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Autism and Scout Engagement Strategies

Children with autism have deficits in language and social skills. They tend to keep to themselves, and find it difficult to interact with others. Social skills are important for work and independent living. They include non verbal skills such as eye contact, body language, physical proximity, and also verbal skills such as initiating a conversation, ending a conversation, asking questions etc. Here are some ideas and strategies on peer engagement and autism that can be used in  Scout Unit.

Peer Modeling:

Initially a lot of autism social skills interventions were adult initiated. However, it has been observed that when children with autism are around regular peers they tend to imitate some social behaviors and pick up social skills. Thus an inclusive classroom is a great place to start teaching social skills to children with autism.

Teaching Scouts to Interact with Children with Autism

Other scouts in the unit can be educated about autism, and can be encouraged to interact with autistic scouts. Troop wide interventions which include the non disabled Scouts have been found to be more effective than interventions specific to scouts with autism.

Social Skills Groups

Social skills groups have been found to be effective for children with autism. Social skills groups focus on teaching social skills like initiating conversations, body language, simple conversation etc. Some of the areas that have been covered in different studies are increasing proximity during play, increasing social initiations, increasing social communication, showing appropriate affective behavior and engaging in symbolic and socio dramatic play. Social skills groups must be short, and allow time for children to practice skills.

Patrols/Dens

Scout Patrols or Dens provide a non competitive and comfortable opportunity for scouts with autism to practice social skills that they have learned. Scouts can be observed, and feedback about their social skills can be given to their parents. Play groups coupled with social skills training can be a very effective strategy to improve peer interaction.