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How do you know if they are ready?

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We have a young man in our Scout troop who has Asperger's syndrome. He has real difficulties with conceptual things. Concrete things are okay and physical things aren't an issue. I wish I had the singlemindedness and concentration that I see when he is involved with something he is interested in. Anyhow, in verifying that he has met the basic rank requirements, like the first aid questions that ask "tell how you treat.... an insect bite or sting" I have asked him the question, gotten a blank look, then asked "have you ever been stung by a bee or wasp? how did you treat it?" and gotten a very detailed answer on how he got rid of the wasp nest. I am pretty comfortable that if he or I actually got stung, he would know what to do. But how do I sign off on requirement, if he can't tell me? It isn't a physical communication issue, but a comprehension of concepts.


Yes, his family is supportive, but he has 3 younger brothers, including one who has autism. They are spread pretty thin dealing with four boys and a college age daughter and Dad works rotating shifts at a plant that is continuing to cut employees. I don't think they really want to push for alternative or extension since he sometimes isn't very interested in Scouts. He is 16 (nearly 17) and is a state competition swimmer and on his high school golf team.

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I understand what you're going through because my son, who is now into his second year as a Boy Scout and is now a First Class scout, has Aspergers Syndrome too - though his case isn't as extreme as some.


My advice is to just keep asking questions in different ways until something clicks and he provides an answer that meets the requirements. Its unfair to the other Scouts to just give up and check-off the AS Scout's requirement assuming he understood or knows. Like you said, with AS he can probably learn skills and facts faster than most people, the tougher part is usually when a requirement "asks" a softer question - a question that asks for an opinion.


The Scout will probably need much more guidance and patience, AND he'll likely need help organizing, but he can and will learn and have fun doing it. You just need to be patient with him.


My son had problems starting with merit badges at summer camp - picking them and getting to the first session, but after that he was OK. He also has real problems keeping long-term logs/journals going as called for in merit badges like Family Life and Personal Management. His parents will need to be very involved and supportive for him to succeed there.


I should mention that I am an asst. scoutmaster with the troop. I try to be there to help him when his AS gets in the way, but I also try to stay away enough for him to interact on his own, make decisions, and make mistakes. I mostly try to ensure success for those things that can't be "fixed" or "redone".


At summer camp for example, if he somehow goofs up and misses the Monday & Tuesday merit badge sessions, then it will likely be too late to make it up for the rest of the week, so I helped him understand the merit badge options available to him, helped him organize his schedule for the week, made sure that he carries a written schedule with him, and make sure he wears a watch.


I do my best to not help "too much".


Oh, I also make sure I ask him what he cares about. For example, I was concerned that his AS would prevent him from getting voted into OA, but he says he doesn't care. If that's OK with him, then that's OK with me. Also, he says he doesn't care if he gets Eagle - that's OK with me to. I just want him to learn, socialize, and have fun.

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You might try having him show you how to do a skill. Demonstrate how to remove a stinger,how to put on a bandage.


We have a boy who is a very mild case and him showing us things seems much easier. And if he can show you you are pretty sure he will know how to treat a sting.

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He did it!! and did a good job. My scout I was asking about had his first board of review Monday night and did an extremely good job. He was able to answer questions that were asked even when they required an opinion. I feel like he actually did a better job than the other boy that also had a board for Tenderfoot that night. With a little leading on a couple of really tough questions, he did great. His answers were very thoughtful and not just off the top of his head. He did mention that he wasn't sure how high a priority scouting was in his life right now, since he is also involved in some other things. When I mentioned that we were hoping to improve the program offerings for the older boys and that he really could help in areas like teaching how to put up a tent, and then asked him to think about committing himself to "one more year", he lit up and seemed to really consider that he might want to stay involved a little longer.



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  • 2 months later...

Good afternoon,

In regards to you and your scouts with other abilities, I applaud you for being as strong as you are. Myself, between my wife and kids our house is Apserger's, ADHD and Bi-Polar. I am also a Cub Master with 2 other boys in our pack that have similiar issues. To go along with Kenk, maybe asking the same thing in a different manner may hit the nail right on the head. Given dad's work situation, he may not be there to help with the asking btu maybe he can jot down a few items for you. Also, since it is a comprehension matter, maybe you can ask him tell you what he thinks it is. This will allow you to see it as he does and could possibly help in futher explanations to him.

Along with that, you may want to work with your district on is Scout advancement plan, similiar to a school IEP document. If your pack has a scouts with disabilities committee member, they may help implementing this. This will allow boys in similiar situations to 'communicate' responses to you for achievement outside of the norm and still meet these requirements as well.


Rob Ehrhart

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