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  • Autistic Cub Scout

    I have an autistic scout in my Webelos patrol and wonder how I should handle a situation. My Pack has the policy that if an activity is performed at a Den meeting and the scout is present and participates then he gets credit for completing that activity. My autistic scout is usually off to the side not paying attention and usually doing something that he shouldn't. His parents attend the meeting but do not participate and pretty much let him do what he wants. When he does participate he can be difficult. We were practicing the Boy Scout handshake the other day and he was doing it with the wrong hand. I nicely told him that was wrong and to use the other hand. He screamed at the top of his lungs that I was wrong. A few days later we were doing a skit. I was on my knees explaining the skit when he walks up and kicks me very hard in the leg. We are dealing with these issues with his parents.

    Here's my question...I have had two parents ask me why he is getting credit for all the activities when it is obvious he does not listen or participate. I cant say I disagree with them.


  • #2
    See "Do Your Best" in the Guide to Advancement and make a judgement call...


    • #3
      You are assuming he's not listening just because he's off to the side. It is a bad assumption. Many autistic kids are peripheral learners. If you ask them to attend to something directly they'll spend so much energy trying to attend they'll totally miss the content. Don't ask for eye contact, don't ask him to sit in a chair at a table, work with him in his space and time. Engage the parents. Depending on what "doing something he shouldn't" means, it might be appropriate to find some redirection. If the parents can't help with redirection it might be a bit of a road to figure out what keeps the lads attention.

      Autistic kids can be very rigid. There are right and wrong ways to do things and in between can be an impossible place to go. If the young man was taught to shake hands with the right hand it might be very difficult for him to unlearn that to relearn the left hand shake for scouts. And make no mistake, he will have to unlearn the behavior and re-establish that it's right hand everywhere except scouts. I'd also refrain from harsh black and white language like "wrong" and use a gentler (and frankly more accurate) term like "different" in its place. The yelling has nothing to do with you and everything to do with his condition and possibly a result of a sensory overload. Don't take it personally and don't assign bad behavior to something the young man probably can't control.

      Autistic scouts can be a challenge and more so if the parent's aren't engaged. That said, autistic scouts can be very rewarding. As for your other parents, tell them to take their competitive BS attitude somewhere else. Scouting is about young men challenging themselves, not competing against everybody else. That young autistic lad has challenges that their precious NT brats will never experience. Life isn't fair, ask the autistic kid.


      • King Ding Dong
        King Ding Dong commented
        Editing a comment
        "As for your other parents, tell them to take their competitive BS attitude somewhere else. Scouting is about young men challenging themselves, not competing against everybody else. That young autistic lad has challenges that their precious NT brats will never experience. Life isn't fair, ask the autistic kid."

        Well said.

      • Tampa Turtle
        Tampa Turtle commented
        Editing a comment
        First of all its WEBELOS. And I agree about the peripheral learners. Also kids with sensory issues will often divert their eyes so they can concentrate on what is being said without visual distractions. My own son would do this and I would challenge him on paying attention--he could repeat much of the instructions verbatim.

        That said they can be rigid and can lag behind in motor activities. So salutes etc can take a while. My son needed folks to position his hand in the right place--his "body orientation" was not where he thought it was. But he did lean it.

        I think that it is reasonable to ask for a parent to help out with the den if you are taking more time with their boy. You need someone to take up the slack--and it is useful for an autistic kid's parents to learn that some of their kids "problems" are similar to "neurotypical" boys. That was very helpful to me.

        IMHO boys who are on the Autistic spectrum who are rigid really benefit the most from the varied activities and campout locations later in Boy Scouting, It really stretches their envelope and builds up their tolerance to change. You will also find there are some areas they will excell--my own son turned out to be a knot savant--show it to him once he could repeat it, figure it out, and show alternate ways to tie it. Ended up as a knot instructor,

    • #4
      My wife is a special ed teacher so she has been able to give me some insight and advice as well. As for the yelling, I just blew that off. I know that is just him. The kicking we addressed with his mom and she had a talk with him. I have learned that he is listening sometimes when he is not watching us and doing something else. He will occasionally verbally participate. Its the times when he is across the room doing something else that I know there is no way he is listening.

