Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cub scouting and ADHD

Dylan and I just got back from a 4-day camping trip. Webelos Adventure Camp. Now, I do not recommend camping in Southern Mississippi in late June. Too hot, too many red ants, and did I mention it's too hot?

But I do wholeheartedly recommend scouting.

I've seen posts on message board where parents can't deal with having their son with ADHD in cub scouting and I get it. I do.  

Den meetings are a challenge. While there are a lot of things that cub scouts do that are active, there are also a lot of requirements that require them to sit still, be quiet, and pay attention.

Yeah, right.

For better or worse, I am also Dylan's den leader.

On the one hand, you might think that would help. After all, I would be in the leadership position to tell him to be quiet, sit still, and pay attention.  I should have the most experience dealing with him.

But being a den leader has been a challenge.

When he was younger, it was worse.  He would want to talk to me as mommy while I was leading the meeting. He would get upset if I didn't give him all the jobs and let him lead the pledge, etc.

We also had boys in the den who played into his needs pretty negatively.  

As he's gotten older and the den has changed and different members have come and gone, and we've gotten more into a routine. He better, if not entirely, understands that I can't be focused exclusively on him. The boys understand him more and some of them have also been diagnosed with ADHD.

More than all that, I think scouting gives him regular opportunities to grow, learn, and achieve in ways that school simply does not.  Most of the achievements cub scouts are required to fulfill don't rely on executive function skills the way math, reading, and writing do.

When he does fulfill achievements, he gets that all-important positive feedback. While not quite immediate, it's close enough to count. Close enough to keep him working at it.

Scouting also lets him face his fears. Dylan hates, hates, insects. Yet he charged headlong into the weekend and never once complained about the ants or any of the other insects around us.

I did have a moment that gave me pause, not long after we got there. He had to take a swim test, consisting of swimming four lengths of the pool. I wish I could say that he passed with flying colors. He was terrified to take the test and did not do well. He did jump in into the 12-feet of water (which thoroughly impressed me). But despite swim lessons in the past and this summer, he couldn't even make it half a length. I know he has the ability - but he overthinks it, both in lessons and during this test.  Once he starts swimming and doing well, he realizes he's swimming. He especially realized he was in 12-ft of water.

He tried twice but neither time took. He was crushed.  He said he wanted to go home and didn't want to be in scouts anymore. I was heartbroken for him and I wasn't sure what would happen.

But this is where scouting is so good. Despite what he said, he stuck with it. In fact, in about an hour or two, he'd shaken it all off. He swam in the pool during formal and informal activities in the 3-ft section with nary a complaint. In fact, he didn't mention his failure again - a very rare occurrence for him.

I won't say that he didn't have oppositional moments. Moments where I had to walk away from him so I didn't say too much. Moments where I wondered how could he not see what I was doing for him (sleeping with the bugs, in the extreme heat, taking time off from work, etc., etc.) and not be at least slightly appreciative. 

In the end, he was, appreciative, that is.

Despite the ants, and the heat, and the disastrous swim test, he got a lot out of the weekend and, despite the ants and the heat and the disastrous swim test, I guess I did, too.  I saw a glimpse of a more mature boy, a boy who doesn't give up, who respects authority, and who becomes a strong adult I will be proud to call my son. Just as I was proud to call him my son this weekend.

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