Ideas from the field: Helping “Aspies” succeed.
A Scout in L.R.’s troop has Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder) and struggles with advancement requirements and unstructured activities. She’s looking for ways to help her Scout succeed.
MAKE A LIST, CHECK IT TWICE
We have a Scout with Asperger’s, and we have put together a checklist of what we want him to achieve during meetings, camp-outs, etc. We sit down together, so he has buy-in. We do a “table-top” exercise with him to preview what’s going to happen, so he is familiar with his assignments by the time the camp-out takes place.
Colorado Springs, Colo.
STRUCTURE IS KEY
Camp-outs are well outside his normal routine, so plan them in advance. Make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t forget to include some downtime; he will need to decompress after new experiences. With advancement, set small, short-term goals and offer minor rewards for achieving them. Remember: Asperger’s kids are of average to above-average intelligence, so never patronize him.
Pack Committee Chair J.R.
SHOW THE VISUALS
“Aspies” are visual learners. Show how to do something, one step at a time, while speaking the instructions, then do it once together, then watch him as he tries himself. All directions must be broken down into single steps. Visual aids like knot-tying videos and knot boards are very beneficial. Immediate recognition, such as stickers and a sticker chart, is essential.
Aspies have a very narrow focus of interests. Focusing on his strengths will allow him to enjoy and benefit from Scouting. My son has Asperger’s, and Scouts has been wonderful for him.
Webelos Leader J.S.
CUT HIM SOME SLACK
Group activities are hard for him. Allow him a little latitude when it doesn’t infringe on anyone else. For example, is sitting absolutely vital, or is it O.K. to stand at the back? Sometimes little things like that can really help make him more comfortable. If he starts displaying anger, anxiety, or agitation, removing him from the situation and providing some quiet with adults will usually start him on the process of self-calming.
Troop Committee Chair S.E.
USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Find a younger Scout he is comfortable with, and pair them up. This worked well with the Scout with Asperger’s I had in my troop. He was my first Eagle Scout.
POP SOME QUESTIONS
If you haven’t already done so, talk to the boy’s parents and teacher about how to provide structure and help him succeed. And remember to ask the boy himself. After all, it’s his experience.
THREE SIMPLE SECRETS
I have Asperger’s syndrome. Three things proved helpful to me: adult leaders who were patient with me, adult leaders who explained directions carefully, and adult leaders who had a genuine interest in me as a person.
Baton Rouge, La.