Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Autism Empowerment

To our Worldwide Community - 

Geseënde Kersfees ~ Gëzuar Krishtlindja ~ መልካም ገና ~ عيد ميلاد مجيد ~ շնորհավոր Սուրբ Ծնունդ ~ Eguberri on ~ З Калядамі ~ শুভ বড়দিন ~ Nedeleg laouen ~ Весела Коледа ~ Bon Nadal ~ ᎤᏬᏢᏗ ᏓᏂᏍᏓᏲᎯᎲ ~ 圣诞节快乐 ~ Nadelik looan ~ Sretan božić ~ Veselé Vánoce ~ Glædelig jul ~ Gelukkig kerstfeest ~ Merry Christmas ~ Feliĉa Kristnasko ~ Häid jõule ~ Gleðilig jól ~ Maligayang Pasko ~ hyvää joulua ~ Joyeux Noël ~ Feliz Nadal ~ შობას გილოცავთ ~ Fröhliche Weihnachten ~ Καλά Χριστούγεννα ~ મેરી ક્રિસમસ ~ Jwayeu Nwèl ~ Mele Kalikimaka ~ חג המולד שמח ~ मेरी क्रिसमस ~ Boldog Karácsonyt ~ Gleðileg jól ~ Selamat Hari Natal ~ Nollaig Shona ~ Buon Natale ~ メリークリスマス ~ ಮೆರ್ರಿ ಕ್ರಿಸ್ಮಸ್ ~ រីករាយថ្ងៃបុណ្យណូអែល ~ 메리 크리스마스 ~ Жаратканнын туысымен ~ ຍິນດີວັນຄຣິດສະມາດ ~ Felix dies Nativitatis ~ Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus ~ Linksmų Kalėdų ~ Froue Crëschtdag ~ Среќен Божиќ ~ il-Milied it-Tajjeb ~ Yáʼátʼééh Késhmish ~ God jul ~ میلاد مسیح مبارک باد ~ Wesołych Świąt ~ Feliz Natal ~ Crăciun fericit ~ С Рождеством ~ Manuia le Kerisimasi ~ Nollaig Chridheil ~ Срећан Божић ~ සුභ නත්තලක් ~ Veselé Vianoce ~ Vesel božič ~ Feliz Navidad ~ Krismasi Njema ~ மெர்ரி கிறிஸ்துமஸ் ~ మెర్రీ క్రిస్మస్ ~ เมอร์รี่คริสต์มาส ~ Mutlu Noeller ~ З Різдвом ~ میری کرسمس ~ 
Chúc Giáng Sinh Vui Vẻ ~ Nadolig Llawen ~ פֿרײלעכע ניטל ~ uKhisimusi oMuhle

I also wanted to share our 12 days of Christmas. 

On the 12th Day of Christmas, scouting gave to me

12 Months of Support, Love and Acceptance from scout leaders and parents around the world for scouts on the Spectrum. 

Eleven Autism Awareness Eagle Projects 
Ten Joey Scouts earning their Grey Wolf Award 
Nine Girl Scouts Selling Thin Mint Cookies 
Eight Tiger Scouts earning their Bobcat
Seven Beaver Scouts getting their Bronze Award 
Six Sensory Friendly Kybo's
Five Empowering Autism and Scouting Radio Shows
Four Inspirational Scouting Stories
Three Enriched Autism trainings
Two Accepting Scout Leaders
One Life Long Friend

Thank you so much for making 2012 a great year. 

Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower!

To learn more about Autism Empowerment, a 501(c)(3) public charity and to help financially support our Autism and Scouting Program, please visit:

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Saturday, December 22, 2012


Hello All and we are now about two days before Christmas 2012.

Autism Empowerment has put out a few things about the recent shoots on Friday, December 14th at Newtown, CT.  Each and every life that was lost that day was a tragic and each family should be prayed for.
For me personally, along with many within the scouting world was the loss of two Tiger Scouts and eight Daisy scouts. In addition to the 10 scouts that were lost that day, two other children (one boy and one girl) who were on the Autism Spectrum were killed.

