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It's A Snap!

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Taking care of someone with a developmental disability can be hard. The Special Needs Ability Program is here to help.

SNAP is a friend.

The Sanford-based Special Needs Ability Program (a.k.a. SNAP) provides support and advocacy to individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities, but it’s also a resource for their parents and caregivers, too, offering an ear to listen and a hand to help. Through two local support groups and a number of other initiatives, SNAP’s mission is to promote empowerment of special-needs people and help everyone else understand how much those with special needs can offer to society.

“The program focuses its funding on providing education, support, social interaction, and advocacy for special-needs children and adults, including their immediate families,” says Jamie Grover, SNAP’s founder and executive director.

Jamie is a retired licensed clinical social worker who began his career working with individuals with autism and their families in 1991. In 2007, he partnered with an organization that provides group cruises for families with children on the autism spectrum. He spent many years cruising with families from all over the world. During this time, Jamie adopted his son, Dennis, who is also on the autism spectrum, and together they took to the seas.

In 2010, Jamie realized there was a real need for services, support, and advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities here in Florida. That’s when SNAP was born. The organization offers resource education, which includes informing the community, parents, caregivers, and family members about helpful services.

Understanding the world of IEPs and 504 plans in the public-school system can be especially confusing. SNAP helps families navigate that process and provides free support groups geared toward parents, foster families, and caregivers seeking encouragement or information pertaining to a special-needs individual.

In fact, SNAP hosts the largest special-needs support group in Central Florida. It meets every other Thursday evening at the First United Methodist Church in Sanford and on the third Tuesday of the month in Winter Springs.

“Topics most commonly discussed are modifying behavior, IEP and 504 issues in the school system, puberty, upcoming events in the community, and whatever issue parents are currently going through,” says Jamie, who conducts the meetings.

SNAP offers a multitude of free workshops and training opportunities to educators and the community at large. Discussion panels include special-needs trust and guardianship, medical marijuana and special needs, adolescence and puberty, ADP and ABLE accounts for special needs, and financial planning for adult children with disabilities.

“Our goal is always to provide our special-needs families with a quality of life and information about how to plan for the future of our kids,” says Jamie. “We also provide specialized training for paraprofessionals, daycare and preschool workers, and anyone working with special-needs children or adults.”

Qualified childcare is provided at all SNAP meetings and workshops so that parents can attend with the entire family.

In order to provide service to the special-needs community, SNAP’s programs are funded by business sponsorships, fundraising events, and private donors.

“SNAP does not receive any funding from the state or federal governments, and rarely through grants,” says Jamie.

So, in 2016, Jamie combined his areas of expertise to launch Travel in a SNAP, a full-service travel agency specializing in individual and group cruises.

“We also provide staff-assisted cruises several times a year for special-needs families,” says Jamie.

Because he books such large and frequent cruises, Jamie receives a commission from the cruise lines, every penny of which goes back to support SNAP and the growth of the organization.

Jamie’s career, from social worker to cruise director, has improved the lives of so many and in such unique ways. He believes everything SNAP does ultimately helps those with disabilities grow personally and in the world.

“Having a disability,” Jamie says, “does not mean our children cannot be a viable member of society.”

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