Friday, June 10, 2011

Girl Scouts and Disability Awareness

Hello All,

I wanted to share a program that I found while doing some research on the Girl Scouts and Disability Awareness. I have to say that I have not found much but this one included Autism Awareness as well.  I do not know anybody in this program or how it works. I am not fully aware of how the Girl Scouts work but I wanted to share this just for information sake.

If you want more information on this program, here is the contact information. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at

Let us know what you think either below in the comments section or on the Facebook Page Autism and Scouting.

Here is the information:

Disability Awareness
Try-It, Badge, Interest Project
Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be blind, or deaf, or spend your waking hours in a wheelchair?Maybe you know someone with a disability. Maybe you will someday consider a career working with disabled people to find ways to make a disabled person’s life easier.

The Disability Awareness program provides an opportunity for girls to experience the daily life of the disabled as well as explore careers associated with the disabled. This experience may lead to a rewarding career.

Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts can earn the Disability Awareness Try-it or Badge by completing the number of activities indicated in each section. Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts must complete at least eight of the activities listed in addition to the four required (starred *) activities marked as required to earn the Disability Awareness Interest Project Patch.

PURPOSE: To provide Girl Scouts with awareness, career opportunities to better understand the world of the disabled.

(Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts - choose three activities, including at least one of the required items)

1. * Required.  Learn the characteristics of disabling conditions (Brownies-2; Juniors 4). The activity should be age/level appropriate. Share the information as a troop.

a. Physical, mental or emotional impairments
b. Autism
c. Seizure disorders
d. Learning disabilities
e. Visual impairment
f. Hearing impairment
g. Speech and language impairments

2. For each of the disabling conditions you learned about in activity one, list at least two things which would be helpful to remember when interacting with a person who has that condition.

3. For each of the disabling conditions learned about in #1, list the adaptations you might make in your regular troop surroundings to include a girl with that condition.

4. Read a book about a person with a disability. How did he/she deal with his/her disability? Share what you read with your troop.

5. Learn how to identify a car driven by a person with a disability. Learn about the law that provides parking privileges for the disabled.

6. * Required. For one hour, perform your normal routines (study, make a sandwich, television, cleaning your room) under each of the following conditions. Document your limitations and how you adjusted your activity. Share your responses and reactions with your troop.

a. Muffle your ears with bandages or ear plugs.
b. Blindfold your eyes.
c. Immobilize your writing arm so it can’t be used normally.
d. Immobilize one leg so it can’t be used normally.

7. * Required. Visit an agency that works with the physically, sensory, or mentally disabled. Collect their publications about their activities

8. * Required. Volunteer with an agency working with disabled youth, or help with a program for a Girl Scout troop that has disabled girl members.

9. Make up an appropriate activity.

(Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts - choose two)
1. With a partner, take a “trust walk.”

a. Put on a blindfold, and let your partner lead you on a walk. Have your partner talk to you, telling you where you are, describe the landscape, what obstacles may be in your way, etc.
b. Have your partner walk a few steps behind you, and guide you with only verbal clues.
c. Have your partner lead you by the hand without speaking
d. Change places and repeat the three steps above.
e. Discuss your feelings and experiences with the troop

2. Watch a television program with the sound off.

a. How much of the television show were you able to understand?
b. Wear earplugs, but do not let people know you are wearing them. How did people react to you?
c. Discuss your feelings and experiences with the troop.

3. Find literature for public and private places. Does the literature discuss accessibility or non-accessibility? Observe the accessibility or non-accessibility to the disabled in the following places:

a. Five places with good accessibility.
b. Five places with poor accessibility.
c. Your school or church.
d. Your camp site.
4. Make up an appropriate activity

(Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts - choose one)

1. Make a developmental toy or book that can be used by a child with a disability. Donate your toy or book to an agency or child.

2. Volunteer for an organization that teaches and cares for disabled children. Work with a Girl Scout troop with disabled girl members in your area.

3. Identify and discuss handicapped parking areas. Develop community awareness program posters.

4. Take part in a disability awareness program or present a display or program concerning disability awareness.

5. Learn sign language and/or to read Braille.

6. Be a true friend with a disabled person. Exchange letters or communicate regularly
with him or her.

7. JUNIORS ONLY: Learn how to care for a wheelchair. Create an obstacle course.
Using the wheelchair time each girl as she goes through the obstacle course.

8. JUNIORS ONLY: Learn skills needed to baby-sit for a child with a disability.

9. JUNIORS ONLY: Teach a group of younger girls the skills needed for baby-sitting a
child with a disability.

(Junior Girl Scouts- choose one – not for Brownie Girl Scouts)
1. Visit an agency that works with people who are physically, developmentally disabled, emotionally, sensory or mentally handicapped.

