DofE scheme helps teenager with autism

A Scholes teenager with autism has done things his peers would have been too scared to try thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 11:43 am
Chief Scout Bear Grylls with scouts at Bramhope as part of their Youth Commissioners Challenge badge Bear Grylls signs for Thomas Bliss, 13

Thomas Bliss, of Scholes, gained his bronze level DofE award just before the first national lockdown in March 2020 and is now hoping to pick up where he left off and work towards the silver.

A pupil at Tadcaster Grammar School, Thomas completed his bronze award through The Elmets Explorer Scout Unit, of which he is a member, and which works in partnership with the DofE scheme.

Thomas’s father, Jon Bliss, said the experiences and challenges Thomas has undertaken while being on the scheme, which included a two-day and overnight unaccompanied expedition, have given him a new sense of confidence and the family are “incredibly proud” of him.

The DofE awards were set up in 1956 and, since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, the scheme has been praised for the way it has influenced the lives the millions of young people over the years.

Mr Bliss said: “Thomas turns 16 in a few weeks and, as a highly-functioning autistic person, he is incredibly smart but struggles to socialise.

“He does not get the way I work and people don’t get the way that he works.

“There is always going to be an awkwardness but the Scout family, as we call it, are very supportive of him and understand his ways.

“The DofE is really keen on independence and resilience in young people and that is something that an autistic person struggles with and may need support for everyday tasks.

“As parents, we felt confident to step back and allow him to develop with the group that were going on the expedition.

“He was over the moon when he completed the bronze.”

Mr Bliss praised the inclusivity of the scheme and added that while Covid and the lockdowns had set Thomas back, he is looking forward to working towards the silver award.

He added: “It has given him the confidence to try new things where normally he wouldn’t and the confidence to be more socially aware and speak in social situations where he would normally keep quiet.

“Covid has really set him back; he did not take to remote learning, even though he desperately tried, but his school work has taken a hit.

“Just before that he had done his bronze and been to America for the World Scout Jamboree.

“He was a different young man and had some wonderful experiences and pushed himself.

“When he was on the DofE and doing his expedition, you probably would not have known he had a hidden disability.”

“The Scout family, as we call it, are very supportive of him and understand his ways.”

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