Autistic children in scouting - does it work anywhere?

At a recent coffee morning we had an interesting discussion about autistic children attending local scout groups.

The general experience seemed to be negative but there was one +ve experience.

I will relate my own experience below but there were other similar horror stories of appalling leadership practise and a simple refusal to make any adjustments to accommodate autistic children. 

I bought up the subject as my eldest was banned from our local beaver group after I made a request for reasonable adjustments.He has Aspergers and I always attended meetings with him to support him so there really wasn't a big problem in accommodating his extra needs. My requests were minor - at a sleepover I asked for specific food which I would supply and highlighted the need for him to sleep in the same room as me. Both of these accommodations had been made at a previous sleepover. However a new leader was in place and she went absolutely ballistic at my request and said my attendance at her group was disruptive to other children! From what I had previously observed I think her concerns related more to their poor safeguarding practise then any alleged disruption to other children.

Their actions were clearly illegally but when I started legal proceedings (simply to get any response to my complaint) the Scout Association employed an expensive solicitor to fight their case. I chose not to pursue the matter as the risks of losing and incurring costs exceeded any benefit from winning. My son had dropped out of scouting and no court award was going to change that outcome.At the time we only had a diagnosis for our son. Now some 12 months later we finally have an EHCP in place which clearly outlines my sons needs. Perhaps with the EHCP I would have had more confidence in continuing  with the court case as it could have been used in court and would have been hard for the Scout Association to challenge.

I have recently been told that our youngest son (not autistic) has also been banned from the local group. No reason has been given. He can't attend any other group as the local District are insisting children have to attend their nearest group. Again the action is probably illegal but not worth the effort of fighting as the Scout Association simply don't apply their own rules or support parents/children targeted by bigoted leaders 

I notice NAS promote scouting in their magazine but from my experience the overwhelming opinion is that scouting is a waste of time. The children end up being excluded and suffer unnecessary distress as a result. Is it just the area I live in or is it a wider problem. Their lots of good guidance of the scout website but it just isn't followed locally,.

I believe the chief scout is still Bear Grylis. Personally  I am surprised he continues to be associated with an organisation  that so blatantly discriminates against disabled people. He never replied to my correspondence to him. Instead the Chief Executive replied with  a very legalistic denial of any wrong doing and stating that all children were welcome in scouting.

  • Hi, I've heard about a very positive experience, also a boy, but guess it totally comes down to individual group leaders and as you have experienced, you have no choice there, even if you have the best of reasons for trying a different group. Not sure whom they think this inflexibility is benefiting, but if that's what they do then that's what they do. And if you (and your kids) are unlucky enough to be closest to a group with a leader who doesn't have a clue about ASD (or whatever else a child may have) then you can perhaps argue long enough and they may end up not being able to just exclude that child, but is it going to be nice for your child and you? I guess not, unless the whole process leads to changing the leader, but I guess they are unlikely to go that far, they may just ask them to read a bit about it or so. But it's more an attitude thing, I'd think, because otherwise that person would already have read some information and asked for advice when needed. Seems very sad, maybe you are lucky and they have another leader change soon and all may be totally different.