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Piece By Piece: Scouting Unlocks Opportunities

I was a speaker at the University of Scouting at Iona Prep in New Rochelle last weekend. The class was developed to help scoutmasters understand the special needs of young men with autistic spectrum disorders when they are part of a troop.

Scouting has so many potential benefits for boys with autistic spectrum disorders. The structure of scouts is comforting and gives security to boys who are trying something new and social. Projects are broken down into small parts, badge by badge, which enables a scout to accomplish tasks a little at a time. The Scout Oath, Motto and Law all provide wonderful guidelines for any young person, and those with autistic spectrum disorders are likely to take the rules seriously.

I had a class of about a half-dozen people so I asked everyone for some quick background information. Virtually everyone either had or had worked with a child with an autistic spectrum disorder. We turned my lecture into a discussion and shared stories and ideas on how to help scouts and their troops deal with the sensory and social challenges that are part of scouting.

As the presentation drew to a close, one father said he liked the topic but said the wrong people were in the room. Scoutmasters who do not know about autism should have been in the class, he said.

He was right. It made me realize how much support I have on a daily basis from educators, family and friends. They work to get to know my son, Peter, and give him opportunities to learn and grow.

Those children who want to be in scouting need people who support them, the same way my life’s community supports us. Awareness and knowledge are key to helping those on the spectrum live in our world. With scoutmasters and scouts aware of the strengths and challenges of those on the spectrum, everyone in the troop can gain a great deal.

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