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Ahoydave

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About Ahoydave

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  1. I had been a scout leader since my older son was a Tiger cub through eagle scout and on to college. I took the experience of my autistic son to show me the reality I was blind to. The concept that autism, ADD, ADHD etc. is a result of bad parenting is not unusual particularly in conservative churches. It has even been promoted on conservative talk radio.
  2. I was an ASM for many years and currently a Special Olympics coach in several sports for a longer time. I have a now adult son with autism. I gave up on scouting because of how the adults treated my son, not how the kids treated him. The boys were great. My son's paperwork was always getting lost by the adults. He completed requirements up to three times for some badges before the adults would finally admit he had done the work. The last straw was when the troop decided to work on the disabilities awareness merit badge. They did not tell me and scheduled it when I would be out of town for a Special Olympics event. The boys told me about it and what they were required to do to get the badge. They did not cover the requirements and gave out the merit badges for showing up and drawing a wheel chair. As an engineer, I am driven to find the root causes of a problem and it became clear there are two issues: 1. Some individuals see a special needs child achieving a merit badge or rank advancement as cheapening the accomplishment for their own son. 2. The second is a more broad issue. Some religious thought see cognitive challenges as a result of poor parenting. The former can be addressed though leadership but the second has it's origins in the very organizations that sponsor most scout troops. My autistic son's older brother is an eagle scout and an accomplished officer in the military. My autistic son's younger sibling is an outstanding ivy league student who has done charitable work on several continents for a summer job. I will put the results of my parenting up against anyone.
  3. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    To keep this topic alive, it's time for an update. There are about the same number of autistic kids in the US as the total number of scouts and scouters in BSA. When today's scouts are in the workplace, they will be supporting 7 million autistic adults. In my experience as a volunteer with Special Olympics, it has become very clear that the best thing that can be done to help these people integrate into society and even help pay their way is to be included. The only successful treatment to date for autism has been intense socialization. Earlier in this thread, I described how my son was tolorated but not really included. As an example, in all the years, he never participated in flag ceremony despite my requests that he be included. After a while, I grew tired of the "next time" promises. The repeated lost merrit badge records were down right agrivating. It not only occured within the troop but at summer camps. I wasn't assigned advancement duties as I was usually assigned to oversee the problem kids. Maybe I should have insisted on those duties so I could find when my son's records were missing. The troop had a disabilities awareness badge class when I was out of town with my son at a state Special Olympics meet. Pretty much all the scouts that could draw a wheel chair were recognized as having a strong awareness of disabilities through the merrit badge. When I found out what had happened, I was ready to vomit. You would think a certified Special Olympics coach would be consulted when the troop he is an ASM with was working on this merrit badge. If it were up to me, the merrit badge should be discontinued in its present form. My son is very aware of being different and would like to be included instead of simply being tolorated. My son is far more "disability aware" than his mostly younger peers who "earned" the merrit badge he did not. Until BSA makes it a national policy to recognize those who put out the effort to include special needs kids, such efforts will remain strictly local and based on luck.
  4. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    My son and I have not been involved in scouts for a couple of months now. It makes it easier to reflect on the experience. Not once in the years he was in scouting was my son involved in a flag ceremony. It sums up his scouting career. I do recall asking on several occasions but it never happened. I tried to explain to the leaders in the OA tapout ceremony that my son runs from what he feels is anger. If it were not for one of his fellow scouts in the ceremony, it would have ended badly as the shouting in the ceremony went on as usual. The fellow scout went on the serve in Iraq and like all the scouts of my son's peers, they all moved on. There was no interest in including my son among the younger scouts or their parents. Having been through "ordeal", I felt it would be completely wrong to have him suffer through the hazing. His older brother, an eagle scout, agreed with my decision. There needs to be incentive for others to care at the national level. Without such incentive, much, if not most, of scouting becomes a line on a resume for one's self, not for a character program for society. I gave it 15 years and tried. There are other places where my time actually does some good.
  5. Ahoydave

