Blog | Ask The Scout Association: Autism
Would you know how to support a young person with autism in your section? We recently brought together a group of local inclusion volunteers, to run a Twitter Q&A, to share practical tips and guidance.
The National Autistic Society estimates that 1% of the UK population falls on the autism spectrum, so the chances are, you will have met someone with the condition. Autism is a lifelong condition which affects the way a person interprets the world around them, and interacts with others. Autism is a spectrum condition; individuals with autism share certain areas of difficulty, but are affected in different ways and to different levels.
You don’t have to be an expert to support a young person with autism. There are simple things that can make a big difference and there are already lots of supportive aspects in Scouting that you can use. As with any young person, it’s about getting to know them as an individual and understanding their strengths and difficulties.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when you need it. Sharing ideas and gaining different perspectives can be really valuable. So, we brought together a group of inclusion volunteers; Michelle Iddon, Claire Bake, Emma Masefield, and Jo Wincup; and we took to Twitter to answer some common questions.
Engaging with the parents or carers of a child with autism is the first step to successful inclusion. We are currently developing guidance and resources, to support you in working in partnership with parents and carers, to go alongside the following great tips from our volunteers:
- Get all the information. Ask about the child’s condition, diagnosis, needs and any medication. Without this key knowledge, you risk misunderstanding or misinterpreting the needs of the young person, which can lead to Scouting not working for them.
- Remember the positives. While understanding what might trigger disruptive behaviour is useful, it is also vital to know what their child is capable of and enjoys. This way, you also build positive expectations for a parent, who may be concerned about their child starting something new.
- Be honest. Scout Leaders are not professional youth workers: we ask for parents and carers’ advice as they are the experts on their child’s behaviour.
Considering how to communicate most effectively is important for all young people to get the most out of Scouting. It is particularly for young people with autism, who will have some difficulties in understanding or interpreting communication. Our volunteers shared their ideas about effective communication and support:
- Speak clearly. Use simple language and provide enough time for interpretation before giving the next instruction. Visual communication aids can also help – pictures of people doing activities, or a timetable showing what’s happening now and what will happen next.
- The buddy system. Consider pairing the young person with a peer or Young Leader who can help them to participate in activities. This buddy should be given support and advice from Leaders, helping them to understand their friend’s behaviour and intentions.
- Consider adapting activities. Make sure the Leadership team understands how activities can be adapted to be suitably challenging. This could be an opportunity to practice teamwork and peer support, or it might mean allocating extra time to a task.
You can read the whole Twitter conversation, and share your thoughts, by using the hashtag #AskTSAautism. For more information and guidance, visit scouts.org.uk/autism.
Have more questions for the inclusion team or great stories to share? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.