Monday, November 7, 2011

Autism and Scouting BSA Training - Cascade Pacific Council

Grab Bag of Tricks for supporting Scouts with Autism, Attention and Sensory Processing Challenges was the name of the class and I am happy to report that it was a stunning success and even better then I could have even imagined.

The Cascade Pacific’s second Program & Training Conference was held on Saturday, November 5th in Beaverton, Oregon. The Cascade Pacific Council serves the Boys Scouts of America for Oregon and Southwest Washington. The final number in attendance for the Conference was 425 Scout Leaders and about 100 Staff and youth volunteers.  It was an amazing event and Jackie Dannemiller who coordinated the event was amazing at every step. 

Since I have a passion and I feel a calling to spread the values that scouting has to offer to those on the Autism Spectrum (I do feel that most on the Autism Spectrum can learn lifelong skills in scouting) and the fact that my wife and I founded Autism Empowerment (a non-profit 501 (c)(3) charity) this past June, when Jackie asked me to teach the class on Autism, Attention and Sensory Awareness, there was no way I could say no.

One of the programs within Autism Empowerment is a program called Autism and Scouting. In addition to this blog, our Facebook Page and Group as well as Twitter, we are looking to expand with many new educational programs dedicated to supporting scouts with ASD's, their parents and the scouting leadership.

Back to the event! The day started at 5:00 a.m. with a wake-up call. By 6:00 a.m., I had my Diet Pepsi in hand and was in the car for the 45 minute trip to Beaverton.  I have to admit, I had given some presentations to much smaller groups (who have no scouting experience) about the values that Scouting has to offer those on the spectrum but I had never given a training at the Council level and to leaders that I look up to. I was told earlier in the week that there were19 signed up for the noon class and 22 signed up for the 3:00 p.m. class. I was confident in the new presentation that  Autism Empowerment had designed for this training. Like a good scout I was prepared.

I got to Beaverton, the sun still had not come up yet and the high school that the training event was at was buzzing with activity. 

I quickly find “my” room and start to set up and after a little technical trouble, I was all good to go. After the opening flag by the Sea Scouts, I had some time to attend some training for myself.

                          

The first class that I attended was on the usage of Social Media in Scouting. I quickly realized the class was given by ScouterAdam and Jerry Schlenining. These are two outstanding scouters that I look to for some fantastic information. ScouterAdam does a blog called Scouter Adam and Jerry does an amazing job with his blog at The Scoutmaster Minute and his Podcasts at The Scoutmaster Minute. If you have not checked them out, you need to!

The class was well worth it and had great ideas and information for those units that are in cyberspace. A quick note, I wanted to attend Jerry’s other class later in the day about Scoutmaster Conferences but due to my own class could not attend. I am hoping next year! The other class I took before a quick lunch and prep time was Trail to Eagle (Life, Star and Eagle) and it was also very well done. 

My first class started at noon so I made sure I was in the classroom a half an hour early just to make sure all things were working. About twenty minutes til noon, the first people started coming in. The class that was supposed to be 19 turned out to have 25. It was an amazing class filled with passion, emotion and stories about how many leaders still don’t fully understand how to work with scouts with Autism Spectrum, Attention or Sensory Issues. I had one older scout leader (he had rows and rows of square knots) come up to me afterwards and told me that he had been coming to BSA training for almost twenty years and every time, he would pick up little bits of information to add to his years of experience but this class was the first one he attended in years that was completely new to him and he came away with a wealth of knowledge. I honestly felt humbled and honored by the comments. I had a request by another leader to come and do a local roundtable presentation to really be able to reach more of their direct leadership. I told him, I have car and will travel.

I did have some time between my two sessions and I was able to sit in on the Scouts with Disabilities and Special Needs class that was offered by the Council Special Needs Committee. They did a great job and I sure learned a lot. I did have to step out early to get back to my room but I was so glad that I was able to hear what I did. 

As I returned to the room, there were people already in the room. I was told to expect about 22, the final number was 32 (the max each class was supposed to have was 30). By the time we started this one, all of the chairs were taken, we had one on the floor and a few standing in the back. This was an amazing class as well. Tons of questions, more requests for additional training at the local level and tears by leaders with scouts trying to find a unit that gets their scout. There was so much passion in the room and it really was an amazing feeling that so many people can be touched. It really inspired me to make sure that all scouting leadership has the tools and skills to better serve those scouts with Autism Spectrum, Attention and Sensory Issues.

I also meet Dave Somann who is the Senior Ranger at one of the scout properties who also runs a program called Living for Life. This program allows kids with special needs to come and ride horses. I hope to get more information on this program and share it soon.

Many came up and thanked me for offering and teaching the class but I am the one that was thankful. I was thankful that our Council recognized the need for such training and offered this class to begin with.  I am thankful that all of our districts are filled with leaders that know the value that a class like this can offer. I am thankful and wish I could recognize all of the leaders that made a choice to come to the class that can have a direct and long lasting effect for the scouts within their units.  Thank you to all that came to this class.

It was an amazing day filled with laughter, tears and Autism Empowerment for all.         
        
We hope to soon have the presentation available both at the Autism Empowerment Autism and Scouting Page and on the Facebook page as well.

I have been asked to come back next year and it’s time to make it bigger and better. See you again on November 3rd, 2012.

If your unit or district would like me to come out and speak or do a short presentation at your roundtable or other event in the local area, please feel free to e-mail me at john@autismempowerment.org or autismandscouting@gmail.com

If you were at the event, please let me know as well any comments. We would love your feedback.



2 comments:

  1. Would you be willing to share your presentation information with me to incorporate into my Commissioner's College thesis/doctorate? My plan is to develop a weekend long training (similar to Wood Badge but shorter) which would allow leaders and Scouting employees to learn AND experience what it is like for those with learning challenges, social challenges, physical challenges, emotional challenges and the like every day and thereby change the leader's paradigm when dealing with special needs Scouts. I'd love your input!

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  2. Thank you so much Linday. Send me an e-mail at autismandscouting@gmail.com and I will get it over to you.

    Thanks
    John

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