    ScoutParent.org

    Snipe droppings is a good analogy for scouting and the mentally challenged. Some don't think a problem exists while others wish they weren't stepping in something that shouldn't exist. There are several realities I have learned from being an ASM, a father of an autistic scout, and a Special Olympics coach. First, "normal" kids are willing and able to accept special kids if the adults provide an example. If the adults are fearful or too rigid in their ways, the kids will follow their example. As the special kids get older, the younger kids are less inclined to include them. They need guidance and/or incentive. Finally, the adults are usually parents of scouts and their own kids come first. Special kids efforts are easy to ignore. This ain't snipe droppings. Been there, done that. The PROGRAM needs program wide incentive. To address the fears so many adult leaders have, I work with mentally challenged kids in SO. In the whole, they are generally easier to work with than "normal" kids that are often infected with boredom. The worst and all too common problem kids are those with emotional issues stemming from a dysfunctional family with a parent active in the troop. The cause of the problem accompanies the kid. The best way I found to deal with it was to have the parent work with my autistic son. When the source of the problem is removed, progress can be made. Unfortunately, the kid goes back home.
  6. Ahoydave

    ScoutParent.org

    There are a couple of issues I see. First issue is parents who want their kids to be examples for their own bragging rights and will do whatever they can to see that it happens. The second is parent paranoia. They see the TV news and live in fear. The term Helicopter parents covers both groups. Both issues need to be addressed with some parent orientation. They need to be informed that scouting is supposed to prepare kids for life, to be prepared, but to do that, the kids need to be trusted to make their own decisions. The kids need to learn to fail and pick themselves up. On the second issue, the parents need to trust the adult leaders. Explain the leadership rules, criminal background checks etc. The parents need to be weaned from their kids! My own involvement in scouting started with my older son but I did my best to distance myself from him. There were campouts where I doubt we exchanged more than a dozen words and I stayed out of his advancement trail. I can't say other adult leaders did the same with their sons and now that our kids have been in the real world, the results show it. Many of these kids suffer from "failure to launch" and have been college dropouts. My younger son was a different matter as he is autistic. Here the other adult leaders were the paranoid ones. The opportunities for the other boys and adults to learn from different kids were initially quite good but the new wore off as he got older. Younger boys were not interested in being social with an older "different" kid and parents with the above issues reinforce the isolation. Having seen my boys through the program, I have a pretty good perspective of where it works and where it fails. When it comes to challenged kids, I no longer see scouting as inclusive as the organization thinks it is. There are a few exceptions but these exceptions are based on individuals putting out the effort, not BSA. Some would argue otherwise but my own experience and discussions with other parents and guardians though Special Olympics form the basis of my experience.
  7. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    The reason I brought up the issue on a national forum is BECAUSE the support is local and more a matter of luck. Without national incentive, it will remain local and only exist if a champion of the cause can make it happen and maintain it. Such champions must also be charismatic or properly connected to succeed. In an earlier post, there was an article mentioned and when I read it some time ago, it lifted my spirits as it came out during a time when the social support my son was getting in scouts was beginning to fade. The "new" had worn off. Yet another summer camp had left off many of his accomplishments and badges he had earned twice would not be awarded until he did the work yet again. Since my son had been first class for a long time, his advancement now required some of these badges. The new adults in his troop did not have documentation of the work and rules are rules. I considered trying to find another troop but it seemed the lack of interest had more to do with his age and it would do nothing to fix a problem already supposedly fixed before. Changing troops would not benefit enough to justify the move. How many 11-15 year old kids will be motivated to include a 18+ year old socially? Some people need a reality check. As for my activities in scouting, I am involved in Special Olympics and other sctivities so I am not leaving service to the community. I sinply don't feel that welcome. My attempts to suggest service hours, projects and eagle projects for challenged people fell on deaf ears. There is one troop in a nearby district that volunteers for a Special Olympics swim meet because its leader's son was involved. Other wise, its pretty much no interest. My involvement has been dominated by being there for my son as everyone else expressed concern that they had no idea what he could or couldn't do and it would be best if I stayed with him. At least they accepted that could backpack with the very best. In reference to the earlier articles and response letters, I see no difference in my experience and that described except my experience lasted longer to see where it ends. At least I am taking the time to argue for improvement even though I fully expected the gauntlet I would face doing it. Resistance to change in "perfection" does not come easily. Ivory towers take a lot of pounding to break them down.
