Most children on the autism spectrum have specific challenges with social development, such as not innately knowing how to interact with their peers, or not being aware of appropriate social behavior. Many large towns and cities offer ‘social groups’ for autistic children. However, a great alternative if social groups are not offered in your area, or even if they are, is the Cub or Boy Scouts.
The Scout motto is ‘Do your best,’ and it is so fitting. Most if not all Scout troops are open to accepting children with disabilities or challenges, including autism, they only ask that they do their best. Parents are often encouraged to attend all events, as this helps the Scout leaders get an idea of what your child’s needs are, as well as helps your child feel more secure, knowing you are there if needed. If your child is on a part of the autism spectrum that requires one on one attention to participate, having a parent at the meetings will help him be able to do the things required to earn his patches.
Most Scout Dens are comprised of a small group of boys, usually fewer than 15, from your child’s school or nearby neighborhoods. Having this small group setting for your child with autism will help him practice his social skills without a lot of pressure. He can converse one on one, as well as in a smaller group, participate in fun activities both at the meetings as well as special events with the Scouts, and get a chance to make new friends. He will also get a unique opportunity to ‘teach’ other children about autism and to become more accepting of children who may be different. This can carry over to the school setting, and make classroom and lunch time more social for your child.
Scouting will also teach your child important life skills in a structured environment. He will learn things like first aid, healthy habits, respect for others, charitable work, outdoor skills, and teamwork. He will get a big sense of accomplishment as he earns his patches and advances through the ranks, develop a feeling of belonging, as well as expand his social skills.
Most Scout Troops have one small meeting and one large meeting, and assorted special events per month, so the time commitment for you and your child is more than minimal. However, the importance of involving your child and yourself in an activity where the rewards are so great is well worth the time. For more information and to find troops in your area, please visit www.scouting.org.