To me, having a Tiger Cub (being his Den Leader) who is on the Autism Spectrum, these 12 kids I have a connection with and for me I bit of me is also lost.

Michelle Carter, had sent this to me at Autism and Scouting and I re-posted it and it also made a connection to many. I asked Michelle if I could re-post it on the blog and she agreed. Thank you Michelle.

This was from Michelle Carter - 

(in remembrance of the lives lost on December 14, 2012)

‘Twas the night of cub scouting
And as we return home,
I tuck my scout into bed
my head fills with this poem.
I’m so proud of his accomplishments,
Every badge, gleams with pride.
A true scout he is,
Even, deep down inside.
But tonight my heart’s sad,
For this week you see,
To many young lives were taken,
Robbed of what they may be.
At the hands of another,
Small children are gone,
How can anyone look at innocence
And do something so wrong?
8 daisy sashes retired that day,
2 tiger cubs laid to rest,
My heart goes out to all of these families,
Scouts or not, their children now rest.
Even the teacher,
who died, so that her students could live,
was a venture scout
when she was a kid.
She had no idea at work that day,
That she would be a hero,
Or have her life taken away.
She died protecting children,
So that they may live,
To achieve their goals and dreams.
She didn’t do it to be a hero,
She didn’t care what people would say,
She did it because she had love in her heart,
Until her very last of days.
I know that there are heroes in scouts,
I have seen it first hand,
When they rescued my son,
Who was buried in the sand.
Scouts have huge hearts,
Whether Eagle, Tiger, or Girl,
It makes me wonder what it was
That we were robbed of in this world!
What were their goals?
What did they dream to be?
Maybe a doctor, a president,
Maybe a soldier in the army.
These could have been tomorrow’s leaders,
Now they’ll never have the chance.
They left us far too young,
through terrible circumstance.

Will we ever forget them?
No way, and no how!
A piece of them will stay with us
Forever, starting now.
So when you’re helping your scout
Get ready for a meet,
Take a moment of silence,
For those empty scout seats.
There are parents out there who,
It pains me to say,
Will not be straightening a neckerchief or sash
For the meeting today.
Every time you recite your oath or your law,
Remember those scouts
That were taken far to small!

Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower!

To learn more about Autism Empowerment, a 501(c)(3) public charity and to help financially support our Autism and Scouting Program, please visit:

Autism and Scouting Program, please visit:Autism Empowerment -

Autism Empowerment Facebook Page -

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email or

Autism Empowerment is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts of America or any scouting organization. We are happy to provide training and leadership volunteer services for scouting organizations upon request.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Triumphant Cub Scout Story

Welcome to the Autism and Scouting Blog. We have a treat for you today. We have a guest blog from Shannon Spikler. She is a Blogger and a mom to a boy who is on the Autism Spectrum.

Shannon was on the Autism and Scouting Radio broadcast on November 27th and if you would like to listen to the show, here is a link for you. This radio broadcast was based on her blot that she wrote on Thursday, August 2nd.

By Shannon Spikler
I was so excited when Justin turned eight years old last year because it meant he could be a cub scout!! I went out and bought him a full uniform—all the time hearing a voice in the back of my mind saying, “yeah, you can give it a try, but it’s probably not going to work.”  I hoped that voice wasn’t true, but past experiences at church had proven disastrous.

Within a week I got an email from the cub master asking my husband and me if we would speak at the next Pack Meeting which was going to focus on Special Needs and if we could introduce Autism and Justin to the pack.  What a great idea!!  I really hadn’t thought of doing something like that since Justin “went” to church with these same boys—but he really didn’t stay at church when he was there so a lot of these boys might not really understand why that is hard for Justin.  I told him we would, to which my husband said, “you know that means it is just you, right?  You’ll do a great job, and I won’t say it like you.  I’ll watch Justin while you talk.”