  8. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    I am at a loss to understand how anyone would extrapolate that I am critical of those who put out the extra effort. I posted my experience in the hope to change what I perceive as a somewhat callus policy at the national level that does nothing to encourage extra effort. Something as simple as recruiting a friend will earn a patch but putting out effort to accommodate special needs kids will earn nothing unless individual leaders create some recognition. I don't expect BSA to have training that could hope to cover the array of nuances of special needs kids. I am surprised to hear about some training curricula here although the earlier links do not work. None of my searches over the years have turned up anything. As for finding another troop, its a bit late for that. My son's troop had kids that cared and put out effort but over time, those scouts aged out, dropped out, or moved. Kids and the parents behind them want advancement productivity and there is no benefit in the scouting program from helping an older "different" kid they don't understand. Now that he is 18, I can reflect back on his scouting career in total. Kind of like a buds, thorns and roses after a camp. I would like to make it clear, my issues have not been limited to my son's troop. Many occurred at summer camps and camporees. My son was twice elected to OA and those involved in the ceremonies were instructed in actions that could frighten and panic my son yet it took intervention to prevent a train wreck at tap out. I opted not to take him though ordeal since despite BSA policy, to an autistic kid, much of the process would be harassment. As a result, my son did not "earn" his arrow sash. It seems that some here assume I was one of those parents who dump their kids on scouting and leave then grip when something didn't go right. Any such assumption would be completely wrong. Perhaps I should have dropped my son off to challenge the troop into paying attention but my son's behavior would never elicit attention. People pay attention to the squeaky wheel, not the silent one. I have to be the squeaky wheel. A suggestion was made that I expand my role in scouting as some one-issue volunteer and still somehow expect to rise to some level of importance in an organization of 1,500,000 people to effect my one-issue agenda. It makes a lot more sense to address my concerns in a discussion forum such as this one and continue to invest my volunteer efforts elsewhere.
  9. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    There seems to be some misunderstanding about where my experience comes from. I have been a registered scouter for 15 years, the last 10 as an ASM, beginning before my autistic son was a tiger. As a kid, a temporary move overseas interrupted my own scout career. My plans to restart it when I returned at age 12 ended when a good friend was killed on a scout troop hike falling through thin ice. My concern over the wellbeing of my kids and requests from parents to be a role model for their kids led me to be involved at the beginning of my older son's scouting. As I said before, in all that time, I have not seen any training concerning special needs scouts yet have experienced training concerning being firm with parents about kids that don't fit in. I have had parents ask me to intervene on behalf of their kids with disabilities both physical and mental for various dens and troops. In one very visible case, I was asked by a leader to defend her against parents of a disabled kid in a hearing with the district commissioner. In the end, I had convinced the parents to become registered scouters and their son eventually earned his eagle but those who helped him did so because of who they were, not because BSA policy encouraged it. The hearing made it pretty clear, BSA was not in the kid's corner. I agree, BSA is not capable of dealing with all the nuances of the variety of challenges some kids have but there is also no formal recognition or encouragement for scouts or scouters to put out the effort to help. The emphasis is on keeping different kids from disrupting the operation of the troop, in effect, discouraging different kids from being in the program. When BSA uses the visible examples of say wheel chair bound scouts in its PR, I feel the truth is being bent.
  10. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    This not about finger pointing but what can be done to improve scouting. BSA is an organization of people and there is certainly an attitude of perfection as demontrated by the defensiveness. The idea that the program might use updating expectedly confronts traditionalists and elicits a blame anyone but the program. The program has no malice. Blaming it is pretty much a waste of time. It is a program that should be growing and adapting or it suffers. There are kids that help the disabled a great deal but there are many who don't. The reasons they don't can vary. I suspect in many cases, its adult influence. At best, BSA offers ways to seperate special kids though special needs troops and offers modified acheivement requirements with accompanying mass of documentation and committee approvals. The effort pales in comparison to the PR from pictures of kids in wheel chairs being helped down a trail. The problem is that special kids are included and become part of the troop only if others step up. In leader training, no time is spent on how to accomodate special needs kids but instead lessons on how to be firm with their parents about how they may be too disruptive and interfere with the troop operation. You would think they could at least recognise scouts and maybe scouters they rise to the occasion. BSA has the recruiter patch for those that get their friends to join. On balance, the BSA seems to tolorate special needs kids only within limits and does nothing to promote their inclusion. It's too late for my son. the latest crop of kids and adults in his troop are not of a mind set to reach out and there is no incentive in BSA to do so. I had pictured myself being involved for years to come but I've lost my incentive.
  11. Ahoydave

    Autistic scouts

    Beavah, you're pretty much right on. As for what constitutes challenging kids, I would not put autism is a problem unless the problem is created by mishandling. Like other challenged kids, their misbehaviors are a result of fear stemming from lack of communication. In my experience, the kids with emotional issues resulting from disfunctional families are one serious problem and another are those who are very smart but seemingly without a moral compass are the worst. The latter are generally smarter than most adults, know it, and get away with unbelievable things. The duped adults tend to favor these kids as they have been manipulated. They often are favored for leadership positions. Bob, as for understanding autism, simplified statements of its nature are not complete enough to use as some reference. Everybody has differences in physical structures within the brain. I tend to see it more of a problem in the temporal cortex but some research suggests the linkage structure between hemispheres. Its the programming that allows adaptation. How that programming may have been damaged in early development and the chemistry involved will glaze over the eyes of most people. I have extensively studied a great many theories about its causes and functional characteristics as I am engineer and scientist with a very strong interest in the subject. I understand the chemistry and process involved more than most physicians. In my experience and training in special olympics, I have a pretty good grasp of the differences with various mental challenges as well.
  12. Ahoydave

    Another Good Weekend

    Thanks for the responses. Bob, your response is stereotypical of the problem. Autism is not physical nor retardation. Its an inability to process stimulus manifested by poor communication and social skills. Examples of autistic people include Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Bill Gates has a milder form in the Aspergers range of autism. Trying to make them fit some mold requiring the use of faculties they don't have is like requiring paraplegics to hike. The only thing they need is to be included in a way that is appropriate to who they are. Don't shout at someone who cannot process the sound. Try putting a trash can over your head and have someone pound it with a hammer and write on the outside the instructions the troop is supposed to do while you are inside. It doesn't make sense does it? The person inside will not get the instructions he can't see and the noise will be painful. Also, don't forget an autistic kid. With their disability, its literally painful for them to seek help just like being in a trash can getting hammered as everyone else can read the instructions on the outside and move ahead. In short, true disability awareness should mean understanding the nature of the disability to accommodate it. The scouting program has as much trouble listening as an autistic kid. The only time autism is like retardation and other mental disabilities is the susceptibility to acting out of fear. A stereotypical type A person will push harder on those who fall behind but consider if the person falling behind doesn't understand what he is being told and why. He may even fear abandonment. Most are very visual. Explain it with gestures and a soft voice. It really is that simple. It usually doesn't take long to learn there is nothing to fear. So Bob, are you saying every boy should be some cookie cutter copy? Einstein's and Edison's teachers argued they should be institutionalized and trained for simple tasks since they were obviously not smart enough to follow the program. In both cases, their parents didn't accept that. Traditions are like a security blanket for a