Imagine for a minute that your child’s entire life consisted of school, home and doctor’s appointments. No friends, no play dates and no sports teams.
For many parents with children who have sensory disorders, that is a way of life. However, a former Washougal resident is trying to change this.
Deanna Pehrson is cub master for Cub Scout Pack 2, a newly formed group for scouts with sensory issues. She decided to start the group after her son Preston, who has moderate autism, went to three different scouting packs in one year.
“He is high functioning so I thought it was a matter of finding a pack where I could be there to monitor him,” she said. “But he still has a hard time when things are unstructured or transition too quickly. I just kept searching and searching for the right fit.”
After a sometimes trying year, Pehrson met with Brian Blackley, a district executive of the Cascade Pacific Council for Scouting. He brought in John Krejcha, a scouting volunteer who runs an autism advocacy group.
“Brian said there were no sensory friendly groups in the area and suggested I start one,” she said. “I was totally new to leadership but had been around scouting my whole life because my parents and brothers were really involved in it.”
So, Pehrson got the word out and recruited Krejcha and her mother, Washougal resident Dorothy Wear, to assist her.
“We realized this was a much-needed thing and how nice it was to be able to give these kids the wonderful opportunity to still enjoy scouting,” she said.
The group began meeting in early January and has six attendees. Bennett-Barnett Post 27 of the American Legion in Camas donated the pack flag and U.S. Flag to the group.
“It was such a wonderful experience to see the joy in all of the young boys coming to together to enjoy scouting in a safe and secure place where they can be themselves.” Krejcha, unit commissioner for the pack, said. “We have scouts with a variety of special needs and look forward to serving all who are interested.”
Wear, who is the volunteer outreach coordinator, said there is an “absolute need” for this group in the community.
“I’m thrilled to death,” she said. “These children need a safe place where they are accepted for their own capabilities.”
Some of the differences between Cub Scout Pack 2 and a traditional boys scouting group is the amount of time that members meet, as well as the activities in which they participate.
For example. Cub Scout Pack 2 meets for 45 minutes. Traditional groups meet for 1.5 hours. Also, there are lots of visuals and a time clock so that members can keep on task.
In addition, the group requires snacks to be gluten-free, out of consideration for members’ special dietary needs.
Pehrson said she has been surprised by the overwhelming response to the group.
“We were excited to provide this opportunity and the parents were thrilled,” she said. “We require a parent attendee for each scout. This is not a drop-off group.
“The parents told me it was what they were looking for besides just school, home and doctor appointments.”
Cub Scout Pack 2 meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first, second and fourth Thursday of every month at River Rock Church, 709 N.E. 136th Ave., Vancouver.
“We are hoping to have the opportunity to give boys and their families a chance to learn life skills and build self-esteem,” Pehrson said. “And it’s a place to have fun, too.”