Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Training

Hello Aspierations Friends,

Yesterday was a big day for Autism Empowerment.  My husband John Krejcha who blogs at Life and Times of John Krejcha and Autism and Scouting successfully offered his first two training classes: A Grab Bag of Tricks: Support Scouts with Autism, Attention and Sensory Issues" at the Cascade Pacific Council Boy Scouts of America Program and Training Conference in Beaverton, OR on Saturday, November 5th, 2011.  He was expecting about 40 people in both classes and ended up with about 60.  Additionally, approximately 400 - 500 people received a copy of his presentation on CD.  As this information makes its way back to various packs and troops throughout Oregon and SW Washington, we hope it will raise acceptance and awareness. We hope leaders will feel enriched and inspired. We hope they will use the tools and tips to help empower themselves and the scouts in their organizations.

In speaking with John afterwards, he believed and emotionally felt that both training sessions were a total success.  He's already been invited back for next year and now that he has these first two sessions under his belt (a visual which doesn't make logical sense to me as an Aspie but I still know what the idiom means), he is ready for more.  I am SO VERY PROUD of him as his wife, his friend, the mother of his children and as a representative of Autism Empowerment.  

John had been practicing his presentation for about a month and had been writing it well before that.  In addition to helping leaders understand some of the social and sensory challenges that many on the autism spectrum or with ADHD have and to get across the point that ASD presents differently from individual to individual, one of the main goals was to give attendees a variety of take home tips that scout leaders could use to help successfully lead and empower scouts in their troop or pack who were on the autism spectrum. John had 45 slides to present. Quite frankly, it could have been an all day seminar!

One good thing was that attendees knew that the slides shown would be on a take-home CD so they could focus on listening and take notes if they wanted. There was a lot of content that needed to be condensed into a 50 minute presentation (40 technically plus 10 minutes for questions) and unless you're used to this kind of thing and teach or train on a regular basis, it takes practice to work out the timing, the cadence and be prepared for questions along the way.  

I still remember John's first time presenting to me in our living room. As I sat back in the recliner relaxed with my journal and pen ready for note-taking, I knew that my presence that first time made him extremely nervous. It's not that I'm a particularly intimidating individual (ha!) but he had not had a lot of lengthy public speaking experience in front of adults and I know he wanted to do a amazing job.  He also knew how important it was for him to positively represent the Autism and Scouting program of Autism Empowerment.  By doing so, he was also promoting the four foundational pillars of the non-profit organization: Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower.  

This past week he totally upped his game.  I supported him in any way I could. Playing the part of a pretend audience as I listened to him give his training, I would interrupt him with questions during his presentation, sometimes on topic, sometimes completely random, sometimes supportive, sometimes a tad obnoxious.  I am sure at first he wasn't as amused at this impromptu "skills training" as I was but by the Friday afternoon before the presentation, he was nailing my questions left and right and was probably glad for the practice. Be Prepared, I told him... and he certainly was.

In his last trial run before the big day, John emulated a sense of confidence and sense of peace that I had not previously seen.  We had been praying for him to have strength, tenacity, humor and wisdom as he gave his presentation. As I watched him share each Powerpoint slide with passion, humility, charm, humor and wisdom, I knew his prayers were answered and that his training sessions the following day would be a success. 

Unfortunately I was not able to attending the training because I needed to be on hand to watch the boys. John was gone from about 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. and the longest we've ever had a sitter here is about 2 1/2 hours.  He did call in after each presentation and I was beaming with pride over his excitement and accomplishment in reaching so many that day.  We hope they will take back the information shared to their local packs / troops and share it among their leadership. 

I know John is looking forward to more training in the near future.  We realize this is something he could quite regularly throughout the country. As we get the word out about Autism Empowerment, earn some grants and gain public support, we look forward to the day when we can work for Autism Empowerment full-time. We are currently brainstorming on additional ways to reach more people and although I have submitted our first grant proposal, I will be writing more over the next few months.  There is a lot to learn when founding and starting up a non-profit but the rewards of reaching out and helping others is totally worth it and as I've mentioned on my blog here before, it is not just my passion but my calling and John feels it is his as well.  We don't say that lightly but we do say it with passion, faith and hope for the future. 

If you have a connection to scouting (former or past scout or leader) or are interested in the possibilities of scouting for a son or daughter who is on the autism spectrum (Autism, Asperger's, PDD/NOS included), I invite you to check out the following resources. I haven't gone into the meat of John's presentation here at Aspierations but will be doing so more in-depth on the Autism Empowerment website. (Aspierations is still my personal blog, although I know there will be overlap in content and I do plan on an Aspierations Inspirational program within Autism Empowerment in the future.)

For those who didn't attend John's presentation, we have uploaded 22 Scout Leader tips for helping scouts with autism, Asperger's or other autism spectrum disorders. You can read, print or download the guide here:  Autism and Scouting Tips (PDF) File.  Feel free to share them!
In the future, John wants to get his presentation on podcast and perhaps have an upload of the slides for others to view and use in their own presentations.  We need to work out the particulars but it is in the plans for the future. 
In the interim, John currently continues to head up Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting program which includes support and resources in a variety of forms with more coming!
The most active online group currently is Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Facebook page.
The goal is a dynamic and supportive group where parents, scouts (male and female, former and current), leaders and those investigating scouting for their children can learn the features and benefits of the Scouting experience.  You are encouraged to "like" us at Facebook and share with your friends. Our numbers are growing and we're happy to have scouters from all around the world represented.
While there, don't forget to join our Autism Empowerment Facebook Page:
We're also at Twitter through Autism Empowerment: @autismscouting and @autismempowermt.  If interested, I'm on Twitter personally at @aspierations.
John will be blogging about his training experience soon and I will either repost it here or you can find it at his Autism and Scouting blog.
Thanks for stopping by!  It sure feels good to be blogging again!  Two days in a row!  I'm on a roll and I'm not even a sandwich! (Badda bing, badda boom... or badda boo if that wasn't particularly amusing to you.)

I've missed you guys and I look forward to writing again soon.  If there are any topics you'd like me to cover, just let me know!
Best wishes for a great week ahead!

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