'Miracle' program for West Island children in funding crisis
A program offered by the West Island Family Resource Centre is in danger of shutting down, to the dismay of many parents and children who have found solace in the service.
Snap or Stop Now and Plan has been helping children with difficult behavior problems to get control of their emotions before they lose their tempers.
Sylvie Myles describes how her son Luke would erupt into a violent tantrum over almost anything when he was just five years old.
According to Myles it was nearly impossible to get him to do ordinary things like put on his shoes or come to the dinner table.
“It would go into full blown hour-and-a-half screams, and everyone was in a heap by the end of it,” she recalls.
No one could find anything physically wrong with Luke and the family was told it wasn’t ADHD.
His uncontrollable behavior became so difficult to manage that at one point Myles had to call the police to get him to stop.
That’s when they were referred to the 13-week Snap program at the West Island Family Resource Centre.
The program helps children aged 6-11 learn how to stop and think before they act out. They are taught how to avoid impulsivity, violence, stealing and lying.
The children taking part in Snap go over scenarios where they feel the physical signs that they’re losing control, and over time they learn to modify their behavior.
Today Luke doesn’t recognize or relate to how irrational he used to be.
“I wasn't in control of anything at all, I didn't even know what I was doing, I was just so confused,” he said. “Now I just say I’m getting mad, can I just be left alone, and I go away. I calm down and I think why am I getting mad?”
For the Myles family, the program has dramatically improved life at home.
But for many children and families who call the Snap program a "miracle", help could be grinding to a halt.
The program had operated on a five-year federal grant of $2.5 million but there are no plans to renew the funding.
The West Island Family Resource Centre has been putting much of its energy into fundraising, hoping to raise enough money to save the program for future generations of troubled youth.
“Visualize having a child that is so off-the-wall that you don't want to come home to him,” said the Centre’s executive director Carrie Goldberg. “Then realize six months after that he's bright, he's disciplined, he's doing alright in school and you see a whole different life in these families.”