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Principle and Strategies

This page contains practical guidance on supporting young people with autism in Scouting. For general information about autism to help you understand why these principles and strategies work, please visit scouts.org.uk/autism

You don't have to be an expert to support a young person with autism. There are a range of simple adjustments with can have a significant impact to help them access Scouting and develop their full potential.

Everyone is different so it's important to develop a good relationship with the parents or carers; they will be a valuable source of information about the young person's needs and any strategies that work well at school or home. For more information about working in partnership with parents or carers click here.

Principles and strategies for supporting young people with autism are below, and many can be useful for the Section as a whole.

As a reminder of these key principles, you can also display our Autism Friendly Scouting poster, which is available to download in two versions here.

Clear and simple communication

Allow processing time

Be visual

Provide structure, routine and predictability

Give clear rules and expectations

Be prepared and plan ahead

Discuss with the parent or carer how to best introduce the young person to your Section/ Unit. Would it be helpful for them to visit a meeting, before they start attending? Would some written information or even some photographs be useful, so they know what to expect? See our Visual Supports page for further information.

Work with the parent or carer to plan adaptations to the Programme and activities. For example, adapting the way you give instructions, being aware of the level of noise and time when additional support will be required (eg. activities involving teamwork).

Prepare the young person in advance for any changes. It may be helpful to issue a copy of the Programme in advance, to help the young person prepare. An upcoming trip or camp will probably be very exciting for most young people, but for someone with autism, there may be a lot more worries and anxiety about what will happen. Reassurance and further information about what to expect may be needed. Showing the person photos or pictures of where they will be going, can help to reduce this anxiety. 

Remember, the young person is joining your Scout Group as a whole, not just your Section. Remember to plan ahead for their transition into the next Section.

Help other young people to understand

Be prepared to answer questions from other Members about the young person's behaviours or communication style. Remember, young people with autism are more vulnerable to teasing and bullying, and it is important that Scouting provides a supportive environment.

Consider covering autism as part of the Disability Awareness Activity Badge for Beavers or Cubs.

If the young person and parent/ carer are comfortable, the National Autistic Society have a worksheet designed to introduce young people to autism, and even some lesson plans which could be adapted for Scouting. 

Be positive and hopeful

Manage the environment

Have a calm and quiet space for young people to go to if they become anxious or frustrated. It may be worth keeping this area cool in temperature, as if someone is frustrated or angry; they are more likely to be warm. If the young person has trouble communicating they need a break, you could introduce a 'time out card' which can be handed to the Leader to request a break.

Extra support

Consider a buddy system, where other young people in the Section provide some additional support. This could be particularly helpful at unstructured times, like breaks.

Provide extra supervision, particularly if there are issues with sensing danger. It is important to discuss with the parent or carer how much supervision the young person will need and to risk assess the young person's inclusion in Scouting, putting measures in place to reduce any risk to the young person

You can find further information and guidance in supporting young people with autism who display challenging behaviour here.


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