Patrick Reid describes his elementary school experience as “about normal.” But as he got older, things started to change.
“I enjoyed it until fifth or sixth grade, when I got bullied,” Patrick says.
Unfortunately, Patrick’s experience is common for children with autism. Patrick’s diagnosis had come just a couple of years earlier.
Patrick’s mother, Debbie, remembers feeling, at first, relief.
“Now I know what we’re dealing with,” she says.
It’s common for parents of kids who have been diagnosed with autism to feel anxiety and concern about what the future holds. Fast forward to now, and Debbie feels something else completely.
“My awesome son did do something very awesome,” she says. “Set a goal … went for it … and made it.
“He became an Eagle Scout.”
An Amazing Journey
Patrick, now 26, sat down recently with Dr. Frampton Gwynette with the Autism News NetWORK to discuss what it was like to grow up with autism, and how he overcame some challenges to earn his Eagle Scout rank as a member of Troop 458 in Goose Creek, S.C.
Patrick is joined on the podcast by Debbie, who has been involved as a Scout leader since her son was a Cub Scout.
It’s an inspiring journey undertaken by both of them, and I encourage you to give it a listen. Dr. Gwynette is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the founder and director of Project Rex, a treatment initiative dedicated to providing services, support and treatment to children and young adults who struggle socially.
The Autism News NetWORK is part of Project Rex and is designed to train adults with autism who are 18 and over in the use of journalism tools and techniques.
Patrick speaks fondly about the things he accomplished as a Scout, including learning how to start a fire and use a map and compass in an emergency situation.
“You won’t always have a signal on your phone,” he says.
Patrick remembers one time at summer camp when he was working on the Swimming merit badge, and the whole idea of swimming in a lake freaked him out a little bit.
“Like, ‘this is too much,’ ” he says. He stuck with it, of course, and now he’s certainly glad that he did.
Debbie says she remembers seeing Patrick’s leadership skills grow as he took on leadership roles in his troop. One moment in particular during his time as a den chief stands out.
“I was waiting to pick him up one evening, and there were some younger Cub Scouts on a playground while their parents had a den parent meeting about something,” she says. “So, he was watching them, and I was right in the vicinity but not a part of it. And they were making noise, having a lot of fun. Then some of them picked up sticks. Then the sticks became, I don’t know, lightsabers or something.
“Patrick, ironically, used to be the one to whom we would say, ‘Patrick, please put the stick down.’ Of course, it had been several years since we’ve had to do that.
“And (the Cub Scouts) were getting dangerous, and I was about to say something, and I’m thinking, ‘No, Patrick’s in charge.’ And all of a sudden Patrick, in his very strong leadership voice, went, ‘Hey, put the sticks down.’ And they did.”
The Service Project
For his Eagle Scout service project, Patrick led a group of volunteers in building benches for a church in his community. He got it done and managed to satisfy all of the other Eagle requirements just before his 18th birthday.
“It was my honor to go on a lot of the trail to Eagle with him,” Debbie says. “It was never a burden. It was always an honor.”
Debbie and Patrick told Dr. Gwynette an interesting story about Debbie’s father, who fell just short of the rank of Eagle and ended up regretting it for much of his life.
“I’ve heard him mention it a few times, particularly when Patrick joined (Scouts),” Debbie says. “When his grandson reached that rank, he was just as happy as if he had made it himself. And he came over. It was part of the weekend celebration of Patrick’s court of honor.
“It was an awesome event for both of them.”
Finding His Path
Now, Patrick is doing work for the Autism News Network, working mostly behind the scenes on video projects.
“Sometimes I’ll show up on camera,” he says.
Debbie ends the podcast with some words of encouragement for other Scout parents.
“If anyone out there is wondering,” she says, “find the right pack, find the right troop, and it can be done.”
The Autism Society has designated April as National Autism Awareness Month. Listen to the podcast in its entirety at https://www.theautismnewsnetwork.com/podcast/episode-08-patrick-reid/.