A challenge for many parents of children with autism is finding age-appropriate activities that help improve their social skills and interaction with others. For some, the Cub Scouts (part of The Boys Scouts of America) can provide a great way for children to improve in these and other areas, all while having fun in the process.
Designed for children in grades 1 through 5 (ages 7 to 10 yrs), Cub Scouting helps prepare youngsters for the more-rigid and structured Boys Scouts program and offers a myriad of activities that help bring families together. In a no-pressure environment, children participate in optional programs such as campouts, educational courses, picnics and other events. Most activities are based on a rewards system, meaning each time a new skill-set is learned or activity is completed, a child is awarded a patch, badge or pin — something that many children with autism respond very well to.
While not suited for everyone (kids on the lower end of the spectrum may have some difficulties), the Cub Scouts offers a great way for children with autism to spend quality time with their parents or families and learn important life management skills while doing so.
Our nine-year-old is in his first year of Cub Scouts and is benefiting a great deal from the program. In his brief three months of involvement, he’s improved his fine-motor skills (attempting to tie knots and set up tents), increased socialization with peers and for the first time, has a sense of belonging to something he really enjoys. In fact, he recently stated that the Cub Scouts has "changed his life." The other kids have been very accepting and supportive of him — something that has played a big role in his success thus far.
And with so many non-traditional families out there, there’s a good mix of mothers, fathers, grandparents and even caregivers that participate in many of the events. This parental involvement is crucial for a positive experience for scouts and even more so for children with autism, so it’s not recommended getting involved unless you are willing to commit to the time with your child.
With minimal financial commitments and positive upside potential, I would recommend parents of children with autism giving Cub Scouts a try. Ask if you can pay your dues in monthly installments (ours is $10/month), so you won’t be financially committed in the event things don’t work out. Trying this new venture just may help your child find his passion and develop skills that will be beneficial for years to come.
To find a Cub Scouts program near you, visit https://beascout.scouting.org click on the ‘Cub Scouts’ tab and enter in your zip code.