Monday night signalled a big milestone in Matthew’s life as he went to Beavers for the last time. It has been a major part of his life for 2 years and I am thrilled that he has decided to continue on to Cubs.
I am incredibly proud of all he has achieved. It had boosted his confidence, independence and inspired him to try new things. He has been challenged emotionally and physically, learned new skills and had access to activities that he would never have had the opportunity to try if he hadn’t been a Beaver.
It has also been a journey for our whole family. Matthew’s first session was less that 24 hours after I gave birth to Zach. Two weeks later we went to the St George’s Day activity celebration as I battled mastitis.
Matthew has been to sleepovers (the first was NOT successful but the second one was!) Last week he played football with a group of friends: I had no idea he even knew how to play! Chris and I have both been in for cooking for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. We have collected donations on the Santa sleigh and attended Remembrance parades. We have been on hikes and love Bonfire Night.
Apart from the separation anxiety and homesickness on the first sleepover, there has been one major obstacle for Matthew to overcome. He detests the bumblebee campfire song and completely freaked out the first time they sang it. His reaction singled him out because he was in such contrast to the rest of the group who were laughing at the ridiculous lyrics. Matthew has a big problem with unkindness and takes the song seriously. I have had to be with him on all subsequent occasions and we are warned in advance if they want to sing it.
I was shocked on Monday to read the story of a family that successfully sued the Scout Association and received £42,000. Obviously I only know what has been reported in the press but I acknowledge that mistakes were made and the breach of privacy in an email is appalling. Yet the family don’t mind their child plastered all over the newspapers…
I applaud the parents for wanting to raise awareness and improve standards in scouting but they lost all credibility when they pocketed the money, even if they did make a donation to a charity (of which the mum is a trustee).
Scouts leaders are volunteers with no compulsory specialist training on autism or other needs. That money will make little difference to the family but could make a lot of difference to the Scouts which is a charity reliant on subs and donations but most importantly the goodwill of the volunteers. I have heard appalling tales from leaders about being taken for granted, used as a babysitting service by parents who collect their children up to an hour late.
Reasonable steps should be taken to make Scouts inclusive. Scout leaders are there to provide activities and support but sadly discipline may also be required as behaviour can be an issue. At our group, parents are encouraged to attend on a rota basis and if the leaders are aware of specific issues (such as Matthew and the song) then adjustments can be made and parental support requested.
Health and safety is such a watch word at the moment as is safeguarding. Protecting our children’s wellbeing is of paramount importance. As parents we must take responsibility for making the world accessible to our children and realise that teachers, leaders and others have multiple children to consider. A focus on the needs of one individual must not be allowed to compromise the whole group. An adult required to support an individual during activities results in a reduced adult-child ratio for supervising the rest of the group, therefore increasing risks.
Anya starts her Beavers journey in September and Zach is also on the waiting list.
On behalf of my family, I want to say a massive thank you to all the leaders for their dedication and support. I am grateful for the time you spend each week making a difference to children’s lives.