Yesterday, my oldest was back to his third summer camp as a Boy Scout. Each year I am spending less and less time at camp on purpose in part to give him the opportunity to come into his own and prove to himself what he can accomplish. The first year and second year I spent the first two days and the last two days of a six night camp with him. This year, I did the first day/night and will be doing the last day/night and I know he will do great. Despite doing our best to be prepared (in our home with three traveling on the Autism highway - my two sons and wife- it is a way of life) for camp, so many issues come up it is always hard to be fully prepared. Expect the unexpected!
I will be blogging off and on all week about camp issues, today I tackle traveling to camp in a bus!
This year our summer camp was two and half hours away and like many larger troops, our troop has a bus take the scouts all together. Take a large amount of tween and teen youth and put them all in one confined place for two and a half hours and the mind can run wild on what could go wrong. Then you add in high temperatures and this could be overload for the most “typical” of people.
We have an outstanding staff on the bus and they did an amazing job. Combined with a few bathroom breaks and a lunch stop, all made it without issues. If your troop does something similar for summer camp and your youth will be taking the bus, here are a few quick tips.
1. Give the scout something to do on the bus, such as a favorite book to read if they do not get carsick. They may get lost in the noise and time will pass by quickly. Pick a book from their special interest and this should go a long way to make the trip better.
2. Make arrangements with the leadership for your scouts to sit in one of the first few seats of the bus. (This is a lot less overwhelming sensory-wise than being in the middle or back of the bus.) If they get car sick, this will help with the motion sickness as well and the bus driver will have a better view of the scout and can assist if needed.
3. Noise cancelling headphones always work great for loud places. For older scouts, they may be self conscious and not want to draw attention to themselves with large headphones, so the small yellow ear plugs may work.
4. If the scout has a lot of different issues, make sure that an adult on the bus knows what is going on with the scout and will be close to the scout if needed.
5. Have ways such to help combat the stress. A simple thing as a fidget to help them calm down or sometimes even a small travel pillow will work as well, they can squeeze it or use it to help rest.
6. Combating heat on a school bus is hard, the best way to have the window open so the air can move around and to have a water bottle with ice water readily available.
7. When scouts on the autism spectrum feel large amounts of stress, some can become extra introverted and thus an easier target for bullies. Not a popular topic within scouting groups but it does happen and it should NEVER be tolerated.
8. If the bus is just too overwhelming, make arrangements for the scouts to get to camp early before the group arrives or after the group is already there. Many times this is a great way for the scout that needs a lot of transition to have a chance to see the camp in a less overwhelming way.
9. If you as an adult can go to camp, ride the bus with the scout group that you are with. All scouting groups can use more adults to help out.
10. If there, is no other way to get the scout to camp besides another vehicle traveling with the bus, then give the scout a job and reason for traveling within another vehicle. ***
*** Please note that all scouting groups have rules about safe scouting and those rules such should be followed at all times without any exception for the safety of the scout and the scouting leadership. Many groups have rules about two deep leadership and policies about youth traveling within a scout leader’s automobile. Be sure to refer back to those policies and please comply.
I hope that these ten tips help when your unit is traveling by bus this year or next or whenever.
Next blog is coming soon and if you missed our recent radio broadcast on Autism and Scouting Radio, be sure to listen in the archives.
I had a great interview with Tony Mei a member of the National Boy Scout of America and Chairman of the Special Needs committee on July 11th and you can find it at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismandscoutingradio