M had been desperate to be a Scout since seeing a programme on the telly involving a group of Scouts doing some fun outdoor activities. M has always loved being outside, so seeing this just sparked his imagination of being somewhere he could learn about something he loved. We did have long talks with him about that is wasn’t being outside all of the time, and that most meetings would be held indoors. We showed him things on the internet about what they did, and this seemed to ignite his imagination more. It was lovely to see him get so excited about the idea of joining in with an extra curricular activity.
We were told there was a Scout troop in the town, and put his name on the waiting list to join Beavers, the scouting youngest group – he was just 7 at the time. We also put D’s name down, as he too was really excited about the idea. I had several conversations with the group leader about M’s problems, and how the sessions might affect him. The decision was made that once a place was available, then I would stay as a helper, until he felt comfortable enough to stay by himself.
Time passed and no place came up, that was until he passed his 8th birthday, and there was a place for him at Cubs, the next age group up. He was beside himself with anticipation on the day of his first meeting. One of his classmates was also joining on the same day as him, although she had been to Beavers so had some idea what it was all about. Her Dad was a parent helper, and it was somebody M knew and respected, and therefore somebody who knew M, and could see signs of him potentially not coping.
It was noisey and chaotic, but M seemed to enjoy it, and was on an amazing high after the session. There had been several people he knew from school there, and we hoped familiar faces might be a positive thing – although we had also hoped that mixing with a wider circle of people would maybe help him make a friendship bond.
Things went well. Either I took him, or Hubby took him, and gradually we removed ourselves from the room, to allow him to be himself – although we never actually left the premises so he knew there was somebody there if he got into difficulty. He appeared to be coping.
He was so proud when he got his uniform, and even more so when he got inducted, and got his pack badges. It seemed to all be going well.
He had an amazing time when they went to the local dry ski slope. He even managed to go the whole way down without falling over!
Then he was making excuses not to go. He would “give it a miss” for a week. He just seemed to have lost interest.
Talking to him, he was reassured, that anything out of school that he did, had to be because he wanted to – both Hubby and I were forced into so many extras at his age, I think we realise that anything we make the kids do, has to be because they are either really enjoying it, or potentially very good at it so you encourage them. M said he didn’t want to go back to Cubs. We were quite surprised. We needed to know why, and while we reassured him if he wasn’t enjoying it, that was fine that he gave it away, we would like to know if there was a reason.
His answer was very sad, and a sign of how difficult a young boy with ASD finds life. He said he wasn’t making any friends because there were only the people who wouldn’t be his friends at school there – he has recently verbalised to his teacher that he has no friends at school which is a sign of how much he realises that it isn’t “normal”. To always feel you are on the outside looking in, no matter how hard you try to move from your comfort zone must be horrible. It is so difficult to put yourself into his position to try an imagine what it must be like to see people buddying up, and having no concept of what it would be like to be in that position or how to move towards making it happen. He does interact slightly better with some people than he used to, but by no stretch of the imagination could you say he had friends, let a lone a circle of friends which would be expected at his age. He will try and play with D and his group some lunchtimes at school, but it seems they don’t usually want an older kid hanging around with them.
So an email has been sent to the pack leaders to say M has decided not to continue, and we look for other activities that might spark him into interacting with others in a way he feels more comfortable. Trying to force him into being with people is only going to make him stressed, so anything we find for him to try has to something he can start solo before easing into interaction with others – so not too high an order then!!
We are just hoping M’s decision doesn’t make D think twice about Beavers, as he is loving it. Luckily though, D has a couple of friends that also go, so he isn’t alone in a crowed room as M has been.