Here’s How Danielle Charron Explains It

Danielle Charron is the Clinical Lead for CASA’s Children’s Day Program, which supports families and children in grades 3-6 who are dealing with mental health and learning challenges.

One of the program’s key components is SNAP (Stop Now And Plan), a cognitive behavioural therapy intervention developed by the Child Development Institute (CDI) to help children recognize and counter negative thoughts such as anxiety and fear and better address issues like impulse control.

We asked Danielle to explain how SNAP works. Here’s an edited version of what she told us:

SNAP is a cognitive behavioural therapy. It helps kids to stop themselves, recognize if they’re having negative thoughts or starting to become angry or nervous, upset or scared, and what can they do about it. It’s great for kids who are struggling with social competency, who have a low frustration tolerance, and who struggle with emotional dysregulation or impulse control.

An example I like to give is this: Imagine you’re at home and your sister takes your toy and you just want to punch her. If your first impulse is to clock your sister that’s not great. With Stop (the first element in SNAP), we give them tools to help stay calm, like snapping their fingers, counting to 10, or counting the colours in the room, to reset them in the moment.

Then there’s the ‘Now, And’ portion of SNAP, which is really about discussing the thoughts in their brains, in child-friendly terms. So we talk about ‘hard’ and ‘cool’ thoughts. A ‘hard’ thought is a negative thought, something like “I’m losing control, I can’t do this.” Or in the case of the kid who wants to clock his sister, it might be “I just want to punch her in the face.”

So we want them to create a ‘cool’ thought to replace it. For the kid who wants to punch his sister, it might be: “I don’t want to get into trouble,” so we encourage them to focus on that instead.

The next step is the ‘Plan’ part: What is your plan moving forward? A good plan should always make your problem smaller, never bigger. It should make you feel like a winner and it should never result in harm to yourself or others.

For the kid who wants to punch his sister, the ‘Plan’ could be: “If I punch my sister my parents are going to be mad at me, they’re going to ground me, and I’m going to lose my privileges. Instread, I could walk away so my parents won’t yell at me, I can go to my room to cool down, and then talk to my parents.”

We help coach them through bullying, sportsmanship, and what to do if they’re having a tough time in the classroom. We also role play with them, we video them, and then we review the video, like football coaches. We also run a parent group so parents and children are speaking the same language and using the same philosophy at home. That’s SNAP.