Sunday, December 4, 2011

Autism and Scouting Social Media Venues


Hello Everybody and welcome to December! 


Here at Autism Empowerment, November ended like a lamb but is starting like a lion. Welcome to all of the new people who are following Autism and Scouting at all of the places we now reside. I wanted to give everybody a quick update on our what is going on as far as Autism and Scouting and the many social media sites.

I want to first thank all of the people who have helped Autism and Scouting expand all of our areas in the wild wide world of the Web. We have been able to help so many people already and it has been really rewarding. By helping expand all of the areas of the multi-media programs, we will be able to help even more.

Autism and Scouting Facebook Page
The Autism and Scouting Page has passed the 200 mark and is now at 217. It was just in August of 2011 that we passed 100.  We now have followers in eleven different countries in North America, Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia. We would still love to add South America and if anybody knows anybody in Antarctica, well that might be a hard one to crack. We have Boy Scout, Cub Scout and Girl Scout leaders and all scouting groups are welcome to join in. We are really building a global village to help support our scouts.

We also have added a great deal more information about Autism and Scouting program which is a program of Autism Empowerment. On the Facebook page under products you will see all of the different areas of support we are currently involved in and what we hope to be expanding in 2012.

If you ever have a question, please feel free to post it on the Facebook page or send me an e-mail and I can post the question.

We hope to be adding many more features to this page in the coming weeks and months. We are also adding the Faces of Scouting and Autism. We would love to get as many photos as possible on the site.  We will not include ANY names if you ask us not to include any names for the privacy of you and your scout. Of course if you don’t mind us including names, we’re happy to do so.  We would love just to have as many photos as possible. You can send them to me via john@autismempowerment.org or autismandscouting@gmail.com or you can add the photo directly to the page.

Autism and Scouting Facebook Group
The Autism and Scouting Facebook Group was where we first started. Due to the restrictions of a group at Facebook, we expanded to the Facebook Page. It’s too bad we can’t have some of the same features available at both because we realize having two different areas to go to for Autism and Scouting can be a bit confusing. We still support the Autism and Scouting “Group” page at Facebook but would like to get most people over to the Autism and Scouting “Page” page and direct the conversations there. The Group currently has 154 members. If you prefer this format, we welcome comments and questions here as well.

Autism and Scouting on Twitter
@autismscouting


The Autism and Scouting Twitter account is really starting to become active. In August we were at around 45 followers. As of December 3rd, 2011 we now have 173 followers. Please note that the Twitter account is @autismscouting. We welcome all to come follow us on Twitter as well if you use this media.

Autism and Scouting on Google+


This is brand new to Autism and Scouting but we want to be able to reach as many as possible. We just started on November 11th, 2011 and we already have 25 people following Autism and Scouting on Google+. This venue is still in its infancy and we hope to expand on this site in 2012. If  you are using Google or Google+ come add us to your circle and let your friends and family know that we are on Google+ as well.

Autism and Scouting Blog


I know many have been following our Blog for awhile. I have to say I really enjoy helping other via the Blog. If you are reading this, you are reading the Autism and Scouting Blog. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. We have made some big changes to the blog in the past month and half. We have changed the look and have added two additional pages.

We have added a page about Autism Empowerment which is the Non-profit that supports Autism and Scouting as one of its programs and a page on all of the things that Autism and Scouting is doing and plan on doing in the coming year.
We currently have 6 followers on Blogger. If you are on Blogger, we would love to get this number up to around 25 - 60 by the end of 2012.

If you have any questions that would you would like to see a blog on, please feel free to email
john@autismempowerment.org or autismandscouting@gmail.com

Autism and Scouting
at
Autism Empowerment Website
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Autism Empowerment is an educational and charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity serving those in the autism community. We are dedicated to enriching and empowering the lives of individuals and families affected by Autism, Asperger Syndrome, PDD / NOS and related autism spectrum disorders and co-conditions. We welcome and appreciate your support.

Founded in 2011 in Vancouver, Washington by a family with 3 out of 4 traveling daily along on the autism spectrum, we are excited and honored to have the opportunity to service the local, national and international autism community.  The four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower.
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In addition, we welcome you to come “Like” Autism Empowerment on Facebook as well as follow the blogs that are posted on the Autism Empowerment Website.

http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment

One of the many programs Autism Empowerment is developing and expanding is Autism and Scouting. Autism Empowerment has some big plans in the next year to support all scouting programs. All support is welcomed because we want to do big things in the coming year.

