How to work with Scouts with autism

Tuesday-TalkbackWorking with Scouts with autism will take patience. But the rewards — for the Scout, for you and for the members of your unit — will make it well worth your efforts.

After all, Scouting is for all young people. There’s a place for everyone, especially Scouts with autism.

Autism, which now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys, manifests itself in a variety of ways. That’s why it’s called autism spectrum disorder, because it’s distinguished by a wide range of symptoms.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there is advice that’s proven to work.

First, let’s look at those tips suggested by the Boy Scouts of America. Then I’d like you to share your strategies in the comments section.

The BSA’s tips for working with Scouts with autism

These come from the BSA’s Guide to Working With Scouts With Special Needs and Disabilities (PDF):

  • Provide consistent, predictable structure. Be patient. Allow extra time for activities.
  • Provide a visual schedule using words and pictures. All Scouts will find this useful. Don’t put times in the schedule because a Scout with autism may expect you to follow it to the minute!
  • Let the Scout know about transitions early by saying, “In five minutes we’ll be ending this activity and starting another.”
  • Give the Scout information about new activities ahead of time.
  • Break up tasks into smaller steps.
  • Alert the Scout’s parents if there is going to be an activity that may cause sensory difficulties for their son. Consider moving noisy activities outside where the noise can dissipate. If the Scout has issues with food taste and texture, carefully plan the menus around these issues so the Scout can eat the same things as other members of the unit as much as possible.

Your tips for working with Scouts with autism

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, please share them below.

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Autism fleur-de-lis by Dave Lyon. Used with permission.


About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.