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Webelos for child with high functioning autism

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  • Webelos for child with high functioning autism

    Our son will be a Webelo this fall. He was diagnosed with high functioning autism by the school last fall. He's been in Scouts since he was a Tiger.

    I am wondering how Scouts has been for other children with autism as we transition into the phase where parents are not as involved. Until now, my husband and/or I have been with him at all events. We are concerned how he will do as the pack becomes more boy-led.

    Our son's main struggle is with "zoning out". He becomes overwhelmed in loud, noisy crowds, and will retreat into his imagination or into a good book if available. He is fairly social with one or two close friends, but in larger and louder groups, he just gets overwhelmed. He doesn't yell or stim or act out in a way that is more visible, but he will often not hear instructions to a group if he is off in his imagination or reading.

    He is a very good non verbal learner. He's good at building things, science, chess, and STEM projects.

    My concern is that sometimes the other boys his age in the pack don't treat him well. He is a very kind boy, as we have raised him to be. A few of the other boys will play silly tricks on him, and he really doesn't like or understand that kind of playing. He takes it to heart and thinks they don't like him. He is very literal and a rule follower. He has a hard time with people who behave in an illogical manner. He'd make a great Vulcan.

    I'm honestly not sure if I should even be encouraging him in this activity. If any parents of kids with similar issues are able to offer advice or encouragement, I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    GA Mom

  • #2
    I have had two scouts with Aspergers in my troop. I don't know the difference between "high functioning autism" and aspergers but it sounds similar. Your description of your son sounds similar to these two. One of them got Eagle and left because he was so goal oriented he didn't understand just hanging out. He still comes to service projects and always says hi to me. He was a typical teenager in that he didn't like to push himself and would participate in all the fun easy stuff. He liked things done the right way and the only way. The other boy left the troop early and really didn't enjoy scouts. I don't know what came first, but he also had trouble with some of the other scouts and got into a fight or two because he thought someone was picking on him. The first scout was social in his own way and somehow we developed a relationship. It even got to the point I could tease him and he knew it was not serious. This was a big step for him. I called him Q because he always came up to me and said "I have a question." The other boy was never really interested in talking to anyone. Just a gut feeling, but it seems like the first boy had it easier because he did find people, mostly adults, that he was comfortable with. As for kids teasing your son, I could see that from the new young scouts that are still boys and haven't started to mature yet. All of the older scouts were good with this boy. They just knew he was different. It was good for him and the other boys.

    My two cents is you should go for it. Junior high is a really rough time for kids that are different and the odds of finding a comfortable place for your son in a troop are better than at school. High school is easier. It would likely be easier if he had some friends go along with him. Talk to the SM. If the older scouts at all understand Scout Spirit your son should do fine. Hopefully he will find a few good friends and stick with them. Give your son the Scout Handbook and tell him he has to do this all on his own. The rules are fairly simple and he'll enjoy the structure. Once he's done with Eagle tell him about the Hornaday awards. That will keep him busy and give him goals. If you want I can ask the boy that got Eagle what made the troop work for him. I think he graduates this year.

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    • #3
      It depends on the troop. In my council there are troops that are disability oriented. Those troops have a higher degree of parental involvement. Contact your district executive they will be able to get your contact info. A second option is a smaller troop. They might be better suited to your son. Big troops are noisy, chaotic, and sometimes impersonal.

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      • #4
        Son #2's buddy had Aspergers and scouting was a challenge for him. Bugs were terrible, homesickness was overwhelming, even when his older brother came with him, he admitted he wasn't a fan of hard work. He did give it a fair try however and even wound up taking his family camping. So some skills were transferred. I regret that we weren't the activity for this boy to really find his wings.

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        • #5
          http://www.autismempowerment.org/ is a group that has been working with National for this very reason. It's centered on Scouting and Autism. They can help out a lot.

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          • #6
            I have a "high functioning autism" son who Scouts has been very, very good for but YMMV. When he was younger he had a lot of transition issues so the campouts were good training. I did volunteer so I could be around 'just in case'--I think that is the right to do as if other adults have to spend more time working with your son then you need to pick up the slack elsewhere.

            I found other adults got my son to do things that my wife and I could never do, I also agree my son liked the structure.

            I have observed that boys 'on the spectrum' often do not get along with each other; resist the other adults well meaning efforts to get them to tent together,

            He will probably find an area in scouts he will excel at. For some boys it is Merit Badges, others hiking. Mine liked hiking and knots. Really is a star at that--and I would have never found that in the school environment. Scouting has a pretty big menu of activities to pick from.

            I am not very objective, The school system pretty much failed my son his early years and I think scouting kept him in the game. Now he is a Life Scout, got elected Patrol Leader (and was not bad), and will do public speaking as a Chaplain's Aide (though it is a very painful process). I think the confidence he got from his achievements gave him confidence he needed at school.

