Many of the extracurricular options for children, team sports in particular, are not well suited for a child with autism due to the social, communication, or coordination required.
Scouting has much to offer a child with autism. Scouting places its members in a wide variety of social situations with a mixture of people and tasks. This gives the Scout with autism a chance to learn acceptable behaviors. Children with autism and other disabilities benefit from the self-paced nature of the Scouting advancement system. It allows them to participate and socialize with other Scouts of different skill levels, especially in teaching situations. Scouts with autism can learn about others’ feelings while performing service hours in community activities. Participating in service projects focuses on learning to be a good citizen which builds a sense of belonging to a larger community.
Scouting can help create a safe community for youth with autism. Many children with disabilities have no friends outside of their immediate family and their paid caregivers. Scouting offers a chance for them to make genuine friends. These friendships can carry over to school and other activities beyond their Scouting unit.
The Scouting program offers lots of opportunities to strengthen practical skills. For example, Scouts with autism can improve their public speaking skills while giving troop presentations on skills or merit badge topics. They can develop motor skills while learning to tie knots or working on tent set up for camping.
Leadership positions in a troop are another excellent way for Scouts with autism to learn tolerance and a flexibility of thinking. They come to realize that leading requires motivating others, which helps them understand that multiple viewpoints are valid and should be respected. Troop Leadership Training can be a great way for Scouts with autism to become more aware of what is normal behavior in social interactions.
Below are several BSA publications related to scouts with Autism and/or other disabilities, that contain information that could help both parents of Scouts with autism and Scouters with autistic scouts in their Unit. The "Individual Scout Action Plan" was developed by the Working with Scouts with DisAbilities website and is similar to an "Individual Education Program" (IEP) that a disabled student would have at school. This is not an official BSA worksheet, but could be a very useful tool in helping an autistic Scout advance and thrive in the BSA.