I started searching on the Internet to see if there were some good explanations of Autism for kids and after a very long search and not knowing where to even begin with my introduction, I found this website.  This mom did a great job of explaining autism in a way that kids could understand.  I used her example of “pins and needles” to explain sensory issues for Justin and then came up with some other things on my own that related specifically to Justin.

The pack meeting went really well and I was really surprised how many adults told me later that there kids brought up other kids they knew who must have had Autism like Justin too!!

Before we drove out to our family reunion, I sent my cub scout autism introduction talk to my husband’s family (who some of them had never met Justin, and others it had been over 3 years) so they could share it with their kids and talk Autism before we got there.  I think it helped prepare them and it never ceases to amaze me how team oriented kids can be for a good cause!!  They were so accepting of Justin!!

I have decided to post my introduction in case it benefits anyone else in understanding Autism.  I am in no way proclaiming to be an expert in Autism, or explaining it…I’ve just had many wonderful conversations about Autism from sharing this introduction:)

We are so excited to be here tonight for Justin’s first Pack Meeting. As Justin’s parents, we were given the opportunity to spotlight him so that everyone can get to know him a little better.

How many of you have ever broken your arm or leg and had to wear a cast? And for those who haven’t personally broken an arm or leg, you probably know someone who has, right? And you know just by looking at someone with a cast that there are certain limitations or things that they can’t do. You can’t go swimming when you have a cast, right? And can someone with a cast on their leg run a race?? Well, they might not be able to run a race, but they could walk the race, couldn’t they?? They’d just have to go a little bit slower to finish. I’m going to talk to you about some of Justin’s limitations that you can’t see like a cast, because it affects how his brain reacts to situations.

Justin has something called Autism. How many of you have heard the word Autism before??Autism is a condition that makes Justin’s brain react differently than other people his own age. When you look at Justin, he looks just like any other boy his age on the outside, and it would probably take you a few minutes to realize that he’s a little bit different because of his Autism. I’m going to tell you a little bit about how we found out Justin had Autism because it’s not something that he was born with, and it’s not something that you can “catch” from someone like a cold, or strep throat. It’s not contagious.

I bet a lot of you can’t remember some of the things you did when you were a baby, but I bet they were similar to the things that Justin did as a baby. He used to play peek-a-boo, and loved playing with all different kinds of toys, and loved making baby noises. Just before Justin turned two years old, he started to play differently and he didn’t want to look at us anymore or play peek-a-boo, and he started to cry more, and not try to talk any more, and he just seemed really frustrated. We took him to some doctors to try to find out what was wrong, and eventually we found out he had Autism.

There is a really important part of our brain that helps control our reactions to situations and this special part of Justin’s brain just doesn’t work quite right. I’m going to share with you some examples of how this makes Justin feel inside.

Here’s the first example: When you are sitting at school and you are in the middle of taking test, your brain does a wonderful thing in that it will help you not focus on the sounds of your breathing, or the ticking of the clock on the wall, or the sound of the air-conditioning blowing in the room—it helps tune all of that out and lets you concentrate on your test. You probably don’t even think about those other things going on around you because that’s how well your brain is helping you focus on your test!! For Justin, his brain doesn’t know what things are most important to focus on, and so he might hear the clock so loud that it sounds to him like he is in a football stadium with the loud speaker blaring!! Because of that sensitivity to noises, Justin will plug his ears a lot to tune noises out, or just in anticipating that there is more noise coming. That is also one of the reasons why if you walk up to Justin and try talking to him, he might walk right past you. It doesn’t mean you are bothering him, or that he doesn’t like you, but it just means that his brain isn’t letting him focus right then. He does this to me, and his dad and siblings all the time, and we just keep trying to talk to him because you might be surprised that the very next time you talk to him he will make eye contact and interact with you.

Here’s the second example: Have any of you ever sat for a long time or laid funny when you went to sleep and had your arms or legs fall asleep?? Have you ever had that “pins and needles” feeling?? Your brain sends you a message when that happens, to get up and walk around or shake your arms and get the blood flowing again. Justin’s brain is different, in that it sends him messages all day long that he has that “pins and needles” feeling all over his body. Sometimes, he even feels it in his head. So how does Justin handle that message?? When Justin feels that funny feeling, he has to get up and move around to try to get rid of it. That’s why sometimes at church I bet you’ve seen Justin’s dad walking him around the chapel, he does this to help Justin get rid of that feeling so he can come sit down again.

