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Your Dollars @ Work: Empowering Kids Through Scouting

This Your Dollars @ Work post is written by Karen Krejcha, Executive Director of Autism Empowerment, an Autism Speaks Grant recipient looking to train scout leaders to effectively work with children and teens with autism and their families to provide them with an empowering and enriching scouting experience! Autism and Scouting is dedicated to making life better and more meaningful for Scouts and families in the Autism and Asperger communities locally, nationally and worldwide.

Autism Empowerment was both excited and humbled when we learned that our 501(c)3 grassroots nonprofit was the recipient of a generous $25,000 grant from the 2012 Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grants Program.

Having founded in Vancouver, WA in June 2011 by a family with three of four on the autism spectrum and only a few hundred dollars to begin, we knew that Autism Empowerment wasn’t well known on a national level. We did know we had enthusiasm, fortitude, passionate founders, dedicated volunteers and a vision to positively change the world for children, teens and adults with autism and Asperger’s.

We also knew we had a meaningful Autism and Scouting Program vision that could be replicated on a national and worldwide scale. The Autism and Scouting Leadership Training Program trains leaders in a variety of scouting venues, sharing strategies and techniques to effectively work with scouts on the autism spectrum and their families. We teach leaders and volunteers a way of customizing a scouting program that promotes inclusion within a unit and engages the scout with autism and his or her parents. Over half of the people on the Autism and Scouting Leadership Advisory committee are on the autism spectrum including one of our co-authors.

Having positive, helpful, educated, inspired and empowered leaders accepting scouts on the autism spectrum helps promote retention, increases scout confidence, promotes family involvement and assists with a scout’s advancement and success within a scouting program. Our training helps to recruit new scouts with autism and helps provide a positive ongoing experience where youth with autism can build friendships, earn recognition, serve their community, gain and improve life skills and develop positive interpersonal relationships.

The four foundational pillars of Autism Empowerment are Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower. We have a core belief that if you really want to get deeply engaged and help kids, teens and adults living with autism, Asperger syndrome or ASD, you need to actively include men, women and youth on the autism spectrum in the conversation. We have in the past. We do in the present. We will in the future.

We used the money from the grant to develop and produce 500 Autism and Scouting Leadership Training Kits that are being distributed for free across the country to a wide range of scouting and alternative scouting organizations. We hope one day to raise enough funds to have a kit in every unit worldwide!

We started taking pre-orders for kits at the end of November and over 25% of the kits are currently spoken for. Our first 125 kits will serve over 38,000 youth and will promote acceptance within the autism and Asperger community, in the scouting community and in our community at large.

Our kit includes a 93 page training manual, a supplemental DVD and access to monthly online training starting in January 2014. The training primarily instructs leaders and volunteers serving youth on the autism spectrum from ages 4 – 22 but is adaptable to scouts on the autism spectrum who are older. The manual and supplemental training materials will also be available for free online download at on or before Saturday, December 28th. 

The grant money also helped pay for the first annual Autism and Scouting Community Summit being held in Vancouver, WA on Saturday, December 28th

We are excited to get to know the scouting families that are touched by Autism Empowerment and the Autism and Scouting program and invite you to take part in our Autism and Scouting community online.

Stay tuned for the Autism and Scouting Leadership Training Kit on our website in a couple weeks!

Please connect with Autism Empowerment and Autism and Scouting through our website, Facebook page, Twitter page (@AutismScouting), as well as our Autism and Scouting Radio show.  

Your Dollars @ Work is a weekly blog series from Autism Speaks highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants. We hope these weekly posts give you a glimpse into the amazing impact your generous donations and fundraisers have on the lives of individuals with autism of all ages, all across the country, all year round! Click here to read last week's post on Important Lessons from Self-Advocates.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.