Autism-positive Scout troops coming to Calgary
'It's important to know that, yes, these kids can achieve things'
Scouts Canada is hoping to fill a void in Calgary by offering specialized troops for children with autism spectrum disorder.
The organization is teaming up with Autism Calgary for the project and held an information session on Tuesday night.
It's often difficult for kids with autism to fit in with organized group activities.
Angela Gough hopes the specialized troops can change that for her nine-year-old son.
"It can be really isolating to be on the spectrum and not have somewhere to go," she said.
"It's important to know that, yes, these kids can achieve things. And especially when we're meeting their needs and supporting them properly they can do a lot of stuff. So it's great that they can still participate and hit benchmarks."
Challenges in socialization
The neurodevelopmental disorder is characterized by observable challenges in socialization, speech and communication and repetitive and or restrictive behaviours, Autism Calgary says on its website.
The new troops will offer a specialized setting with an increased ratio of adults to kids, as well as autism-aware volunteers and special needs assistance, said Kelly Logan, a manager with Scouts Canada.
"I think children on the autistic spectrum can find it very tricky because … they do have problems with social situations, and that can make them stand out, and it can make other people not want to play with them," she said.
"Being part of an organization that includes everybody is great for those kids because it's not really a handicap for them, it's just who they are and we accept them for that."
The troops will be piloted with Beavers, for kids five to seven, and Cubs, for kids eight to 10 years old.
Many families interested
Autism Calgary says it has already had interest from more than 90 families wanting to participate.
Logan says the program is beneficial for the other kids, too.
"It gives them the skills to understand how they can help their friends. Not everybody's the same, and it gives them those skills to be more inclusive themselves and more accepting and kind."