Ideas for encouraging the success of Scouts with autism

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.

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.

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.
Sharpsburg, Ga.

“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.
Potomac, Md.

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.
Columbus, Ohio

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.

Scoutmaster T.S.
Channelview, Tex.

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.

Scoutmaster T.J.W.
Tooele, Utah

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.

Major J.C.
Baton Rouge, La.



  1. I have a son with Aspergers, and have found many challenges along the scouting path for him. Many of which have been solved with simple things like time, accommodation, and understanding. It has been my experience that allowing him the freedom to do the troop activities in small doses and at his own pace works well. And when things get rough for him and he shuts down, a simple time out to decompress is usually the ticket. Aspies need a challenge as they are usually bored with the mainstream, they need extra encouragement as they can be painfully socially inept, do better with groups of scouts several years younger or older as they are more comfortable with kids not their own age, and generally just march to their own scout drum. Be patient with them, give them that challenge, time, appropriate environment, and watch them blossom. My boy has become a scout I will always be proud of. He may never make Eagle, or surprise me and go all the way. Either way, he has gained more from his scouting experience than I could ever hope for thanks to his leaders that took the time to find out what works for him and make it possible for him to do what he loves to do. And that is to be a scout.

  2. Use him. He will be the first one to fidget and lost interest in your lecture, the other scouts are only a few minuets behind him. Not enough structure in your program for him? Guess what, the other scouts could use more too. He’s the canary in the coalmine. Satisfy his needs and the other scout will profit. Don’t cater to him, bring your program up to his standard.

  3. My son has high functioning autism and he just received his Eagle Scout rank. Always encourage and support your son. Keep a consistent routine and keep taking him to scouts. It was amazing to see my son open up to all the boys and other adult leaders, going camping, tubing, hiking, etc. He loves the scouts and wants to continue as an adult leader.

  4. My son has been diagnosed with Aspergers and in gaining a better understanding of the syndrome, it has become apparent that I too, would have been so diagnosed at his age if this was something that was done in those days. It was not and I just learned to grow through it. Now that I have a better idea of what it is and the symptoms, I can help my son better but it should be known that what worked for me does not necessarily work for him. My biggest challenge with him in Scouting is helping the leaders, youth and adult, to understand this syndrome and how to deal with him in a caring way since hard lines cause him to shut down. As others have stated, backing off and giving them space to “reset” seems to work best and he’s back in the mix in no time. However, constant badgering only seems to reset his internal timer on how long he requires to be left alone before he can function in his patrol again.

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