      I don't think the other parents are being competitive, they just want it to be fair. I had a boy over the last two years that missed half the meetings and did none of the requirements. I would have to sit down with his mom before cross over each year and explain that he was not getting his badge because he only completed half of the requirements. His mom said she knew and was ok with that. Parents were not involved with him at all.

      I think the parents are just seeing something they think is similar. My autistic scout shows up to most meetings but does not participate. Again I don't think it is as much competitive as it is being fair. That being said....I do see your point in "Do Your Best"....very good point actually. I think we are slowly getting is father more involved and that is helping as well.

      Thanks for the input...I do like the "Do your Best" point and will tell myself and the others that anytime it comes up.....good advice, thanks.


      • #5
        We have an Aspergers boy who has yelled a few times. On the other hand he may unexpectedly hug you as well. One time I was doing a sign off with him and was standing up (I sit all day). He yells "SIT DOWN" at the top of his lungs. He then says in a meek voice "I want you to be comfortable". So he was trying to be considerate. That was real progress--up to the last year he showed little concern for others.

        I'll take a boy with some disabilities who really tries over a super-scout with a bad attitude any day. The pay off (which can be slow in coming) is awesome.


        • #6
          Like anything else in scouting, we expect our scouts to overcome some pretty big hurdles to learn and grow. Well, it applies to the adults as well. It may be a stretch for some people, but maybe it's time to step up to the plate and work at it, just like we expect our scouts to do.

          I have had ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, autism, mentally challenged, and a whole ton of clinically diagnosed behavior problem youth in my troops over the years. I'm not out looking for a cure for any of these boys, but they deserve the same consideration to work on the scouting experience as the "normal" (if you could ever call any of them normal) boys.

          I had one mentally challenged scout (age 34) who simply liked to put on a uniform, get out of the institution and hang out with the boys. BSA said it was okay and he always had a home in my troop. BTW, it took him a long time, but the last time I visited with him he was a Life scout working on his Eagle.



          • Sakitama
            Sakitama commented
            Editing a comment
            And with any luck, the boys who have been in the troop with this individual will have more compassion and patience for those differently abled than themselves.

        • #7
          I have two children with Aspergers and a few that are ADD/ADHD. They all have their challenges but are typically easy to work with. The group in general gets along well. I know the Autistics kids mom says he makes a big deal out of the fact the he is a "Scout" and he has a "Uniform", It is fun to see when he is in that mind set.


          • Eagledad
            Eagledad commented
            Editing a comment
            “Here's my question...I have had two parents ask me why he is getting credit for all the activities when it is obvious he does not listen or participate. I cant say I disagree with them.”

            I can’t really advice to the question because your pack has a policy that answers the it for the other parents. However, I think you seek the wisdom from those of us who didn’t have that policy, and I understand. Working with mentally challenged scouts is always challenging because each one of them is different. A lot different.

            The Do Your Best approach is the best and really most compassionate approach to holding these scouts accountable. But that still isn’t the easy answer. We found that we had to get these boys parents closely involved so they could advise and direct us in how to work with their son. And when the parents didn’t get involved for whatever reason, then I still called a meeting to just explain my thinking of how I would counsel with their son. And they usually were very accepting. A lot of times, the parents don’t know how to deal with some of their sons behavior, so it can be new territory for all.

            I’ve been retired as a SM long enough now that most of those boys are young adults and I can certainly say that the ones I spoken with did have a positive scouting experience. If you approach these young men with an open and compassionate heart, usually good things will happen. Working with these scouts is hard, tiring, and challenge to the patience. But rewarding in the end.

            I have a lot of good success stories with our mentally and physically challenged scouts, but I have a different story with our 17 year old life scout who was on his way to Eagle. His parents were very supportive and active with our troop. In fact, dad is an Eagle and Silver Beaver. But the scout had one incident where he pulled a knife on another scout. At the end of a series of conferences and counseling sessions with the scout and his dad observing, the scout finally told his dad and I that he didn’t feel that pulling the knife was unscout like behavior. I remember his dad turning to me with a tear in his eye and telling me that he was going home to tell mom that their son was not going to be an Eagle.

