Scouting and Special Needs Children: Camping–Packing #1

In the introduction to Scouting and Special Needs Children, I noted how many different skills are actually involved in a simple overnight camping trip.  Each of these skills should be taught to a special needs child before trying to combine them all in an actual camp out.  By separating out the skills for pre-teaching, you can reduce the amount of stress in a camp out significantly and improve the likelihood that it will be a fun experience for them.  In this article and the next, I’ll talk about packing and give you some ideas for activities that can help teach this skill.  If your child has already mastered this skill, you can move on to other skills.

Packing actually involves a number of skills itself.  Let’s take the first one in this article.  You have to be able to follow a packing list.  For some children, reading is an issue, so a verbal or picture list could be provided.  But even if you modify the list, there’s still the need to follow it.  It sounds easy, but really isn’t.  A very simple way to teach this skill is a scavenger hunt in your backyard or some other small area.  Keep the list simple at first, with only a few items, and make sure they can all be found.  You can use a picture list if you need to or have a buddy help with reading.  Keep the list more concrete for younger or more challenged children.  A more concrete item would be “a brown leaf” instead of the more vague “something round”.  Don’t add to the difficulty of the task by expecting them to understand metaphors or rhymes or clever clues.  Keep to the point, which is following a list.  Reward them for getting everything on the list.  Depending on your child’s disability, you may have them do this in a group or alone.  It can work either way as long as they are actively involved.  You can do this activity over several months and just work it into scout meetings as a short exercise.  Don’t spend hours at a time on it.  Short, to-the-the-point lessons, spread out over many sessions, are better.  As they get better at finding everything, increase the difficulty to maintain their interest.

Since doing a scavenger hunt at every meeting may become tiresome, here’s another way to include following lists in regular meetings.  For each activity you do with your scouts, write out a list of supplies and have each scout find his or her own supplies from a separate table. Again, if you need a picture list or a buddy to help read, do it that way.   For example, suppose you are making trail mix.  You have the M & M’s, peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds or whatever laid out on a table.  You write down how much of each item to get (eg. two packets of peanuts, one packet of sunflower seeds, one little box of raisins, one small packet of m & m’s).  They go and get the supplies and take them back to their work area.  Then they make the trail mix.  Not only have they learned how to make trail mix, they have also followed a list.  If you just set this up as a standard practice at your meetings, you will be giving them valuable practice without making an issue of it or needing a separate activity.

I’ll continue with more ideas about teaching packing skills in the next edition of Scouting and Special Needs Children.


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