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Autism e-learning Updated e-learning coming soon

We believe everyone, regardless of their additional needs, should be able to participate in Scouts.

All Groups must make reasonable adjustments to support young people with additional needs, so that all young people can access all sections.

Click here for more information about our policy.

With the right support, there is no reason why a young autistic person cannot fully access Scouting.

Additional support and resources

You can view the first Scouting and autism webinar here (first broadcast on 25 April 2019).

There are already some great things we do as Scouts that support young autistic people, for example our structured sessions and our balanced programme. The range of activities and experiences offered help them and their non-autistic friends in many ways to develop skills for life. However, there are also some things that young people on the autism spectrum may find challenging and need extra support with.

We are committed to help adults in Scouting understand autism and to provide resources and guidance to help leaders.

These pages will help you to better understand and support young autistic people in Scouting.

Principles and strategies

Visual supports


Further information and support

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition affecting how someone communicates with and relates to other people and the world around them. It can be thought of as an invisible or hidden disability. Autistic individuals share certain areas of difficulty, but are affected in different ways and of different levels.

This is why the term Autism Spectrum Disorder or Condition (ASD/ ASC) exists. There are a range of terms that may be used which fall on this spectrum, including autism, high-functioning autism (HFA) and Asperger Syndrome. Autism can be referred to as a hidden disability, as you can't tell that someone is autistic just by looking at them and this can lead to the individual being misinterpreted or judged. Young people on the autism spectrum are also more vulnerable to bullying, with over 40% of autistic children having been bullied at school (National Autistic Society, 2006).

Some autistic individuals are able to have independent lives and careers, whereas others will require specialist support throughout their lives. Some individuals will have learning disabilities (44% to 52% according to the National Autistic Society) or another difficulty such as dyspraxia. Here is a link to the video My Autism and Me which can give you an insight into the lives of some young people with autism. Or read about Queen's Scout Award holder, Bethanie Pearce or Explorer Scout, James' experiences of autism and Scouting.

What is Asperger syndrome?

Although the term Asperger syndrome is no longer being used in diagnosis, you may hear it used to describe those who are on the autism spectrum. They may have fewer problems with communication and are usually of average or above average intelligence. Young people with Asperger syndrome may have better or advanced language development and appear more skilled in their social relationships.

How common is autism?

Autism is much more common than many people think. More than 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic and the estimates keep increasing. The National Autistic Society estimates that 4 times as many males as females have a diagnosis.

This is not due to less females being autistic but, rather limited awareness of autism in women and girls, which leads to women and girls being under diagnosed or misdiagnosed; this is getting much better in the UK and more and more girls are also now being diagnosed as autistic.

What difficulties may a young person with autism have in Scouting?

There are some naturally supportive things about Scouting for a young person on the autism spectrum. The caring environment and flexibility of the Programme will support inclusion, and our structures and routines can help the young person to feel comfortable and to engage. However, things like the levels of activity and noise within Scouting as well as new situations/ activities can cause challenges for a young autistic person.

It is important to remember that each young person on the autism spectrum, just like any child, will be different. The core areas of difference are as follows, along with examples of possible difficulties.

Communication: difficulties in understanding and using communication effectively. The young person is likely to be good at learning visually (eg. by watching or seeing pictures), however will have some level of difficulty, for example;

Some young people with autism may be non-verbal or use an alternative form of communication such as Makaton.

Social interaction: difficulties understanding social behaviour and interacting with others, meaning that activities involving teamwork will be more challenging. It may be useful to know there is specific guidance on the teamwork and team leader challenge awards available to leaders on the badges section of the website. Possible difficulties and differences around social interaction are:

Sensory differences: Many young autistic people will also have sensory differences, meaning that they experience their surroundings in a different way through their senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell). A young autistic person may be facing a constant struggle to feel balanced and comfortable in their environments.

They may be hyper-sensitive (over sensitive) to any of their senses. For example, they may find loud noises, busy environments or touch difficult. Noisy routines such as the Grand Howl in Cub Packs may cause challenges for the young person.

This is hard for the young person to ignore and can cause distress or even physical pain. They may show behaviours to block out or escape from these experiences (eg. covering their ears or humming).

They may also be hypo-sensitive (under-sensitive), meaning that they crave more information into their senses, to feel balanced. They may show behaviours that stimulate their senses (eg. moving fingers in front of eyes, touching everything). There may also be difficulties with their awareness of their body, for example affecting motor coordination or balance. There may also be difficulties with their awareness of their body, for example affecting motor coordination or balance.

How might being autistic affect a young person's behaviour?

The young person's difficulties and differences may lead to unusual behaviours (eg. flapping their arms) or even behaviours that challenge (eg. running off or more rarely, hitting out). It can often be difficult to determine the cause of behaviours that challenge, which can sometimes appear to have occurred to non-autistic people for no apparent reason, therefore, some good detective work is needed. Remember, the distress experienced by an autistic young person can lead to a very high level of stress and anxiety, which could lead to a range of other behaviours. Please see the links below for further information.

Principles and strategies

Visual supports


Further information and support


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