Just like schools, every Scout group is different: It may be wise to try several Scout groups before choosing one to stay at.
Some Scout Leaders and groups have extensive experience with neurodiverse Scouts. Others may think they don’t have any at all (although it’s likely this isn’t quite accurate – they may have just not realised!)
- “Can you send me a copy of your program for this term?” Seeing a term program will give you an idea.
- “Do you have experience with neurodiverse Scouts?” Some groups will have lots of experience – some very little. This question also gives leaders an opportunity to ask about your child.
- “How large is your group?” While it’s not a sure-fire way to check for excellence, large groups with lots of youth members are usually the ones with welcoming, organised leaders, a vibrant program and young people who feel supported and empowered. If your Scout prefers small groups, you may want to seek out a group with less Scouts. Small groups may also have a higher adult-to-youth ratio and be a less scary environment for some children.
- “What expectations do you have of parents?” Scouting only runs because of volunteers. Every group has different expectations of parents and family – if you don’t feel confident volunteering to be a leader, discuss how you can be involved in the committee or informally. Being involved is the best way to monitor how your Scout is going and to be able to help make changes when needed.
- Tell them about what you are looking for. Would you like your child to have more opportunities to build their independence and participate in adventurous activities? Is their focus making friends and developing a social network rather than on obtaining badges? Every group is different, so talking about your expectations is a good way to check whether you are both enthusiastic about the same opportunities.
When you do visit a Scout group, be sure to stick around – even if just for a few minutes. Although it’s normal to be focused on your child, keep an eye also on the leaders involved. Do they seem in control of what’s happening?
Talk to your child afterwards: Did they feel comfortable? Did they enjoy it?
Don’t be afraid to try multiple groups until you find one which is the right fit for your child – and you. A supportive Scout group can be a great resource for young people who may not feel supported at school and can provide a sense of familiarity and connection when other situations in their life are changing.