toddler. It feels secure to hide behind but one must leave security behind to grow. RS, Special Olympics was formed as a result of a horrible but "traditional" treatment of a member of a famous and powerful family. "Unacceptable" behavior was treated by lobotomy often leaving the patient severely retarded. Many thousands of volunteers now provide a venue for mentally challenged people to excel and challenge themselves. The sporting events need volunteers year around but I see very few scouts. SO is not the only organization doing this service. When my autistic son was much younger, he was in a special needs gymnastics program. A little girl, who could not use her legs, "competed" and like virtually every participant, was to be awarded a medal. A couple of adults came to lift her on the medal stand but she would have nothing of it. She fought their efforts repeatedly until they let her painfully climb the stand. There was not a dry eye in the place. Heroism comes in many forms. BSA does a disservice to scouts separating them from these "different" kids. I don't completely agree with special leaders for special needs kids. That is too much separation. Training should emphasize the weakest links and understanding instead of how to zip natural leaders to eagle. Perhaps there should be more of a dual track. Many kids see the popularity contest that troop elections often are and choose to quit scouts. I really havent seen cars gas and girls being the cause for dropping out as much as the lack of support. Adults who are either parents of the popular scouts or simply enamored by charisma seem to prefer that the less popular scouts stay out of the way. A dual track would need to be structured to make defeating its purpose difficult. My older son effectively followed this track as he always lost these popularity contests but obtained his eagle despite the artificial roadblocks. The real world after high school often turns on the popular kids while those who learned to overcome become the success stories. This is born out by comparisons. Many of the troop leaders failed in college even in relatively easy liberal arts programs. I sometimes see them selling clothing retail and driving a fork lift. My son, barely a C student in high school is now an honor roll engineering student in ROTC, training to be an officer upon graduation while holding down a part time job with NASA. He did this without the promised letters of recommendation from the adult troop leaders that were never written.
  13. Ahoydave

    Another Good Weekend

    I ask myself whether I should bring up my disappointment and as a service to scouting, I decided I should. I pretty much determined the disappointments were systemic, not unique. In the many situations where there are success stories, there is always someone going beyond or even tossing the program to do it. On the other hand, I don't agree that I have crossed paths with over a decade of jerks in scouting. The problem stems from an arrogance about the program itself often confused with "tradition". If its not in the tradition, its not part of the program. Its easy to ignore the kid that will not ask and easy to forget the kid who is not a behavior problem. If they are both, say autistic without other issues, they fall in the crack. Not just a few times but most of their scouting career. The only way such kids succeed is if someone else is their champion. I have continually been torn between fighting for my son's recognition and being the leader for other scouts. Being your own son's full time champion just doesn't seem fair to other kids. An autistic kid will not possess these "leadership" skills to succeed in scouting. That is the nature of this disability.
  14. Ahoydave