Plans for 2012

We have many new plans for our Multi-Media program for 2012 for Autism and Scouting. We will be expanding to YouTube as well as expanding the blogging to V-casts and Podcasts. We are looking to expand our Facebook presence and hope to at least double the likes from where we currently are and expand on Google+ as well as any other social media venue which we find would be appropriate to promote Autism and Scouting. We would love to triple the Twitter following and have executive leadership from every scouting unit be plugged into Autism in Scouting.

Please share the Facebook Page, Twitter, Google+, Blog, Autism Empowerment Website via your Twitter account, Facebook page or e-mail to somebody that might find the information useful. That should be every single scouting leader you  know and every parent who has a scout with Autism. Thank you so much for all of your on going support.

Autism Empowerment Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment
Autism and Scouting Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismandscouting

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Scouting


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Welcome to Autism and Scouting. I hope all are having a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving. This has been an amazing year both on a personal and professional level.

I am thankful for so many things in my life. For starters I am thankful for.

God

Family

Nation

Health

Included on this are many things that are scout related. Here is that list.

I am thankful for all of the Scouting Pioneers (Robert Baden-Powell -Boy Scouts, Ernest Seton - Woodcraft Indians, Juliette Gordan Low - Girl Scouts, Agnes Baden-Powell - Girl Scout Guides, William Boyce - bringing Scouting to the US, Daniel Beard - Sons of Daniel Boone later to join the BSA, Burton Pierce - founder of the Royal Rangers and all of the other leaders around the world) who brought the scouting movement to the youth around the world).

I am thankful for James E. West who was the first Chief Scout Executive. He himself had a disability was a strong advocate for those with Disabilities.

I am thankful to be associated with a Unit (Troop 462), District (Columbia Gorge) and Council (Cascade Pacific) who have had leadership that have advocated for those with Special Needs.

I am thankful for Autism Empowerment, the 501(c)(3) Non-profit that Karen and I started this past June that made Autism and Scouting as one of its programs. Here is a link to the Autism Empowerment Scouting program.

I am thankful for all of the wonderful Scouting and Autism programs that will be added in 2012.

I am thankful that I was asked to provide training for the Cascade Pacific Council in the area of Autism and Scouting. I am also thankful that I have been asked back for next year as well.

I am thankful for all of the parents and guardians who have made the choice to have their children in a scouting program.

I am thankful for all of the wonderful leaders who put in their “1 hour” per week  That 1 hour (52 for the year) typically is more like 208 - 500 hours per year.

I am extra thankful for the leaders that find the time to learn more about Autism, Aspergers, ADHD and other related disabilities that our scouts have.

I am thankful for all of the parents, leaders and scouts around the world that have liked the Autism and Scouting Facebook Page and those who follow us on Twitter @autismscouting.
Currently there are 196 at Facebook and 172 at Twitter.

I am thankful for the people who share, read and contribute to this wonderful online community.

I am thankful that my son formed his first real friendship (which started in Cub Scouts) and that friendship has lasted for five years despite his friend leaving scouting three years ago.

I am thankful for all of the skills that he has learned while in scouts. Passing the swim test on the Hood Canal in the Puget Sound, all of the first aid, dealing with other peer scouts, working on sensory issues, learning leadership as Webmaster and Patrol Leader and working side by side doing service projects.

I am thankful for of all of the wonderful memories that my son and I have as a result of Scouting. Overnight on the USS Nimitz, overnight on the USS Blueback (Submarine), Pinewood Derby car-making, Winter Lodge on Mt. Hood, marching in the Veteran’s Day parade in the pouring rain (two years in a row), Walk and Knock in the snow, the Interfaith Service that Justin put together for his Communications Merit Badge, seeing Justin earn his Religious Knot, our first overnight campout in a tent, the owls at Camp Currie (WHO let the owls out, WHOO WHOO WHOO?) and even my dripping tent all night long and wet socks... and Camporee (the latter not so much)

I am thankful for all of the adult leaders I have met around the world many of which I call friends.

I am thankful that scouting can be a place where any children of different abilities can can come and learn different skills in a safe and accepting environment.

I am thankful for this Blog, the Autism & Scouting Facebook Page & Group Page and thankful for Autism Empowerment being able to serve others.

For more information on Autism and Scouting as well as Autism Empowerment, we invite you to check out these links.

Autism Empowerment - http://www.autismempowerment.org
Autism Empowerment Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment
Autism and Scouting Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismandscouting
Twitter@autismscouting and @autismempowermt


Again, Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do a Good Turn Daily!

