Good Times Found at Cub World

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By ROBERT NEAL Tulsa World Staff Writer

It was the kind of thing I had hoped for but never imagined happening. I was lying in a tent in the middle of a chilly night at a Scouting camp-out with my two 9-year-old sons in the woods near Skiatook Lake. Those of you who have experienced CubWorld at Zink Ranch know what I’m talking about.

In an effort to get my two sons, who have autism, more involved in things around them, I talked one into trying out Scouting. He has a friend who is a Cub Scout and is the son of his third-grade teacher. This was a huge step for my son with Asperger’s syndrome, and I wanted to try to broaden their relationship. Kids on the autism spectrum tend not to have many friends, from what I had learned. While appearing typical to others, kids with Asperger’s have difficulty with social interactions and changes in routine. And, let’s face it, I was a Scout when I was a kid. I wanted them to be Scouts, too.

Being prepared: My son’s friend lives in Broken Arrow and we live in Tulsa – not exactly the easiest arrangement. But with a little rearranging of work schedules, I was able to take my fourth-graders to Webelos meetings. When I learned that CubWorld was coming up, I knew it would be perfect. Two days out in the wilderness, lots of physical activity, BB- gun shooting and fun. So, I started planning. We had to have a tent. Clothes for the trip. Food. Sleeping bags. And I became obsessed – this was going to happen, no matter what. My wife, who had some concerns at first, must have thought I’d lost my mind.

The morning to leave had arrived, and everything was ready. After we were set up at the Captain Hook site, the fun began with calisthenics. I had never watched my kids do group exercises before, so it was exciting to see both of them get into it. Next was the obstacle course, which turned into a workout for me as well. I ran it with my other son to make sure he stayed on the course. He has high-functioning autism, a limited vocabulary and likes to wander. But he did fine. I helped him a little with the BB- gun shooting, since guns and shooting were not part of his world. But there again, he did great, cocking the gun himself a couple of times after he saw me do it. He even hit the target once. We’re keeping that target forever.

The Scouts learned all about being sailors in preparation for an epic battle: The kids, portraying the British Navy, would have their ship boarded by the Spaniards, their parents. The Scouts made sailor hats, pretended they lost a tooth from scurvy, learned to tie knots and made their swords for battle. They were ready. The battle was furious, from what I heard. By the time the events at the ship unfolded, my son who is high-functioning had needed a break in the tent. My other son, the one this whole adventure had been planned around, had a great time.

Double the fun: I’m trying to chill out a bit, now that I’m a Scouting dad. While one kid was having a blast playing with his new friends, the other was kicking up dust and making snow angels in the dirt. Hey, we were out here to enjoy ourselves, and he can’t do that in our backyard. So I let it slide.

There were some unexpected events: Chicken nuggets, cooked over an open fire in a skillet, had to take the place of hot dogs for my kids. Children with autism are picky eaters and may only eat a few foods. They also missed out on some fantastic peach cobbler made in a Dutch oven over the fire because they weren’t into trying new things. And, during campfire time, while one kid was watching the skits other Scouts were performing, the other went wandering to another campsite and met some wonderful people. When we went over that way again the next morning, they let him look through a telescope they had set up.

Good people, good times, good fun and acceptance. That’s what I was hoping for, and that’s what we received. I hope my kids stick with it.

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