Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How the Girl Scouts helped my Autistic Daughter.

This past weekend my daughter and I participated in our local Girl Scout Encampment. It was a weekend full of activities for our local troops and a chance to meet other girls outside our own troop. For us, it was the first time my daughter, who has autism had ever been camping overnight with her troop. She has only been with her troop for a short while, but the group of girls that are in this troop are ones that have gone to school with my daughter. So they are aware in their own way, that she is a special little girl. They don't treat her any different and they treated her with the same amount of respect as they would any other girl within the troop. I wasn't going to write about this, but listening to my daughter talk non stop about her weekend with others who didn't go, it made me realize just how much Girl Scouts had impacted her and our lives.

Anyone who knows my daughter, knows that its the simple things that make her smile. Yes, she has her quirks, but for the most part she is a very simple and easy going child. She is also a child that so desperately wants to be part of something. Included in activities. It could be anything from playing with dolls to being invited to a birthday party. For the longest time we tried to find something that would be beneficial to her and her nature. As she looks at the things that the other girls do, like dancing and cheer leading, often wants to do the same. As her parent, I know what her limits are and as much as I don't want her to excluded from things or not try something, I know that there are certain venues, that are either just too competitive for her or just too much going on. So I figured that Girl Scouts was a good way to go, as I had seen my eldest do well with the Boy Scouts. I wanted something that would help her out socially but also give her a sense of friendship and kinship. It also gave her something to feel accomplished about, when getting badges.

Now I get that not all troops are created equal. With everything there is the good, the bad and the very bad. We are very fortunate to have a troop, that is very accepting. They recognize that my daughter has some difficulties with certain things, but with that they help her get through those tougher moments. And as a parent, watching this makes my heart velklempt a little. For any parent of a special needs child, all we want is for our children to be respected and accepted, regardless of what makes our child special needs. In an age where the number of bullying cases are on the raise, it is nice to have children rally around those who need an extra bit of love and support. It is an important lesson I think for children to be around others, who view the world differently, as everyone can learn something from each other.

During our weekend at the Encampment, my daughter stepped out of her comfort zone. Yeah, we had some times where there was an overload of the senses for her. But over all, this weekend was the weekend of firsts for her. She did activities, that I, as a parent, couldn't even imagine her doing. It was a huge step for her, for which she handled herself remarkably well. From Rock Climbing to learning how to shoot a bow properly. We went from baby steps to giant steps. She learned how to work as a team to get something done, from cooking breakfast to cleaning up our campsite. Social skills I don't think she realized she was learning.

Now that my husband is home from deployment, I can be more active with her, just as my mother was when I was in Girl Guides( That is our Girl Scouts, in Canada). Out of all the stuff I did back in my youth, Girl Guides, was the one thing that I felt accomplished in and have the fondest memories in.  I loved the outdoors. I loved the camping. I loved the camaraderie of my troop.  I want that for my daughter. I want her to have that feeling and have the fond memories that she will remember.  There is something to be said about the sense of kinship of a Girl Scout Troop.

So for my autistic little girl, Girl Scouts has made a positive impact on her. In a way, it has helped her come out of her bubble. Let her experience things, that she wouldn't normally do and show her that there are people out there that, just because she has something different from them, they will still respect her and support her in the best way they can. They see her for who she is, and still want to be her friend, which at the end of the day, for her is the most important thing.

Me: What was your favorite thing about this weekend?

Little Miss: Just being with my friends.

Need I say more?