MATTHEW CERTNER: There's a lot of bullying that goes on in schools and at recess. I mean, the University of California just did a report that 46% of children who have autism
have experienced bullying. So we wanted to combat that. And we even looked into it further. We found out the number is a lot higher. The Interactive Autism Network reported the number's actually
around 63%. So we said, why can't we hit it at the root cause? So why can't we find out at what age can we teach children to be accepting of everyone?
[GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC] The kid was playing t-ball, and parents and other teammates
were calling for the coach to skip his turn at bat. We're talking about t-ball-- 10, 11-year-old kids.
That's not the point of the game, right? It's not. And coaches today are unintentionally callous. Kids are way too competitive.
And that's the root of it. That's where we wanted to start SNAP. Special Needs Athletic Programs, it's a nonprofit in Morristown, New Jersey.
We started it back in 2009 when a close family friend was diagnosed with autism. It started with athletics. We saw that our family friend really
wasn't being included when it came to recreational leagues, or even just in school, at lunch, and at recess.
And we knew that we can provide not only him, but his friends with a team, an opportunity to be a part of something. And it quickly grew.
And what started as just sports clinics grew into an educational platform as well. It was the family friend that you do everything with--
family, vacations, family dinners, holidays. I was always big with sports. So was my brother. And seeing someone that we know not being included
and seeing other kids unintentionally callous when it comes to sports, we knew that we could do something,
and we did. And we saw such a tremendous impact in this kid's life. And that's-- that's kind of where it started.
And it's only grown from there, from 2 to 3 kids up to 10, 11 kids. And then all of a sudden, we had waitlists,
and we had to expand into more planes in Warren, and Lodi, and throughout New Jersey. Now, it's in six other states.
So in 2010, we saw that there was definitely a need to make an educational initiative. And that's where we kind of branched not only
to include sports, but we branched away to include education. We found that volunteers at our clinics were learning so much that we wanted to implement that
at a greater level, and to have every third and fifth grader throughout more school district in New Jersey have these trainings.
So we created these hands-on modules with the help of teachers, and parents, and educators. We created what's now the SNAP Sensitivity Trainings.
So what these kids do is they experience what it's like to have a disability. We teach them empathy over sympathy. They use mirrors, and balance balls, and other techniques
to feel what it's like. And at the end of the day, they know what it's like to be bullied, so they're not going to bully themselves.
So for example, through the use of a mirror, and a maze, and a piece of paper, we are able to simulate what it's like to have dyslexia.
So students will look into the mirror and try and write their name. It's extremely frustrating. And our mentors, who are now students
who have done the training previously, plus a gym teacher or myself, will add to the frustration. We'll ask them, what's taking so long,
or, why can't you write your name, or, can you imagine doing a standardized test like this? And the kids get very frustrated.
Other examples are we do balance techniques. We have students try to play a simple game of catch while standing on a dynadisc or a balance board.
They see how hard it is to do an everyday activity that most of them take for granted. And it's amazing to see these kids have trouble with that.
After they do these trainings, they're-- they're less likely to actually bully other kids or to tease other kids who are
having trouble. [AUDIO LOGO]