‘Scouting brought him back to us!’ say parents of boy with anxiety, autism

Rodger and Annette Jones tried several tactics to help their son deal with his anxiety, attention deficit disorder and high-functioning autism.

It worked for a while, but things took a troubling turn in the fourth grade. That’s when Jasper starting taking standardized tests at school. Though he has an IQ of 129, the test environment caused him to have emotional meltdowns and suicidal expressions.

Rodger and Annette read every book and article they could find and developed an array of treatment options.

They used exercise, fidget spinners and therapy. They signed him up for karate. They found medication that helped smooth things out.

And then they signed Jasper up for Cub Scouts. This simple step changed things for the better.

“Scouting brought him back to us!” Annette tells me.

Jasper has not let his special needs slow him down, and that’s why Annette was eager to share his story with the Scouting world.

“I believe his story can help many others,” she says. “Many still hide and are ashamed of their disabilities. They let it define them; they need to let it guide them in a positive way.”

A safe haven for all

Jasper’s story underlines one of my favorite things about the Scouting movement: the fact that there’s room for everyone in the BSA, especially young people with special needs.

“The Scouting program is structured in such a way that a youth who has a disability can achieve — and be accommodated where appropriate,” says Tony Mei, a Scouter from Novato, Calif., whom I interviewed for a Scouting magazine article last year.

Cool thing is, the Scout with special needs isn’t the only one who benefits.

“It is a two-way street when youth with disabilities are included in the unit,” Mei says. “Often the benefit is even greater for the other Scouts because it gives them a first-hand appreciation of what the Scout with a disability can do.”

Jasper’s story

Jasper has come a long way since those meltdowns in fourth grade.

Counseling is helping him better communicate with his peers. His favorite subject is science, where he learned to build a working radio. And in Scouts, his focus is on earning the program’s top honor — and then some.

“I’m after the rank of Eagle and the STEM Nova Award, which will help me towards becoming an aero-engineer,” he told the Madison County Carrier last month.

Not many 11-year-olds dream of becoming aerospace engineers. But then, Jasper isn’t like many 11-year-olds.

Earlier this summer, he gave up a week of his vacation to volunteer at a Cub Scout day camp.

“There he counseled a Cub with the same disabilities, making that child’s camp make such a difference in his life,” Annette says. “The parents and babysitter said [the Cub Scout] was better every night coming home from camp.”

After that, Jasper went to summer camp at Wallwood Scout Reservation in Florida. He took merit badge classes and was awarded a gold pencil for being the Scout that stood out the most.

Jasper’s action-packed summer continued with trips to see family in New Jersey, take apart and reassemble electronics with his great uncle in Ohio, visit the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, and learn robotics at a summer camp at the University of Florida.

Jasper has always been a remarkable young man. Scouting simply helps him shine.