Bryce joined Cub Scouts in August 2020 as a Lion. Although he was six years old with a seventh birthday around the corner, we felt that it would be best to have him start at the beginning of the program which is designed for age five (Kindergarten). We wrote a letter to the Cubmaster explaining our situation. Bryce was blessed with the perfect den leader who has been extremely kind, patient, and understanding with him.
At this early age, there was not much social interaction between the children in his den. COVID didn't help with mask mandates and social distancing for events like the Pine Car Derby. We also only camped one time. Our first attempt ended up being a day-trip for us. Camping definitely provides more social opportunities but also provides more opportunities for unforeseen anxiety surprises for Bryce. We shared a video on our YouTube channel showing how difficult it was for Chris to get Bryce through the process of letting air out of a pillow after they camped in our backyard. Had this happened at the campsite, it would have been terrible!
Although we did not meet the "social goals" we hoped to achieve through Cub Scouts this year, we were thrilled to see that Bryce responded to the Scout Law and the character-building lessons he was taught in this program. Bryce also really liked getting his awards which is no surprise, since he works hard for rewards in therapy every week.
Our jury is still out as we are in prayer about what we will do for next season. We had some hiccups with older Scouts who could see Bryce's differences and did not obey the Scout laws when interacting with him. In my opinion, the awareness and acceptance needs to begin with the adults. If the adults express an interest to understand autism, they can ask questions and then teach their children. This incident is what inspired me to write this blog post. My hope and prayer is that it can become a training tool for Cub Scout troops throughout the world. While every child on the autism spectrum is different in many ways, there are plenty of core similarities. This post has been written from the perspective of a Momma with a hurting heart wanting others to understand her child and treat him well using the Scout Laws.
I am very transparent about our autism journey and willing to help others have a better picture of how autism affects our little family. I share the good, and I share the bad. I am grateful for the days that Bryce doesn't lose control of his emotions and try to hurt himself. I am also grateful for the victories that we have on days that are full of autism challenges as we manage to overcome them with God's grace, patience, compassion, and wisdom that we seek daily. This autism journey has definitely given me more reasons to pray for strength! I can't imagine doing this without God holding me up and helping me when I feel weak.
This blog post is being shared during the month of April in an effort to create more Autism Awareness and Acceptance. May we all learn how to use these laws to shape better lives for ourselves and our children!
How can Cub Scouts obey the Scout Law with fellow Cub Scouts who are on the autism spectrum?
1. Look for what you have in common instead of what is different.
2. Be sensitive in how you react to any differences.
3. Think about each Scout Law when you are around autistic Cub Scouts.
4. Remember that all Cub Scouts are the same and also different in many ways, even those who do not have autism.
One of Bryce’s greatest strengths is being TRUSTWORTHY. He speaks the truth as he knows it. Bryce also asks a lot of questions, so he can learn and understand new things. If he asks you a question, you need to be TRUSTWORTHY and answer his question truthfully. He might ask you the same question many times, because he is looking for a specific answer that you are not giving him. If you do not know the answer, do not make one up. Just tell him that you don’t know the answer.
Bryce is always happy to meet new people. He likes everyone he meets and doesn’t treat anyone differently, because of the way the look or the way that they behave. He is very LOYAL and does not stop being somebody’s friend because they wear glasses or because they are shorter than him. He is still nice and wants to play with them even if they have brown eyes, darker skin, or curly hair instead of blue eyes, lighter skin, or straight hair like him. He doesn’t make fun of other Cub Scouts for act different than him. He just wants to make friends and play together. You can be LOYAL by treating Bryce the same way you treat other Cub Scouts who may be more like you.
If Bryce is not HELPFUL with a project, it is not because he is being rude and does not want to help. It is because he either does not understand that he needs to help or he doesn’t understand how to help. Bryce will help other people when asked, but he does not always recognize the need to help. This is where his fellow scouts can be HELPFUL by letting him know that they need his help with a project. Bryce also has sensory issues, so he may be afraid to touch certain things with his hands, feet, or mouth. He is also hears and sees things that others don’t hear or see. This can easily distract his attention. He also has a hard time with eye contact and may not look at you. It may seem like he is ignoring you, but he’s not. He is either distracted by something or listening to you. He can understand what you are saying much better by not looking at you and just listening.
Bryce is a very FRIENDLY person who loves to make new friends. He wants to play. He loves to run, play sports, and play board games. When Bryce is being friendly to you and wanting to play, you can be FRIENDLY and invite him to be a part of your group. He sometimes needs help understanding how to play with others. If he gets too close, just ask him to step back. If he gets too loud, just tell him to turn down the volume. If he doesn’t understand the rules, just explain how the game works. He is a very good rule follower once he understands them.
Being polite to others may be another challenge for Scouts with autism. Bryce has been taught to use manners and continues to learn how to be polite and COURTEOUS. He is still learning, so you may need to make him aware of your feelings if he upsets you with his words or actions. He may say or do things that come across as rude. He cannot read facial expressions or body language to know how people are feeling, so sometimes he has to be told. This is where you can be COURTEOUS and explain to him how his words or actions made you feel. Bryce does not like to make other people feel sad.
Scouts with autism will show kindness to others. They may seem shy or uncomfortable, but kind. People with autism are some of the KINDEST people in this world!
Bryce is extremely KIND to other people. He is very concerned if someone has an injury or sick. He is a very caring kid who wants to be friends with Cub Scouts who are KIND.
Bryce may be one of the most OBEDIENT Cub Scouts in the troop! He is a rule follower and listens well to instructions. He doesn’t always like following the rules, just like you, but he will listen and obey.
Bryce is a very happy and CHEERFUL boy. He wakes up happy every day and is friendly to everyone he meets. If you see Bryce jumping up and down and flapping his arms, you are seeing his excitement. You also show your excitement, just in a different way. Maybe you clap, shout, dance, or cheer when you’re happy or excited. You can be CHEERFUL about the same thing together and just express it in different ways.
Bryce is being taught at home to be THRIFTY by learning to take good care of his bike, his toys, his money, and everything in our home. It is important to value things and not be wasteful. Learning lessons about being THRIFTY at meetings and camp is something you can all learn together.
Being BRAVE is doing something you don’t want to do it but know you should do it. This is a great lesson for all Scouts. Bryce is extremely BRAVE and works through many fears every week. Bryce loves being high in the sky – no fear of heights. Bryce loves fast rides – no fear of speed or spinning! Bryce grooms and rides a gigantic race horse – no fear of large animals! And yet Bryce is afraid of unfamiliar activities, foods, textures, and unpredictable sounds. His fears may not be the same as yours, but every person has their own fears. You can show respect for Bryce and cheer for him when you see him conquer his fear and be BRAVE at a meeting or camp.
Scouts with autism may be the cleanest in the troop. Many of the kids on the autism spectrum don’t like to be dirty or have anything unusual touching their skin or on their clothes. Bryce does not like being dirty, so being CLEAN is a very easy Scout law for him. He takes a shower every day and likes wear clean clothes without tags or holes. He is also learning how to keep our environment clean by putting trash in a container and recycling. He may need your assistance to teach him how to CLEAN up a project and campground. He learns well when someone models it for him and shows him how it’s done.
Bryce has been taught to be REVERANT and very respectful to others. He is continuing to learn how to be respectful to leaders, adults, and fellow Scouts, just like you. In turn, as his parents, we are asking you to be REVERANT and respectful to Bryce.