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            • #7
              My HFA son is an Eagle scout. Scouting was good for him but not always easy. I was scoutmaster for the troop and would encourage you to be around as TT said, "just in case." We dealt with more than a few "zone-outs" and "meltdowns." But, we dealt with zone-outs and the like with NT kids too.

              My son was, and is today, more comfortable in conversations with adults than with peers. He's not so good with the peers, but, he worked on it. Being put into positions to have to work on those skills, in the relatively safe confines of scouting, was and continues to be a win. He also had an excellent youth group leader that helped him with those skills.

              Today he picks and chooses what he wants to do in scouting and scouting has been moved to the back burner behind things he wants to do in school and pursuing a drivers license. That said, the things he has chosen in school (scholastic bowl and drama club) wouldn't have been on the radar at all I believe if it wasn't for the confidence he built in scouting.

              If STEM and chess and such are you son's thing then go with that as the base to build on. Pursue MBs and NOVA awards. When he's old enough look for (or start!) a crew in your area that focuses on those things.

              If Scouting just isn't your son's thing, I would recommend you look at other developmental programs (e.g. 4H). There are good programs that might be a bit less chaotic that would serve your son better than scouting. That's not a knock on scouting so much as recognition that scouting doesn't work for every kid, HFA or NT. We would have found other outlets for my if scouting just hadn't worked out.

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              • #8
                Thank you all so much for the resources and encouragement. It is very encouraging to hear from parents of older Scouts that this activity was good for their HFA kids.

                GA Mom

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                • #9
                  In the pack and troop we have a bunch of Aspergers, HFA, and other "on the spectrum" kids, plus a bunch of severe ADHD kids. Concerned parents always they whisper "my son has issues." I always respond, "We all have issues, your son has a diagnosis."

                  Scouts can be a good opportunity for someone to learn and grow. They need to grow. HFA is a challenge, but it's a challenge he'll have his entire life. Learning how to grow into an adult that functions is the key here. If you never let them overcome their autism related challenges, it'll be a life sentence.

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                  • #10
                    we have had a scout with high functioning in the troop. He aged out as a life scout. As far as I recall I think his father did attend all campouts with him, but I know there were meetings he didn't. As I think back there was only 1 campout in all that time that I was glad his father was there - the rest I don't think we would've needed him at all.

                    He was a great scout and even served 6 months as SPL and did an excellent job. For him scouting really seemed to help.

                    Best thing I can ever say with any scout or even adult with any disability, illness, special needs, whatever... is be open. Let the leaders know. And talk about what helps or doesn't and if those change let them know. Also inform the boys too if there are major issues especially if they are things that are easily changed.

                    for example If it's hard to concentrate in loud noises and patrol meetings are all done at different tables but in same room and it gets loud but there's a side room that your son's patrol could use bring it up. Just because it's the way we've always done it, doesn't mean it needs to stay that way.

                    for me with PTSD there are simple things like letting everyone know never to come up from behind on me and don't stand directly behind me unless I tell them to (sometimes in crowds I need 1 person I know well to do that so will let another adult or my son know to do that for me) It's a simple thing. Also for me dining hall at summer camp it's a simple email to camp staff requested certain table section assigned to our troop.

                    I've never found a way to not get help for what I need... and I've never been able to not find a way to help one of my scouts. It's just needing to know what is needed.

                    Also since a scout and this can affect how learn - let them know how best they learn: reading, talking, showing, doing, mixture of something.

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                    • #11
                      I also have a son that is on the spectrum he is a lot younger then yours (tiger) but he really enjoys scouting and the the time he gets to spend with me. I was his den leader this year and next year I am not going to be his den leader we changed packs and they already have a den leader I am waiting to see how that is going to work out. I am taking over a weblos den in this pack so I will be close by just in case. I hope you son works out well with the scouts my former pack master son was on the spectrum and he did really well life long scout. One thing I noticed with him was when he was done he was done he would walk off in pack meeting and go sit in the car. On camp outs when he was done in tent and to sleep he goes. You do need to tell his leaders and be there just in case the most important thing to tell the leaders is that what are the triggers for your child with mine it the phrase "The rule is" and what ever the behaviour that you want to stop and he stops also the scout sing he stops dead in his tracks when we sees that even at and amusement park it is quite funny

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GeorgiaMom View Post
                        He was diagnosed with high functioning autism by the school last fall.
                        Don't mean to take the thread too far off track, and if so, I apologize, but "diagnosed by the school" is a big red flag for me. My oldest son was "diagnosed by the school" (in actuality by folks not qualified to render any sort of diagnosis) with ADHD, and they were insistent that he needed to be on meds, IEP, etc. We had him evaluated by an independent (there are benefits to the school district for labeling kids in this manner) psychologist, who diagnosed him with anxiety. After some counseling and following several suggestions, and a discussion with the superintendent about unqualified staff playing doctor, things improved greatly.

                        I obviously know nothing about your situation but wanted to throw that out there as a caution against blindly accepting a school's "diagnosis" of a student.

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