What is Autism?
We celebrate diversity in Scouting and autistic adults and young people are welcome in our Scout Groups. 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 are designed to help you to better understand and support young autistic people in Scouting.
Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
Autistic people are autistic for life. Autism is not an illness or disease, and it can’t be ‘cured’. All autistic people share certain characteristics, but being autistic affects different people in different ways. Autism can have both positive and negative effects on someone’s life. Autistic people will share diagnostic areas, but the ways these areas present are different for everyone. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health needs, or other conditions, so people need different levels of support.
There are different named you might hear used for Autism, which reflect different features that individuals present with and when a diagnosis was made. from 2015 suggests that there is no one term that everyone prefers, although many prefer first person ‘autistic person’ rather than ‘person with autism’. It’s important to check with the young person and their family about the language they use to talk about their diagnosis. For example, some autistic young people who join Scouts may have already been given a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, and they may prefer to use this term when talking about their diagnosis.
You can read more about these terms on the National Autistic Society pages.
Common features of autistic people include the following:
- Differences in social communication and interaction
- Repetitive behaviours and a preference for routine
- Special interests or an intense focus on interests that may be very important to them
- Sensory sensitivities or differences
The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another. It’s often said that the differences that autistic girls experience present more subtly, or appear subtle to others. Some autistic girls (and all genders) mask their autism to try and hide the fact that they feel different or to manage in their environment. To do this, they may copy behaviour from others around them and can be exhausted by the constant effort to appear similar to others. They may be unaware they’re ‘masking’.
Some autistic people may have an additional diagnosis such as Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) - individuals with this profile of autism have a tendency to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. Many of the strategies on these pages will also help individuals with PDA, but others will not.
Updated e-learning coming soon