            As I read these posts and reflect back on my experiences with all our challenging scouts, I realize as the emotion of those moments faded and given me a clearer understanding of the pain and suffering of the parents. The folks here have some good advice of how to work with these young men, but I’ll also add that as you work with their son, the parents have a desperate hope from you. And while I feel that hope is unfairly placed, doing your best can is the noble cause God has placed in your hands. I couldn’t have said it ten years ago because they were still boys, but after meeting these young men now as adults living adult lives, I think we did OK.

            I love this scouting stuff.


        • #8
          As said before, the criteria is to do their best. Also, if you can get the information from the parents, find out what methods work best at school for their child (visual learner vs spoken direction). Perhaps the assistance of a Den Chief to buddy with him may help as well. Also, find out what the parents expectations are from having their son in Scouting. They may just be looking for a way to get the boy involved in a social activity outside of school. One thing I'm doing (well starting) is a Den for scouts with more significant (intellectual) challenges. The boys still interact with the other dens at Pack meeting, before/after Den Meetings, and on activities/events; but I'm tailoring their Den meetings to their individual needs and their parent (or another adult) work 1 to 1 with the boy to help them do the tasks for that week.


          • #9
            (what helps me.I have Autism!)
            is stay as clear as possible say what you are going to do, best is No suprises.
            give the kid time to switch from 1 activety to the other (around 10 minutes, could set a stop watch or samething)
            give him thinking time.
            stuff like that.
            hope it helps.



            • #10
              A lot of such challenges are often misunderstood or what we do is counterproductive to what the boy needs.

              My son has ADD and is very intelligent. When he was in grade school, he was quite a handful. The school was an open concept school and while the teacher in his grade was having difficulty with him, he was in deed paying the more interesting topic 2 pods over.

              He could better concentrate if he had something in his hands as well, and it was a major battle with the school but we finally after two doctors' affidavits allow him to have hand manipulatives. That means he "played" with something in his hands because it allowed him to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. It looked like he was playing with something, but he was using it to concentrate.

              It didn't make any sense to me, but it did help him a lot.

              None of the kids I have worked with over the past 40 years were the same. The ability to adapt to each person is an art-form. Some of us do it better than others, but to think that one is ever going to get everyone on the same page at the same time is a pipe-dream. Once one realizes that, life gets a lot easier.

              As far as this Cub Scout is concerned, he is there. If he picks up 10% of what is going on, that means he got 10% more than if he had stayed at home. Never underestimate the little things!



              • #11
                Jblake is right. My older son also has Tourette Syndrome. Every once in a while we get a teacher that has had a touretter before. We have to remind them "If you have had a child with Tourette' have had a child with Tourette's." Everyone is different.


                • #12
                  As time goes on and I see more scouts with issues my takeaway is that (1) You are doing an enormous service to scouts with borderline and moderate issues as the scout program gives them more option than schools today--many of them progress dramatically (2) those with more serious issues benefit by being in a different environment and getting some life skills and teach the rest about being around someone who is different. I have had a few scouts who had more severe autism and realize 'they are the way they are' and that can be tough for all concerned.


                  • #13
                    I know this is and old thread but I wanted to add a few things. My son is what what is now know as high functioning autistic in a nut shell aspergers. His educational psychologist has suggested that He will do great in planned social activity and more interaction with groups to me that says Cubs Scouts (fun with a purpose right) I am also his den leader witch makes its easier for everybody. He also has a buddy that has some of the same issues also in his den. The important thing to remember is that he is letting you in to his world on his terms they are very rigged.
                    I am severely dyslexic my spell checker is my best friend if I have made any mistakes hear please forgive me as I was growing up the extra activities scouts sports extra was were I received my self esteem since I was struggling so hard just to get minor passing grades in school.
                    As for the other parents just remind them that he is different and can really benefit the most from scouting and he does try I like the idea of a den chief to be his buddy