2. Find out what kind of education is required for people who work with the disabled and where they received their education. Write to a college or university to get information about this course of study.

3. Interview a person who works in treating and preventing disabilities. Suggestions are: Orthopedic surgeon, geneticist, prosthesis technician, prosthesis engineer, orthopedic appliance manufacturer, pediatrician, obstetrician, neonatal care nurse, and ophthalmologist. Record what this person does and how it helps the disabled.

4. Make up an appropriate activity.


Check out your Community Library or go online. Check the Web site links for more volunteer
opportunities. Topics to get you started:

Disability Respite Care
Handicap Exceptional Children
Special Needs

Web sites:

End of Program

I hope that you enjoyed it and got some good ideas.

Support Your Scouts

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 2)

Hello All,

Here is Part two of the blog from our friend down under Gavin  Bollard. 

A quick note our Facebook Page Autism and Scouting is now over 50 headed upwards. Please let group other parents come and "Like" the page as well as the scouts (if they have permission to be on Facebook) and most important the leaders who lead the scouts. 

Here is a link for you: Autism and Scouting  - Look for the Globe 

Here is a link for the first part:

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 1)

Now on to Part two - Thank you so much again go Gavin. One note I did add the US version of badges to the section under Special Interest but otherwise this no other modifications were made. 

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 2)

This post follows on from part 1.

In part 1, we looked at the idea of "fallback friends", the opportunities for parental involvement and the balance between variety and structure. In part two, we'll be looking more specifically at the structure of the scouting programme and rewards system and how it meets the needs children with aspergers.

Since my scouting experience tends to be limited to the younger ages, I'll be using a lot of cubs-specific terminology. Rest assured, the other parts of the scouting movement equally cater for special needs.

The Special Interest
Few aspies are so caught up in their special interest that they are unable to focus on anything else but most experience significant improvements in their results if they can somehow bring their special interest into their work. It's common to use the child's interest to drive their other activities at school but how does this work at scouts?

The badge system at scouts is an amazingly wide-ranging set of tasks designed to increase the skill sets and life experience of "youth members" while still encouraging them to seek out new experiences and opportunities.

Since I'm most familiar with cubs and since one of my son's special interests is "star wars" (SW), I'll use these to illustrate my point. The names in brackets are specific cub scouting badges which apply;
  • Reading SW Books (Literature) (Cubs in US Communicating or Reading and Writing or Communicator for Boy Scouts Reading or Communication)
  • Acting out Star Wars scenes or playing SW music (Entertainer) (Cubs in the US Showman and in Boy Scouts Theater)
  • Making SW masks and/or puppets (Masks and Sculpture) (Cubs in the US Art or Artist  and Boy Scouts Artist) 
  • Automatic interest in space (Space) (In Boy Scouts Space Exploration or Astronomy) 
  • Sewing SW patterns or otherwise making SW objects (Handcraft) (In Boy Scouts Basketry or Textiles) 
  • Baking SW themed cookies (Cooking) (In Boy Scouts in Cooking) 
  • Drawing, Designing or Painting SW vehicles (Art and Design) (Cubs in the US Art or Artist and in Boy Scouts Art or Drafting)
  • Taking stop-motion lego SW photos (Photography) (in Boy Scouts Photography) 
  • Collecting, labelling and Arranging SW Figures and vehicles (Collector) (Cubs in the US Collecting in Boy Scouts, Collecting, Stamp Collecting or Coin Collecting) 
  • Playing SW Games, Web Browsing, Computer Painting etc (Information Technology) (Cubs in the US Computers or Video Games or Communicator and in Boy Scouts Computers)
That list is nowhere near exhaustive but I'm sure that my point is clear. Scouting provides opportunities to earn rewards by indulging the special interest. Along the way, you may even find that your child develops some new special interests. I recently read a story about a girl who developed "scouting badges" as a special interest and collected all of the badges in record time.

Leadership Skills and Group Work
It's often said that people with aspergers hate group work unless they're in charge. I've never seen anything that contradicts this theory.

Scouting encourages both group and individual work. Sometimes group work is done in randomly assigned teams (games and large crafts) but most of the time it is done in the same small groups and with the same peer leaders. In cubs, these are called "sixer packs" and they usually contain six children two of whom are leaders.

The low numbers and relative constancy of these groups make it easier for aspies to develop relationships with their peers and participate in group-work. Certainly the mix is less "difficult" than school groupwork where teams are usually assigned at random and with no discernable leadership structure.

