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Principle and Strategies

This page contains practical guidance on supporting young autistic people 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 autistic person but you do need to be willing to see things from a different perspective and to care.

There are a range of simple adjustments with can have a significant impact to help everyone 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 autistic people 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. 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 an autistic young person 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 Scouting not just your Section and so ensuring they can successfully move between the sections in your Group and onto Explorer provision is important.  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 autistic people 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

  • praise or reward appropriate behaviour; specific praise is best, so tell the person exactly what it is that they have done well (eg. "Thomas, good listening, well done")
  • take a positive approach to reducing any challenging behaviours- do some detective work using your knowledge of autism, to figure out what may have caused the behaviour and how you can prevent this next time
  • be patient

  • 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. This could be a separate room if one is available or could be a corridor, outside or cornered off area in the hall.

    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 extra adult volunteers to provide some additional support. This could be particularly helpful at unstructured times, like breaks. It’s important to think creatively and use experienced assistant section leaders to support young people with additional needs, while extra adult volunteers can support elsewhere in the section.  It is also good to remember that all young people in the section should be supporting each other, and our Scout structures support this.  For example in Cubs young people are in Sixes, supported by a Sixer and Seconder and as part of the Team Leader Challenge Award Cubs help a new Cub.  However another young person should never be the designated support.

    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 autistic people with who display challenging behaviour here.



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