Friday, July 27, 2012

Gilbert Ranch Calling - A Journey with Autism

This blog is being started at about 4:00 am on the 25th of July and I know it will not be posted for a few days. I am writing this in my "cabin" and am nearly in tears. This is yet another personal blog but it helps illustrate why I have so much passion for the scouting programs and the benefit for those on the Autism Spectrum.
Some have said I am on a mission (yes), some have said that it is an obsession (I prefer very passionate), some have wondered if it is about ego with something to prove (nowhere close), but laying here in the quiet silence of the outdoors, all I hear is a calling by God to continue the work I have started with Autism Empowerment’s Autism and Scouting program.
Four years ago I was laying in the very same campsite here at Gilbert Ranch at Butte Creek (in northern Oregon at the foothills to the Cascades) and was wondering what my future had to offer and how life had so much changed. About six weeks prior, my youngest son was diagnosed with autism and we didn't know if he would ever speak again. Coming into this camping outing (four years ago), we were about two weeks from my oldest being officially diagnosed with Aspergers. (We had the appointment and were 100% sure the diagnosis was coming.)

It was my oldest son’s first camping trip. He was a few months shy of 9 and I recall not sleeping well because of so many thoughts running through my head about what was to come and still being in the grief cycle that seems like a never-ending wave of highs, lows, twists and turns for parents and caregivers of those on the autism spectrum.

Now flash forward four years.  I am now back at Gilbert Ranch and my youngest son who recently turned 6 is having his first camping outing and we are in the very same campsite I was in four years prior. To add to the sweetness of the moment, my oldest is here as a Den Chief for the Webelos II and it is an entire family event. I am not sure how many joint camping events the boys will ever do, but having it be their first together here at Gilbert Ranch, to me this place will always be in my heart as well as the scouting program.
To me, it is a sign from God that I am on the correct path to help promote acceptance, to help enrich both the scouts on the Autism Spectrum and the leaders that work with them, to provide inspiration for the scouts on the spectrum to continue in scouting and for the leaders to get into each scout's world. With training, tools, acceptance, enrichment and inspiration, I believe that empowerment for scouts, their families, their leaders and their peers within the scouting community can not only be possible, it can be something incredible.

I could provide you a Top Ten list of why scouting is wonderful for those on the Autism spectrum or list off the aims of scouting but that would not be too exciting. What I can do is provide you a very simple story that started feet from where I am writing these words... and speaks volumes for why I so believe in the scouting program.

Four years ago two young boys who just finished third grade spent two nights camping and three days together both with what the world would call quirks. This was the boys’ first campout and they were tent mates.  A year later one boy left scouts while the other one went on. What never ended was that bond formed and to this day they are still best friends. Friends and interpersonal relationships can be an extreme challenge for those on the Autism Spectrum, these boys became best friends. I know great things are ahead for both, not sure how life will treat them, but I would I put money on the fact that they will always be best friends.

Lifelong Friends Forged in Scouting

Fast forward, four years, this photo says it all.

New Best Buddies 
That is why I will go on with my calling....

I will post this when I get back and then I will do a blog about the adventures of these next few days.

It is now about 4:30 and I am sure I will not be able to sleep. Thank you so much for reading.

Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower!

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  1. Beautifully stated!! Keep up the great work of Autism & Scouting and Autism Empowerment! You're a wonderful father, community leader and great advocate for autism!

  2. John, this is a beautiful example of why we must make Scouting available to ALL Scouts no matter what their ability may be. What a great story and the pictures add emphasis to the uniqueness of the experience. Four years can make a huge difference for a Scout with Autism. I applaud you for your commitment.