Great program happens when we support youth members to lead in Scouting – when young people get to set goals for the unit, create a programme, and deliver activities, they’re making a Scout group that meets their needs and interests. In the same way, we can create neurodiverse Scout groups which fit everyone’s needs by listening to what young people need to feel safe and supported at Scouts, and facilitating an environment where success is within reach for everyone.
As an adult (particularly if you are neurotypical), it’s important to assess what young people need from the Scout group to ensure they can stay safe and have fun. We can do this by involving our youth members at every step of the process, seeking their input, and having an open dialogue about their needs and goals. If we don’t involve them – by assuming their needs, or by working to our own needs – we risk alienating young people and creating an environment which doesn’t give everyone the same opportunities.
Just like with planning a program, the level of involvement youth members will have in creating a neurodiverse group will depend on their age. The level of adult support required from leaders and parents will differ, too:
|Section||Youth Leading||Adults Supporting|
|Joeys/Keas/Beavers||Joeys give input on the programme Joeys are given opportunities to reflect on how the Joey Scout Promise and Law encourages them to support other Joeys. Joeys are encouraged to identify when they feel something is not comfortable for them.||Leaders consult parents to identify what needs Joeys have – whether diagnosed, undiagnosed or informal Leaders provide activities which are flexible in scope to accommodate differing individual needs and interests.|
|Cubs||Cubs are encouraged to pursue an interest in new fields they are curious about. Cubs are introduced to ‘challenge by choice’ and supported to find alternative ways to engage when they do not yet feel confident with adventurous and new activities.||Leaders facilitate engagement in challenging activities at a level which is comfortable for every Cub. Leaders work with Cubs and parents to identify opportunities to branch out or consolidate exists skills and interests.|
|Scouts||The Troop Council make sure the Troop goals are achievable for everyone. Scouts communicate openly with each other about their needs and goals. Patrol Leaders are responsible for ensuring that everyone gets a ‘fair go’ – supporting Scouts to participate in activities and play a meaningful role in their unit. Scouts plan activities which everyone in the troop is capable of participating in equally. Scouts choose what skills they want to develop from the Outdoor Adventure Skills and what level they feel is appropriate for them.||Leaders provide support to facilitate Scouts planning and running their own programme Leaders provide guidance to Troop Council, Patrol Leaders and individual Scouts on how to ensure everyone is able to participate in activities. Leaders support individual Scouts as needed to attain competence in Outdoor Adventure Skills.|
|Venturers/Explorers||Venturers design a programme which is engaging and challenging for everyone, recognising that not all members of the Unit will be interested in completing the same challenges.||Leaders allow Venturers to work independently where possible – even if this means they don’t always get it right.|
|Rovers/Network||Rovers design their programme to provide a targeted level of challenge Rovers who have lived experience or professional experience in neurodiversity have the opportunity to mentor others and advocate for their needs through Region, Branch, and National Rover Councils Event committees work together to ensure that everyone can participate fully at major events.||Specialist leaders and external experts are available for guidance as necessary. Rover Advisors work with Crews consistently to provide ongoing monitoring.|
Some of the items about might sound familiar, because they’re exactly the same for both neurotypical and neurodiverse youth members! Regardless of disability, all Scouts should have opportunities to contribute to the program, lead the unit in activities, and be challenged by the experience.