The program is run by the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association.
It is a highly structured, evidence-based course designed and monitored by the Child Development Institute in Toronto.
Physical changes in the children’s cognitive abilities are actually visible, said Noreen McBride, from the Prince Albert Métis Women’s Association.
“They’ve actually done brain scans of these kids before they’ve taken SNAP and after and you can actually see the development that goes on in the brain,” McBride said.
Many of the kids who take the program have been in conflict with the law before taking the program.
They then monitored these kids after they had gone through SNAP and they didn’t get in conflict with the law again, McBride said.
“After they had gone through SNAP, the kids didn’t. They had learned a different set of skills,” she said.
The SNAP program has received a lot of recognition in recent years.
“SNAP was recognized for its highest rating in evidence-based programs in 2007 by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In 2008, Canada’s National Crime Prevention Centre designated SNAP as a “model” crime prevention program,” she said as well as several other organizations which have recognized it.
“Most recently, in December 2012, the SNAP program was awarded the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards for Social Innovation for its work in the children’s mental health field,” McBride said.
Taking SNAP into Riverside is due in part to $89,000 in funding from the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, which allows them to work with children from September 2012 until March 2013.
SNAP is tried and tested with 27 years of research behind it. Constant observation instruction from Toronto continues to be an important part of the program.
It helps children regulate their feelings by getting them to stop, think and plan positive instead of negative actions. The intentions, McBride said is to make their problems smaller and more manageable.
Positive results include children and parents both being able to stop, calm down and come up with solutions at the ‘snap of their fingers’.
“Since September 2009, SNAP has been delivered to over 50 children at Westview Community School,” McBride said.
McBride recalls the reaction of Westview Principal Connie Schill, “’This is my second year at Westview, and I have both heard about, and seen for myself, so many positive changes in our SNAP graduates. These changes are impacting student success at home, at school, and in the community.’”
“Number one the attendance has changed… their attendance has improved significantly … they are listening. The parents are coming in and saying ‘our children are behaving better at home it’s easier to get them ready for school,’” she said.
Another important part of the program is learning sessions for the Parents, who are also invited to take advantage of session directed towards their needs and those of their child.
The hunt for funds is always an issue, McBride said who now has funds for another few months, but she is searching for more permanent funding from the government.
Teaching at-risk children these skills at a young age and preventing them from ever entering the justice system saves the government and the taxpayers far more then the SNAP program needs to continue running and expanding, McBride said.