    Another Good Weekend

    I attended what could be one of my last Eagle courts of honor this weekend. Today, my autistic son will be 18 and although I have kept him in scouts all this time, I can't say it has really been all that positive. My son did not make Eagle and yes, he could continue as a special case but the reality is, he could have made Eagle if scouting had given him a chance. Instead, he was different. In the last two years, unless I specifically asked, he got no help from anyone. I sould not have to ask! Prior to that, there were at least some boys who would work with him but they moved on and are no longer in the troop. I have concluded the adult leaders would prefer to ignor him and that was made quite easy as my son never did anything to get their attention like fighting, destroying property, bullying, etc. My son did serve as an example for scouts and thr troop of how scouts are inclusive of those with special needs but that is hardley an accurate portrail of reality. To some extent, I can forgive the troop adults, they are part time volunteers and the roudy scouts get all their attention. Not once though was my son ever asked to participate in a flag ceremony, skit, etc. Leadership made sure eevry other boy participated. On hikes, my son tends to migrate to the front and stands around with pack on impatient to get going when others are taking a break. He has been described as an unstoppable tank by exhausted boys hiking with him. He had taken the camping merit badge twice at summer camp and probably has more camping hours than any other scout in the troop. He still doesn't have his camping merit badge because the various concilors over the years have neglected to include his paperwork. Through the years, adults who have promised to follow though moved on and their replacements don't have paperwork and say he needs to repeat the work yet again. Eventually, he turns 18 and has little to show for his efforts. You can bet their kids got their camping merit badges. Was i wrong to ask that others sign off on his work? One of my favorite merit badges passed out to scouts is the disabilities merit badge. I like to think of it as the draw a wheel chair, get a badge routine. As a special olympics coach with an autistic son, you would think my input into this badge might be of interest. Nope. At round table, if you want to hear silence quieter than the most remote camp site, mention the opportunities available for volunteers to help at special olympics. Before I am labeled as a griping parent who should have volunteered, I have been a scout leader since before my autistic son was a tiger. As his older brother was joining tigers, some other parents asked me to be their leader because they said I would be a good role model. I have also been involved in other youth organizations as well. I could not skip going to summer camp if my son wanted to go because the other adults don't know what to do. Uh how about learning? Nope. Odd how my autistic son didn't get into fights, damage property, disrupt ceremonies, etc. but he is too much trouble and not worth bothering when it came to recognizing his efforts. Most of my trips to summer camp resulted in property being stolen from me. I recovered most including a watch and camp chairs but never did get the digital camera. The items I recovered were found by me in the possession of camp employees taken during required activities such as OA tap out and swimming tests. Back when my autistic son had an older brother in the troop and there were some scouts who cared, my son was elected to OA...twice. Even though warned how to treat my son, his tap out frightened him almost into running away and hiding. I chose not to subject him to ordeal so no arrow sash. The silence was no problem as my son rarely talks but verbal abuse won't cut it. The reason I say this will likely be my last eagle court of honor is the last of the few scouts who have done anything with my son have moved on. He is alone and different and that is not what scouting is about. As a special olympics coach, I talk with a many parents about their kids and the various programs out there. I wish I could be more positive about scouting but after a while, hope fades and reality sets in. It took years but I know better now. I look back on my involvement in scouting and wonder if in the balance of it all, even considering the thanks I get from young adults who had been scouts I led, if it was even worth it. My purpose is that maybe there is some hope to crack the ivory tower BSA puts itself in. The program may not be what your ego tells you it is. Special needs troops only serve to keep those different boys out of sight and out of mind. Service is not just building park benches and collecting canned food, it can be lending yourself to others. Scouting fails this test of courage.
  15. It sounds as if this kid has an emotional issue and his pace gives him power he feels he otherwise lacks. I am guessing mom probably doesn't help this issue as she doesn't understand or accept it herself. The kid needs to have some scout successes he has earned and get attention for acheiving, not attention for failing. He needs to equate attention with positive effort. Encouragement should be very limited as unlimited encouragement only rewards underachievement. An example could be two people assigned to accompany the kid on a hike and stay at the kid's pace letting the troop move on. The escorts will stay a few paces ahead and pay little overt attention to their charge except when he keeps pace or asks questions. If he slows or stops, simply slow or stop and wait but make no issue of it. Simply stay ahead of him. Cut the encouragement and substitute instruction and small talk. They escorts will need to know their mission is the kid, NOT the hike. Learning about hiking will help him feel part of the group and not an exception. The escorts may need to have overnight capability as it may take such an adventure to bring the kid into the group. For the most part, the kid must do the work himself including any overnight trail stops and discomfort that may bring. The escort should sympathize with the problems but not fix non-medical issues. The escorts will have earned true leadership reward they wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to earn. When faced with slow paced scouts, I found my hiking stick could be an excellent tow bar. Simply have the slow scout hang on and pull them along. At first, the stick seems easier for them as it propels them along but as their pace improves, they find holding on to be more trouble than its worth. They don't need attention for being slow, they need to feel part of the group. The stick attaches them to the group. Look at a troop hike as a chain. It is limited by its weakenst link. Don't over stress that weakest link as it will break every time.
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