The other most frustrating challenge for Justin is that his brain forms sentences to talk, but it won’t tell his mouth how to form to say the words. So he physically can’t make his mouth say what his mind wants to say. I can imagine that Justin has a lot of things he would like to say to us!  Sometimes he gets so frustrated that he cries. You don’t have to worry when Justin cries because his dad will be with him and do whatever he can to quickly make him happy again so he’s not frustrated. Justin does have a new iPad program that helps him talk and I’m sure he and his dad would love to show it to you.  This helps Justin not be so frustrated.

Even though Justin’s brain doesn’t send him the right signals to react to different situations, we try to help train his brain so that it can learn to react better. Justin goes to a special clinic everyday where he has a therapist with him all the time teaching him different ways to cope with situations and react appropriately. He spends 6 hours a day doing this, just like you all spend 6 hours a day learning at school. Justin won’t ever grow out of his Autism, it is something he will have to cope with his whole life, but we as his parents and with the help of his therapists have great hope for him that he will be able to be happy and be able to go to his Primary class someday and not be frustrated, and go to school again someday. Justin starting cub scouts is a great opportunity for him to learn how to react to things in a really fun environment, because I know you all have a great time in cub scouts. He will have his dad with him to help teach him what to do, and we know that he will love making friends with all of you and interacting with you. How many of you like cars? Justin does too and he is going to love the pinewood derby! He loves making things with his hands.

We know that as you welcome Justin to your troop, you will get to know his infectious personality that we have been so blessed with in our family, and that you will love him like we do.

I have to admit that the day of the Pack Meeting I had a little cry-fest with my sister-in-law.  She has four typical boys, and she is a huge support to me!  I was so worried about saying the right things that night, and she let me read it to her over the phone and helped me with editing—Thanks Elaina!!

Scouting has been a success for us and I will never forget the kindness of the boys in Justin’s troop.

End Guest Blog

Thank you so much for stopping in. We are hope you enjoyed this story.

Accept, Enrich, Inspire, Empower!

To learn more about Autism Empowerment, a 501(c)(3) public charity and to help financially support our Autism and Scouting Program, please visit:

Autism and Scouting Program, please visit:Autism Empowerment -

Autism Empowerment Facebook Page -

Autism and Scouting Facebook Page -

email or

Autism Empowerment is not affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts of America or any scouting organization. We are happy to provide training and leadership volunteer services for scouting organizations upon request.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Heroes in the Sand

Welcome back to the Autism and Scouting Blog. It has been a bit since I have had time to write, I am hoping to do more blogging in the coming months.

Today, I want to share a very special story and it is a story of inspiration and Heroism. We are interested in hosting Alec and his family on the Autism and Scouting Radio program and are in the process of contacting them to see if they would be interested in the opportunity, however I wanted to share this story today.

If you have a story that you would like us to share here at Autism and Scouting, please e-mail me at or leave a note for me with your e-mail address on the Autism and Scouting Facebook Page.

Heroes in the Sand

On Saturday, September 15th, 2012, Troop 329 (out of Battle Creek, MI) with Cub Scout Pack 304 were on an outing just like they had been so many times before. This weekend the Troop was at the North Point Conservation Area which is a 17 mile stretch of sand-dune beach area on Lake Michigan. This area was no stranger to Boy Scouts since North Point Conservation Area is often referred to as the “Old Boy Scout Camp,” because the property has been utilized and maintained by Boy Scouts in Southwest Michigan for generations.

There were 15 boys (10 adult leaders as well)  having a great time not knowing that potential tragedy was about to strike. Some of the boys were playing on the dunes, sometimes sliding down on sleds while others were just playing in the sand.