Do a Good Turn Daily!

For those in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the United States, “Do A Good Turn Daily” should be more than just a slogan but should be something that is practiced on a daily basis. Those in Cub Scouts once they crossover over should "Be Prepared” for service.

As today, November 13th, 2011 is World Kindness Day, this is a good day to make sure that your scouts put into practice this concept. If you were not aware of World Kindness Day, you may be wondering what this is.

The idea behind the World Kindness Movement (WKM) crystallized at a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when the Small Kindness Movement of Japan brought together like-minded kindness movements from around the world.

The Mission…
The mission of the World Kindness Movement (WKM) is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and connect nations to create a kinder world. The WKM encourages individuals of all nations to set up their own kindness movements. It is also actively seeking kindness movements to join the WKM. Currently, membership stands at 18 kindness organizations with representation from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dubai, England, India, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.



For those of us in the USA who know the history of the Scouting Movement, as legend goes it was one random act of kindness that was the root of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1909, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce was visiting London, where he encountered a boy who came to be known as the Unknown Scout. Boyce was lost on a foggy street when an unknown Scout came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. The boy then refused Boyce's tip, explaining that he was a Boy Scout (in London) and was merely doing his daily good turn. Soon thereafter, Boyce met with General Baden-Powell, who was Chief Scout of the world at the time. Upon his return to the United States, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910. It was the scout’s random act of kindness and his duty to doing a good turn daily that sparked the first 101 years of scouting in the United States.

When many Cub/Joey/Beaver unit leaders, Boy Scout Leaders, Girl Scout Leaders, Impact Girls, Heritage Girls or Royal Rangers Units leaders were recruited by other leaders, it was suggested that the volunteer service would be only 1 hour a week.  For the vast majority of these leaders it is 5 to 20 times or more that amount but for these leaders, most do it generally without much complaint. The love of seeing the youth grow from young boys and girls into young men and women is reward enough.  These leaders are inspired many times by a greater calling. The leaders in these scouting movements really go above doing a good turn daily and embody what this day is all about.

In my wife’s opinion as well as my own, we believe the world can certainly use more kindness... and acceptance... and tolerance.  It starts at home. It starts with me. It starts with you.  Today and tomorrow may we look beyond ourselves and beyond the boundaries of our city, state or country.  May we look beyond our culture, our race and our religion and realize that we are citizens of the world, beautiful people from the inside out able and meant to do good works.

Spreading love and generosity through random acts of kindness really can make a difference in people's lives. You may find that as you set out to do a kind act (perhaps anonymously) for another without looking for recognition or glory that a couple things will happen.  One... you'll be making a positive difference in someone else's life and give that person confidence and faith that there are kind people in this world. Two... you'll feel a special joy inside, one that is much richer than any tangible reward.

Here in the autism community we often find ourselves facing challenges that are difficult to face.  I don't discount that but it's important to remember that the way we look at adversity will often impact not just our mood and attitude but the mood, attitude and actions of those around us as well.  Ever seen a chain of meltdowns happen one after the other?  We've been there!  

Even when you're overloaded and in need of a break, try making a daily choice to put yourself in a positive atmosphere and live your life with kindness, integrity and accountability.  Your optimistic attitude will rub off on others and will be a great example to those around you. Now I know that what I'm saying is easier said than done but we certainly can try for positive change! Realize it's okay to slip and fall and try again. 

For those scouts on the Autism Spectrum having them do a random act of kindness on a daily basis can be a challenge in some cases.  There are some ways you can help these scouts. 

1, Have them take part in your unit’s monthly service project. This is a good way to have them be involved in the unit and provide service to the community.  Your unit should do a monthly service project, if they are not talk to your committee to start this service. 

2. When Life Scouts need help in their Eagle Projects, have your scout help out. This will not only get them involved in the unit, this will also let them get a better understanding on what an Eagle Project looks like.
Have them start out with a simple good turn at home. 

3. Have them give a Smile Card. 

My wife picked up some free Smile cards from http://www.helpothers.org/ .  The boys and I have had lots of fun finding ways to give them out. Maybe you'd like to give it a try? There is also an organization in Australia doing something similar with Ripple Kindness cards. http://www.rippleeffects.com.au/RippleCards.html You can also down load them for Free if you would like. 

4. Another simple way is to have them give somebody a smile. 

The four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are Accept,Enrich, Inspire, Empower. The value system and philosophy we embody can be applied to anyone's life.  

For more information on Autism and Scouting as well as Autism Empowerment, we invite you to check out these links.


