When Supporting Neurodiversity through Adaptive Programming (SNAP) returns in person to Brock University this fall, the program will have been strengthened by support from the Niagara Community Foundation.
Welcoming roughly 1,400 participants each year, SNAP is a developmentally appropriate movement education-based, embedded curriculum that provides one-on-one instruction to individuals of all ages across a broad spectrum of disabilities and severities. The program teaches participants to provide greater care for themselves and be more independent physically.
Like many other on-campus operations, SNAP’s in-person programming was put on hold in spring 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first time since its inception more than 25 years ago that the program wasn’t offered to Niagara residents.
While SNAP was eventually pivoted to an online model, the return to in-person programming remained crucial for participants, the majority of whom were already more likely to face increased social isolation and barriers in their day-to-day lives prior to the pandemic. SNAP organizers recognize the gap in care that has grown due to the pandemic and caused demand for the program to rise, adding to an already large waitlist that previously exceeded 500 participants annually.
To help address increased demand and enhance the program’s offerings, SNAP’s fall return will be supported by a $32,500 philanthropic grant from the Niagara Community Foundation that will increase the quantity and quality of programming.
“Niagara Community Foundation is proud to provide funding to Brock’s SNAP program through our David S. Howes Fund,” says Bryan Rose, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “The late Mr. Howes was determined to support a wide range of needs in our community, including humanitarian and health care. With demand for vital community programs such as SNAP increasing, we as an organization felt that a grant to assist the program and its work was a perfect fit for the David S. Howes Fund.”
The timely grant from the organization will fund the growth of four key components of the program.
Delivered primarily by student volunteers, SNAP is Brock’s largest on-campus experiential learning opportunity. The program offers an unparalleled learning experience for students while providing vital support to program participants. In a typical year, SNAP trains about 600 student volunteers on safe, adaptive activity.
The Niagara Community Foundation grant will strengthen training opportunities for volunteers while also enabling the addition of a minimum of 100 volunteers to help deliver and enhance programming.
By also funding additional equipment and resources, the grant will enhance the inclusivity and adaptability of programming for volunteers and participants. For example, SNAP plans to engage specialized resources such as American sign language (ASL) interpreters, deaf-blind interpreters and other communication technology to meet the expressive preferences of many diverse communities.
Lastly, to help address the program waitlist, the grant will fund additional sessions and the pilot of a spring/summer program in 2023. By expanding program delivery beyond the typical September to April schedule, SNAP can serve a greater number of participants and caregivers who have come to rely on its services.
SNAP Founder and Brock Kinesiology Professor Maureen Connolly says the funding has come at just the right time.
“Members of many disability communities have been inequitably affected by pandemic precautions and policies, and returning to active, in-person programming is an important step towards re-establishing access to resources that every community member should have, regardless of ability and economic status,” she says.
The Niagara Community Foundation’s support will aid in Brock’s efforts to significantly improve accessibility standards for mental, developmental and physical disabilities by 2025, in compliance with Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan.“SNAP is one of our longest standing programs and one of the many vital community focused programs that Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (FAHS) students and faculty are involved with,” said FAHS Dean Peter Tiidus. “This grant will expand our ability to deliver important programming to those in the Niagara region that need it most while also enhancing the experiential education opportunities for our students.”
Anyone looking to get involved with or learn more about the program is encouraged to visit the SNAP website.