The chance that an aspie will rise to a position of leadership within the group is good too. In fact, with youth members leaving the groups for various reasons (moving house, moving up to the next level of scouting etc), the chance is significantly greater than 1 in 3.

Such a position not only provides a much needed jolt of self-esteem and peer respect for aspie children, it also tends to inspire them onto bigger and better things. Children in leadership roles need to make decisions on behalf of the group. They learn to trust their peers and to delegate responsibility. Most importantly, they need to learn how to consider the needs, abilities and feelings of everyone in their group. What better practice can there be for an aspie who needs to learn how to interpret and show empathy?

Doing our Best...
One of the most innovative and praiseworthy aspects of scouting is the concept of "doing our best". Unlike traditional after school activities where children are rewarded for athletic prowess, being better than their fellows (man of the match), specific artistic or intellectual talents, stamina or just "winning", scouting recognises the fact that sometimes children have simply done the best that they can.

It's this sort of "everyone gets a prize" mentality which encourages cooperative rather than competitive play. Children with aspergers do not like to lose. They already have enough derogatory labels applied to them by their peers without adding "loser" to the list. They also often don't get the concept of winning. For example; it's not uncommon for an aspie child who has run fourth in a race to have difficulty understanding why there is a ribbon for third but not for fourth place.

You might be thinking that the "do your best" system rewards children for non-participation but that's not the case at all. Scout leaders quickly learn the capabilities of individual children and will expect different levels of work. For example; a child with good writing skills may be expected to provide half a page of written work while a child who struggles with writing may only have to provide a couple of lines - or perhaps even only a verbal answer.

Life Skills
We all hope that our children will grow up to become self-sufficient adults but how often do you hear about the cliché of the thirty-something son who still lives with their parents? Scouting teaches children many of the skills they need to look after themselves in life. There are badges for cooking, sewing, gardening and even operating washing machines and vacuum cleaners. These badges give kids an incentive to learn those day-to-day tasks which they would otherwise be content to let others do for them.

In the higher levels of scouting, life skills change from being simply regular camping outings to survival skills with a strong emphasis on safety and preparedness. There's a pretty good chance that the skills your children learn in scouts will serve them better than most of things they learn at school.

Choosing a Group
Right then, you're convinced... so let's join scouts! Pick a group, any group, they're all the same - right?


There is a massive variation from one scout group to another. Some are denominational, some cater more for specific cultural needs and some cater more for special needs children. Even amongst the bog-standard groups there is intense variation.

Scout leadership is a voluntary pursuit and although all leaders go through the same intensive training, they all have different skill sets, temperments and reasons for being there.

Many scout leaders have special needs children themselves. You'd be surprised at the wealth of knowledge and experience out there. Some leaders lack special needs knowledge and can't (or won't) tolerate special needs children in their group. Unfortunately, this is a sad part of human nature and certainly not something to blame the whole scouting movement for.

If you discover a group like this, it's not worth fighting for your child's right to stay. It's far better to look for another local group where your child will find instant acceptance - believe me, there are plenty. Scouts gives you opportunities to "try before you join". Use these opportunities to find the most appropriate groups in your area - and don't forget that you can always contact your regional office for information on the closest special needs groups.

Full Disclosure
One final note. Scout leaders can only accomodate your child's special needs if they know about them. Too many parents try to "save their children from the label". This backfires when they do something label-specific (like have a meltdown) and the leaders provide an inappropriate reaction. Every time your child goes on a scouting trip, there's a form to be filled out. The forms are more than simply insurance, they help the scout leaders to "be prepared". If they know about your child's specific issues then they can render the most appropriate assistance and avoid dangerous or explosive situations. They can also tailor parts of the programme to your child's specific needs.

After all, it's not just about having a good time, it's about getting our children prepared for the future.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 1)

This Post was done by a friend down under by the name of Gavin Bollard and I have personally learned a great deal from both in scouting and about those on the Autism Spectrum. He has a great deal of information and is a great resource as well as a great all around guy. He has given me permission to repost his blogs. 

Here is a link to one of his blogs, Life with Aspergers. Thanks Gavin for all I have learned and am learning and for your friendship to our family. I will post part two in a few days or you can go to part two directly (I will list it at the end of the blog). 

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 1)

I've just come back from a scout leader "training-conference" for special needs scouting and I'm inspired by their acceptance, preparedness and amazing teaching methods.
Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 1)

I'll talk more about the conference itself in a later post but right now I want to talk specifically about why Scouting is such a good choice of activity for children with aspergers and the other higher functioning forms of autism. Most of what I cover here is also applicable to children with ADHD.

