encouraged to utilize these resources to help fill the gap.”

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