Donovan, a 9 year old Webelos II Cub Scout from the pack was having a great time being a boy and then suddenly the dune collapsed around him and buried him alive.

Alec who is a new Boy Scout and who currently has a rank of “Scout” was the first to notice that something was wrong. The area they were playing in had suddenly changed and he noticed that Donovan was missing. Alec quickly ran over to where Donovan was and started yelling to other scouts and leaders to come and help find Donovan.

At first the other scouts and leaders thought that Alec was just upset that other scouts would not come and play with him and dig holes in the sand.

His Mom says that the other boys and leaders know that Alec is on the autism spectrum and that sometimes Alec does not how to communicate to others. An Assistant Scoutmaster, Larry Getman was on the top of one of the dunes, knew Alec pretty well and could tell by the way his tone changed from other times, that this time was different and that something was wrong.

Larry within seconds jumped down the 25 foot dune to where he found Alec digging. He started to ask what was going on and happening? Are you sure he was here?

Due to the way their bodies were positioned in the sand, Larry was asking questions in Alec’s face and typically this would have set Alec into a panic and full meltdown mode but Alec stood his ground and Alec quickly calculated where Donovan’s head was and insisted that Larry start to help him dig. (Larry is an outstanding Scout Leader and his own son who is also on the autism spectrum typically does not talk to the scouts in such a manner but in this case due to the shifting sand, the Scoutmaster and Scout had this quick conversation face to face).

After what Alec says seemed like forever, they reached Donovan’s head about two and half feet under the sand. But the story of Alec’s Heroism does not stop there. As they dug around Donovan’s head, the sand kept on filling back in and covering up his head.

So Alec crawled into a small hole they had and used his own body to become a human retaining wall to stop the sand from continuing to collapse on Donovan and back into the progress they were making. As Larry was holding Donovan’s head to keep it out of the sand it was up to Alec to continue the digging. To prevent the sand from falling back on him, he was only able to use one hand to do the digging.  

Larry yelled out for more help and for more scouts and leaders to come help. The scouts responded without hesitation and one other leader, Tyler (one of Larry’s sons) as well as four other scouts arrived on the scene (Tony, Josh, Brendon and Zach).  Tyler and Zach started to assist in the digging and then when Donovan was about two thirds out, Tony, Brendan and Josh (Josh is Larry’s other son and is on the autism spectrum as well) were able to locate his feet and pull him out.

When they brought Donovan out of the sand, he could not open his eyes and his nose and ears were packed with sand. Lisa, who is Alec’s mom and was on the outing reached the rescue team and quickly ran down to Lake Michigan, took a sweatshirt and drenched it and quickly ran it back to Larry who washed the sand out his nose and eyes.

It was estimated that Donovan only had about 30 seconds before things turned fatal and if it were not for the quick thinking of Alec, Larry and six amazing scouts, the story would not have had a happy ending.

Donovan celebrated his 10th birthday in October. 

When you ask Alec about that day, he would tell you “Don’t thank me, thank my math teacher, she taught me how to quickly calculate distance”.  Alec’s mom says that she doesn’t realize or understands the impact he and on the world that day.

Alec and Larry were awarded the Boy Scouts Heroism Award on Saturday, December 8th, 2012. The other four were awarded certificates and a BSA Coin for their role in the saving of Donovan's life.
Autism and Scouting salutes all of the scouts who assisted with the rescue but an extra well done to both Alec and Josh who just happen to be on the autism spectrum as well. I am sure they are all on the road to greatness.

If you have a story that you would like to share, please let us know at

Accept - The scout for who they are and if they are not ready for advancement that is okay. Scouting is not all about advancement. It is about learning life skills, gaining life experience and having fun along the way.

Enrich - The scout may be challenged to step outside of their comfort zone and expand their world.

Inspire - Make sure to inspire the scout with positive encouragement. A kind tone and positive words go a long way to increasing self-confidence. You will likely find yourself inspired by the scout as well.

Empower - By giving the scout the tools in advance to be successful, you are giving them the tools to do their best and to be empowered.

We would love to hear your feedback!

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