Fallback Friends
One of the main reasons for getting your children into after school activities is to help them establish "fallback friendships". This is particularly important for children who are isolated for various reasons or who have poor social skills.

Unfortunately as parents of children with ASDs, we have to accept that there will be times when our child feels that their entire school hates them. This quite often results from a massive social blunder which travels from class to class like a big joke. Your child may even learn to fear smiling faces because they learn that those smiles aren't about friendship but are instead about ridicule.

It's great then to think that our children could have "backup friends" with little or no connection to their school and who usually lack the frame of reference to understand the "tattle-tales" of scouts from the same school.

Even better, if the number of children in the scout group who are from the same school is low and if the leader is made fully aware of the problem he can often prevent it from being discussed in scouts by forewarning the possible source children of the consequences of bullying.

The rules of scouting are very much designed around inclusion and although bullying still does occur, it seems to be much easier to control in a scouting environment. The Australian Joey groups (the youngest level of scouting) have as their motto "HOP" which stands for "Help Other People". We start young and there is no place for bullying in scouts.

Parental involvement
With after-school sports like soccer, football, cricket and baseball, the parental involvement is usually kept to a minimum and we are forced to stay on the sidelines to watch our child make agonising mistake after mistake. Even worse, there's always a "sport-maniac parent" on your side (or on the other side) who recognises your child's inabilites and either makes inappropriate comments or organises his team's attack to concentrate on the weakest point - your child.

In scouting, particularly in the lower levels of Joey and cub scouting, parental involvement isn't just desirable, it's actively sought. You don't have to be a leader, you can be a parent helper - or you can just stay and watch (a lot of parents treat scouts as a babysitting service and don't stay).

If your child has special needs then this is your big chance to watch their interactions with other children from within the group. An opportunity which isn't generally available in the school curriculum. Of course, even though you can easily intervene when watching your child, you generally should avoid the temptation to do so unless your child is under duress or threat. It's better to let most of the mild mistakes happen - and let another leader resolve them. You can talk to your child at home afterwards and help them to improve their interactions without embarrassing them in front of their peers.

Variety and Structure
It may seem a little strange to be talking about the benefits of "variety" when it's clear that our aspie children don't like change but scouting is "variety within structure".

While it varies from group to group, most groups have a nightly timetable and all activities are bounded by an opening and closing ceremony which varies little. The rest of the night tends to be a mix of activities, games and information but it's surprisingly structured with many activities leading directly into others.

Even the games are structured. In the group I'm involved with, we divide our games into fast, medium and slow. We always start with fast games, have medium games in the middle and run slow games at the end. That's right, we actually try to calm our kids down before they go home.

This structure is great for kids with Aspergers as it makes it easy to forewarn them of programme changes. I leave a copy of the night's programme with my phone (for the clock) on a kid-height bench surface - and I refer to it regularly throughout the night.

I'll often show newcomers and children with change acceptance issues how to read the timetable and they quickly learn to answer their own "agenda" questions and become prepared - I still tend to give a bit of warning before ending an activity or game.

It's not all structure though and the variety aspect is equally important. Traditional after-school and weekend activities, such as soccer, football, tennis and golf are very repetitive. They're either team sports where it suddenly (and conveniently) becomes all too easy to blame the least able of our colleagues for our losses on the field - or they're "individual" sports where the players spend a lot more time simply "waiting for their turn" than they do actually "having" their turn. This is particularly painful when a child gets "out" after less than a minute of playing (and a twenty minute wait).

A child can quickly grow to hate a sport which doesn't afford them opportunities. The problem is that if your child has been signed up for a sport, they're often stuck with it for the season. If they're playing soccer - and they hate soccer - they still have to attend every weekend and "play" soccer. Sometimes they have soccer training during the week too. You will notice that children who hate their sport tend to either walk off the field or simply not participate (for example sitting near the goalposts). This only serves to annoy their fellow players and widen the gap between them and the group. If you see this happening to your child, then it's better to remove him from the game than to allow reports of his behaviour to reach his peers at school.

Scouts is different. Some nights we play soccer, sometimes it's craft, sometimes it's intellectual pursuits. There's opportunities for leadership and the badge system allows individuals to grab moments of glory at their own pace. Usually, it's a mix of games, craft and activities. The variety keeps it interesting and prevents less capable children from being ostracised for their lack of prowess while still giving them a taste of a wide variety of activities.

Next Time
Next time I want to look at how the scouting movement accommodates the aspie special interests, how the badge system promotes learning, how scouts provides much needed "life-skills" and the critical importance of those four words; "We'll do our best!"

Part 2 of this Blog - 

Why is Scouting Particularly Suitable for Children with Aspergers and other ASDs. (Part 2)