Autism Empowerment - http://www.autismempowerment.org
Autism Empowerment Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment
Autism and Scouting Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismandscouting
Twitter
@autismscouting and @autismempowermt

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Amazing Injury! A story of Amazing Growth

The Amazing Injury! 

This is a simple story on how a simple game is much more than a simple game.  I asked my oldest son if it would be ok with him to share this story and he said that it was ok. My oldest is twelve years old and is currently in the Boy Scouts . He is currently a Star Scout as well as the Patrol Leader for his patrol, the Rabid Squirrels.

He was elected to the position of Patrol Leader in September and as part of his responsibilities, he has to attend a monthly PLC (Patrol Leader Council). The PLC is made up of all of the Patrol Leaders, the Senior Patrol Leader and his assistants. Their main job during the monthly meeting is to plan the next month’s Troop meetings. During the meeting, they plan the opening, the skills instructions and interpatrol activity (a game based on the skills instruction) as well as other needed troop business. 

Justin is normally pretty quiet at these meetings and generally sits and takes things all in. During the meeting while all the leaders and assistants were preparing for this month’s meetings, Justin was assigned to come up with the skills instruction and the interpatrol activity (game). At the time it really did not sink in about what needed to be done and so he gladly accepted the responsibility.  He was going to have two weeks to prepare because they were off a week for Halloween.

A few days later, he was in panic mode. What did he get himself into? Why am I the Patrol Leader? These were some thoughts of “I can’t do this” and “I never wanted to do this or be Patrol Leader”.  After the last very successful outing in which his patrol did an outstanding job, all of that was wiped away and self-doubt and lack of confidence was the new norm.

I was told when I first became an Assistant Scoutmaster that it was more than likely that the scouts would experience challenges and failures early on and that it would be okay since leadership is a learning and growth process. To many who have Aspergers (not all since every scout is different) any type of failure can be devastating even when they are told that it is okay to fail. For Justin, at this point he froze and could not even start the planning process. To him failure looked like the only thing that he could see when it came to this task he had been assigned.

I had offered from the onset to sit down with him and work it out together to provide the support, but at the time, the fear was just too great in his mind. He shut down and said he needed a break.  Respecting that and trying to give him the time he needed, the first day passed by, then the second day, then the next and the next.  It was much easier to retreat to his special interest of computers. Funny thing is that his special interest (computers) would cycle back to play a big role in increasing his self-confidence and opportunity for success but I had not seen it at the time. The whole thing was a good refresher for me as well regarding how I can better assist him and other scouts in similar situations during these hard times.

He was told at the PLC meeting to send the information and concept for the planned skills and game to the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader by the end of Friday (the 4th of November). By this point, it was already Thursday, November 3rd at dinner time and the information had not yet been completed. Getting started on big and even small projects while trying to get his thoughts and self organized has been a challenge at times when it came to schoolwork.  Here in a different setting, we noticed the same challenges creeping in and the fear was in a sense paralyzing him and not giving him the chance to start. My wife who also happens to have Asperger’s compares it to the writer’s block she often experiences. Often it isn’t the project that is that difficult.  It is the beginning and getting that first perfect word on paper without editing and re-editing. It’s breaking through the brainstorm and getting the ideas to pour out on paper or verbally.  In this particular case with our son, the whole situation was amplified to an extreme level.

Not only was he having the challenges organizing his thoughts to start the project but it was compounded by fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear that I would be disappointed and all of the negative emotions that a twelve year old could possibly have.

One of the tips I had given at the Autism and Scouting leadership training I gave at the Cascade Pacific Council’s Program and Training Conference this past week was that sometimes the leader/parent needs to step back and allow somebody else to come in and get a fresh look when dealing with your own scout when a meltdown or shutdown (in this case) happens.  So my wife Karen stepped in and talked to Justin.  

They had a very good talk (private) and then they came back to me and Justin was ready to roll up his sleeves and take on the task at hand.

How Amazing Injury was born...
The topic for this Troop Meeting was going to be First Aid. This is something Justin has done a lot of this past year, fortunately in training and not in practice! He helped run a First Aid Training station with me in April training new scouts, and he competed both the First Aid and Emergency Prep Merit Badges at summer camp so it was a positive that the topic was something he knew about.

Working backwards, he wanted to get the game down first and then work on the how the skills instruction would work to support the game. Justin quickly came up with the idea of having the scouts in patrols go around to stations to help identify and treat a particular injury.  Next the challenge was how to create a game where the scouts would learn but still have fun in the process.

