Girl Scouts launch first-of-its-kind training program
BEDFORD – On May 17, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains partnered with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield New Hampshire, the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester and with Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire to educate staff and volunteers on the invisible disabilities of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
At Girl Scouts, every girl can feel secure knowing that she is joining an organization that will celebrate, champion, and foster her own unique identity in a girl-inclusive safe space where girls are free to be themselves.
Rik Cornell, vice president of community relations for the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, presented a training session at the Girl Scouts’ office in Bedford. Cornell said he’s trying to “make it cool to talk about mental health.”
Groups like the Girl Scouts and Big Brothers Big Sisters are finding that children with such needs present volunteers with the question of how best to help. They hope to provide additional support and resources to volunteers by giving them the training they need to understand invisible disabilities.
Cornell said it’s important to understand the disability and its limits, and to feel comfortable talking about it. Volunteers can then help build resilience in children, understand its effects on families, and look at the positives in children with ADD and ADHD.
“I learned that there are ways I can help focus and positively redirect a troop on the whole, or the individual girls with ADHD or anxiety, to help minimize their potential fear and to avoid what may be a negative situation for them,” said Girl Scouts’ Justina Patch. “For instance, if you have a girl that is doing something different from everyone else, such as not sitting still during a discussion, be flexible and redirect the troop to perhaps stand up, stretch, take a walk or do some form of exercise to get their wiggles out. Otherwise, we might call attention to the individual girl directly and say something like Judy, can you please sit still while we have this discussion? Which is not a positive reaction and may make the girl feel singled out.”
“As a council, we want to train our leaders and volunteers to identify certain indicative behaviors,” said Anne Marie Yorio of GSGWM. “Many leaders have not previously been open to learning more about subject. If we can provide helpful training and education, leaders may become more comfortable.”
Families see Girl Scouting as a safe space for their daughters to explore and make friends, so it’s good to let parents know that volunteers and troop leaders have the knowledge and tools to work with girls diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and anxiety. Participants from Big Brothers Big Sisters also found the training helpful.
“It’s important to have the tools to help our BBBS volunteers when they come to us with questions about how to best address Littles (kids) that have ADHD or anxiety,” said Kelly Dobens, the site-based program coordinator for the Greater Manchester area for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Any education and guidance on this topic is welcome to help to us stay engaged as an organization, and to help our members and volunteers to be less intimidated by a diagnosis, as they will now be informed and have ideas on how to work with kids with ADHD or anxiety.”
“This training, for me as a psychology major, is a great review of information about ADHD and anxiety,” said Lis Reis, community-based programs coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Claremont and Keene area. “This is a good reminder about the issues and how to help understand the challenges that kids, parents and families face. It’s helpful to have this information and provide the tools to the Bigs (adult volunteers) who may not know how to interact with kids with ADHD or anxiety, as well as to help parents or family members. It’s important to help everyone set goals for these kids and to be flexible in our programming.”
Hannah Fraitzl, special programs coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Manchester and Nashua area agreed.
“This training provides us as an organization, the ability to ask if our Bigs are confident having a Little with ADHD or anxiety in their group. Knowing that as an organization BBBS now has the training, tools and education, Bigs can confidently let us know that they don’t have experience in this arena and that they are willing to work with kids facing ADHD or anxiety,” she said. “As an organization, if we can provide these tools and tips, we may be able to help place more kids through the program.”
From troop meetings, cookie sales, and camping to STEM and beyond, Girl Scouts is always focused on creating girl-inclusive safe spaces where girls are free to be themselves. When girls succeed, so does society. Girl Scouts provides the tools girls need to not only dream big, but to achieve those dreams
Girl Scouts’ unique all-girl environment gives girls the confidence they need to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.
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Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains