Teaching Scouts to Interact with Disabled People Benefits Everyone

Yesterday my partner and I had to opportunity to participate in a district event called CLAW. It is an event where leaders teach different belt loops. Belt loops are advancements for cub scouts. The sessions were about 20 minutes. The one we chose was Cubs Who Care. That is the disability awareness one. They said that there would be no one better to do it.

How We Ran the Booth

Yesterday I was flaring. It was a crutches day. I do think this worked out considering what we were doing. It was outside in the Florida heat but it was worth it. My partner set up the table. We had the American Sign Language alphabet printed. We taught that, some numbers and the sign for toilet. The kids really enjoyed that one.

Right after the alphabet and numbers, I explained about name signs and how a hearing person cannot give a name sign. I explained that it is a sacred part of Deaf culture and they were glued to it. The parents asked questions. Even one parent asked me what the sign for shit meant. I told them that I cannot repeat it in English but its the bad word for poop.

On the back of the ASL sheet, we had them write their names with their non dominant hand so it can simulate having a hard time with gross motor skills.

After all that, I went over what an invisible disability was vs a visible disability. This will help when they grow up and see someone parked in disabled parking and not question whether or not they need it. When I asked what disability was visible, almost all of them answered tree. I thought this was cute. I then elaborated.

I used the example of if I didn’t tell them I was autistic, would they know. They said no. A few said yes which I thought was great. But if they saw me walking down the street using my crutches, would they know. They answered yes.

One parent was telling me about how his ADHD son would not talk to anyone and scouting allowed him to find something he loved. He was able to make friends and he met his best friend at cub scouts. His best friend helps the other kids interact with him. That’s what it’s all about.

A few asked me about my crutches because they look different. I use the smart crutches rainbow zebra. I also explained that these do not put pressure on my shoulders because I can dislocate them if I did. I explained what hyper mobility is. I explained that it sounds cool but it causes pain because most people’s joints will stop before it goes past a certain point. I told them that I need to be careful because if I laugh too hard at one of my partner’s jokes, I can dislocate or subluxate a rib. This made a few of the kids smile. I also explained that not everyone who uses mobility aids needs them all the time. They were glued to my every word. This allowed me to explain chronic illness with good days and bad days.

We had axillary crutches from when N hurt his leg by jumping off the top bunk. Several of the kids opted to try them and they did see how difficult it was . This part was optional.

For the last part of the session, we had them make beaded bracelets. I have a large collection of beads from the Jewelry I sell online. This was to simulate fine motor skills. I had small paracord because all scouts need a paracord bracelet. Some had a hard time getting some beads on the paracord. This was a great opportunity to show how I grab beads that I have a hard time with. I have a few needle nose pliers and a bead tweezer that I use because I do have a hard time with fine motor skills. They were amazed at how I did it.

That was an opportunity to explain just because you cannot do something one way does not mean you cannot do it another. Find the way it works for you.

People Got to See Autistic Overwhelm

At one point, my partner was getting sick from the heat and I had to run the table myself. After he left there were at least 20 people surrounding our 6 foot table and I was visibly getting overwhelmed. The parents did not judge or anything but they helped organize people. I think this was good to see how autistic overwhelm happens in an adult. It didn’t feel good at the time BUT I do think it was good for people to see.

Feedback From the Participants

As we were ending the event, it got back to us that the majority of the kids were practicing the ASL that was being taught at our booth. They were teaching their parents and their friends what they learned. This was the favorite among the Wolf level booths.

This generation of kids I am optimistic about. When these kids grow up, this world will be a better place for everyone.

Even after all that happened with the troop and pack, we know it wasn’t the district and council. We were happy that this was the last scout even before we move in a few months. We ended on a great note and look forward to the next adventure.

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