Thursday, August 8, 2019

Scouting Benefits Autistics

I see it all the time and hear the common phrase "my child cannot be a scout because they are autistic" and this could not be further from the truth. Scouting is a wonderful program for everyone. It is inclusive, teaches life skills and teaching youth about different types of people.

I was a Girl Scout from 2nd year brownie until I earned my Gold Award. For those who do not know, the Gold Award is the Girl Scout equivalent to Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts of America.

When I started it was not sunshine and rainbows. I did not know I was autistic as a child. The other girls did not care if I was there and I wanted to quit. But one good thing my narc mother did do, she found me a troop that accepted me. There I made the best friends of my life. I still speak with them to this day.

When I joined this troop, the other girls were just as weird as I was. I never felt like the odd one out. They embraced my quirks and I embraced theirs.  We did a lot of camping, outdoor activities and life skills. One memory I have with my leader was making hot chocolate at camp, it was cold out. The leader did not have a spoon to stir with. So she used the chop sticks that held her hair up and stirred it that way. At 12 years old I thought it was funny.

We went on one huge trip at the end of each year. One year we decided to go to Salem, Massachusetts the weekend before Halloween. It was one of the most memorable trips I ever went on. There were a lot of haunted houses. It was the only trip my narc mom went on and it was worth it watching them scare her! We walked around downtown Salem. It was all decorated for Halloween.

Our whole troop earned the Gold Award together. It was a huge accomplishment since I got no help at home. I worked on it all myself.

Fast forward to last year. I have been a Cub Scout leader for five years. My sons are all in cub scouts except for one who bridged to Scouts, BSA (used to be called Boy Scouts). My husband and other leaders convinced me to go to Wood Badge. It is basically the highest level of leadership training any leader can have. My major hindrance was being around all the people. Took two years and I finally convinced myself to go. I was freaking myself out every day until I went. I was afraid if I said something stupid that they would not like me and that is the last thing I wanted. Everyone talks about Wood Badge and I wanted to be accepted into their club.

I get there and we are separated into groups. I really got lucky. I was with the most accepting and wonderful people. Our personalities really meshed well and could not have gotten along any better.

Speaking of being a Cub Scout leader, four of my boys are cub scouts while my older two children are in Scouts BSA. The first day we went to sign up, there was a presentation from a mom of an autistic scout. This was a few years after my current 9 year old was diagnosed. He would join scouts the next year. It was so heart filled. I was in tears because I knew we were home.

Then came the first meeting. Another leader said "there is no one to run the tiger den." I was not about to ruin this for my son. That is how I started as a leader.

The following year my 9 year old started as a tiger. They were so accepting. He had a pair of ear defenders. The other scouts were so accepting. They all knew it was something that he needed. It was just normal to see him with it. When new scouts came in, and he was having a hard time and the new scout would tell him to calm down, the seasoned scouts would tell them "no you have to do this and he will calm down." This as a beautiful thing.

Now the Boy Scouts of America is accepting girls into the program. This was around the time we had a falling out with the Girl Scouts. Long story, will blog about that later.  My daughter wanted to join, her friend did and they found other girls to form a troop. There is a linked boys troop. The boys are so accepting of the girls. They playfully tease each other in a good way. My daughter is the Senior Patrol Leader so another boy teased the boy Assistant Patrol leader "She is younger than you and she out ranks you. HAHAHA!"

I became the Scout Master for the girls troop and I am loving it.

Scouting has been amazing for all my kids. You should definitely give it a try because we are scouts for LIFE.

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