The scouts can only do so many games based on a Jeopardy theme before one gets Jeopardy burnout (Justin’s thoughts).  He wanted the game to be interactive and fun.  

So as Justin was working on the details, Karen and I were talking about a show our family watches together called Amazing Race and one of us said, “it would be funny to give the scouts a roadblock”. A roadblock on the show is a task that one of the pair has to do in order to receive their team’s next clue. 

from the show
A smile came over Justin and the game “Amazing Injury” was born. All of the lack of self confidence he felt before was wiped away and replaced with enthusiastic exclamations, “this will be the best game we’ve ever had” and “the scouts are going to love this”, “this game will be epic”.  He spent the next hour working out the details, designing on his computer and making the “clue tickets”.

Amazing Injury - skills training and the game put into action

During skills instruction the following Monday, the troop assembled into their respective patrols.  Justin along with the help of the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL) found enough scouts to do the training and that portion was very easy.

“Being in charge” of putting this portion of the meeting together, Justin was happy to “supervise”.  The trainers had a variety of First Aid skills that they were supposed to cover. At the bare minimum, they needed to cover the seven skills that were going to be part of the Amazing Injury game.

Skills instruction ended and the patrols broke into patrol meeting time. During this time, Justin needed to recruit “injured” people (he recruited most from within his patrol).  He had to find somebody who could show signs of choking, heat exhaustion, hypothermia, serious bleeding (forgot to bring the fake blood), a broken or sprained ankle, a broken arm and shock.

Justin then positioned each injured person around the room as the rest of the troop was receiving instructions.  At each station, the patrol would have to identify the injury (with the injured person improving but not saying anything) and then once they got it right, they would have to treat the person. If they identified the injury correctly and properly treated the person, they would get a ticket and they could go to the next station.

The first patrol to successfully complete all 7 stations would win a jumbo bag of Doritos that the patrol could share. (Never underestimate the incentive power of a bag of Doritos among a group of teens and pre-teens.)

The Game in action


I have to say (not just being a proud Dad) that the game was an Amazing hit. It seemed like most of the boys were engaged and the patrols were actively running from station to station in competition. They seemed to really have fun while at the same time being given a chance to practice what they learned about First Aid during the skills training.

It was fun seeing the boys treating the broken arm and ankle with their neckerchiefs, however it seemed, the person with the severe bleeding seemed to be get beaten up a bit much from putting pressure on his wound. The boys were having a ton of fun. 

I had one parent come up to me and say how impressive the game was (he had not known that Justin had put it together)and how this was the kind of game that teaches but at the same time entertains.  Justin overheard that and you could see the pride on his face from putting together a quality game.

During the game he did a great job leading it and supervising by walking among the stations making sure that injured people were really being treated. The previous negative self-talk questions like “what did he get himself into?” and “why am I the Patrol Leader?” had vanished and replaced with additional confidence from a challenge accomplished.

Things to take away 

1. Use of positive encouragement and words is important for all scouts but it is really needed for those scouts on the Autism Spectrum.

2. Taking a step back and finding out what the root cause of an issue is may result in a quicker solution or more positive outcome. What is the scout thinking or feeling?

3. If you can incorporate the scout’s special interest (in this case computers and graphic design) into scouting projects and tasks, try to do so whenever you can. Being in a more comfortable zone often helps produce better results and a happier scout.

4. Setbacks and failure are okay from time to time. We all had to fall on our bottoms many times when we learned to walk. The same holds true in many areas throughout life. But make sure you monitor the emotions and feelings of those that are having the setback or failure and let them know that you are there to listen, encourage and support. Negative experiences, especially to people who may have a tendency to be very hard on themselves can lead to real depression and that is not healthy for anybody especially those with an ASD.

5. Scouts really like to play games with prizes.  Guys like food prizes.  : )

6. Scouting is a great way scouts can learn leadership and can excel.

I again want o thank Justin for allowing me to share this story.  If you would like to share a story,  please e-mail me at autismandscouting@gmail.com or john@autismempowerment.org. Let me know if it is okay to post it on our Autism and Scouting Blog or Autism Empowerment website and if so, if you want us to edit out any information.

Accept the scouts for who they are and where they are! Enrich their lives by showing encouragement. Inspire them to “Do their best” that they can possibly be. (In this case, Justin inspired me along the way) and Empower them by giving them the tools and support to build self-sufficiency and confidence.

Autism Empowerment - http://www.autismempowerment.org
Autism Empowerment Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismempowerment
Autism and Scouting Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/autismandscouting

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