Life Scout on autism spectrum equips first responders with calming response tools

Holden Pardue, a Life Scout with Troop 600 in Greensboro, N.C., has been in Scouting for four years – he says that it’s his favorite thing that he does. He loves hanging out with his friends and helping his community. His Eagle Scout project focused on his biggest passion – helping young people remain calm in crisis situations.

You see, Holden is on the autism spectrum. One of the lessons that he learned early in life, which in turn has allowed his Scouting experience to be even more fun, was that he needed to try to stay calm when life got overwhelming.

He decided to take his techniques for remaining calm and make kits for the first responders in his community to help them when they encounter those on the autism spectrum. To fundraise for his project, he started out with what he thought was solid goal at $1,500, and when he surpassed that within a few hours, he raised the goal to $2,000. The overwhelming support of his community helped him surge past that target as well, giving him the funds to put together 50 kits for area fire stations.

First-hand Scouting experience

Local news outlets interviewed him, his parents and his Scoutmaster Mike Matzinger to share his story. I got to go behind-the-scenes to watch the interviews play out and help Holden’s team of Scouts work on his Eagle Scout project.

Holden’s excitement around his Eagle Scout project and Scouting in general was contagious. He spoke with engaging confidence (after the initial jitters of being in the spotlight). Holden knows that his mission to help others like him and give the local fire stations the ability to connect to young people who develop differently, is a powerful one. After the camera and spotlights were turned off, he easily stepped into the role as leader and guided us all in assembly-line style to build the bags full of sensory support items.

It was moving to listen to his parents, Heather and Ben, talk about their Scouting experience as parents, as it wasn’t just “sign up and go” – they had to work with Holden, the other Scouts and the Scoutmaster to stay the course.

“I wasn’t going to give up because I knew how much it meant to him and how much it gives [young people on the spectrum] a sense of purpose,” Heather says.

What Heather knew from working with Evan (her firstborn son, who is also on the spectrum), was, “when you put our kids in the woods, you are going to get great things from them.”

“Scouting is available to everyone,” Matzinger says. “Whoever you are, Scouting offers its promise to you.”

To teach the Scouting program in a way that resonates with Scouts with different learning abilities, he knows that a lot of learning, collaboration and communication is key – something he emulates to all of his Scouts with grace and a huge side of fun.

What’s in the kits

Holden decided to incorporate a few different tools to help first responders. As he demonstrated and explained the purpose of each item to a news reporter, it was obvious that the tools worked. He was focused and sure of himself, even with a crowd watching, spotlights on him and a massive camera right in front of him.

  1. Finger Labyrinth: Focusing on breathing has a powerful calming effect. The finger labyrinth can help the user pay attention to each breath in and each breath out, using both visual stimulation and touch.
  2. Firefighter Social Story: This comic book-like laminated sheet explains in easy-to-digest story form what is going on and helps those on the autism spectrum understand what first responders are doing and how they can help.
  3. Weighted Blanket: These blankets have a calming impact. Holden included a smaller weighted blanket that can be draped over shoulders or across one’s chest if they are lying down for a soothing affect.
  4. Fidget Spinner, Spiky Sensory Ball, Bubble Popper and Bubbles: These four toys are designed to allow people to “fidget” in a way that is calming. Sensory toys help people on the spectrum engage with their senses and regulate their sensory needs.
About Kate Matthews 19 Articles
Kate Matthews is the main word wizard behind Scout Shop's "Living the Scout Life" blog. She loves the planet, discovering new places and sharing how we can all be Living the Scout Life.