Kate (16, pictured left) and Caitlin (17, pictured right)—members of Fairmilehead Rangers—share their experiences as neurodivergent members of Girlguiding. Kate has been involved in Guiding for seven years, and Caitlin joined as a Rainbow nearly 11 years ago.
How would you describe your neurodiversity, and how has that affected your time in guiding?
Kate: I have autism with learning difficulties. This makes it difficult for me to keep up and interact with the other girls, but on the positive side, it maybe gives other Rangers an insight into how life is for a girl with autism.
Caitlin: I’m autistic. As I was undiagnosed for so many years, I got what I call my initial diagnosis at 13, it impacted me in ways I wasn’t aware of until I was older. I always found that prolonged interaction with people, particularly on camps, would drain my energy and I would get upset way more easily (this was overload leading to meltdowns). But it’s also had its benefits—as I am a very creative person, it allows me to think of creative, outside-the-box solutions to things and innovative ideas for crafts, etc.
How, if at all, do you feel you have taught other members (of all ages) about neurodiversity?
K: I’d like to be able to tell them about neurodiversity, but I find it difficult to speak about it (or anything else).
C: A few years ago, as part of my Baden Powell Award in Guides, I held an info night on different kinds of mental illness. I had only recently found out I was autistic and didn’t fully understand it, so autism didn’t feature too heavily in my talk. But it was a start in opening up the conversation about mental illness. I would like to continue to do talks and presentations/info nights like this, but ones more focused on neurodiversity and how it affects people.
What is your favourite part about participating in Girlguiding?
K: Camping trips.
C: There’s a lot of things about Guiding that I like a lot; it’s hard to pick one. I like the social aspect of it and getting to take part in different kinds of activities with your friends; I like going on trips and camps; and I like meeting new people.
Do you plan to continue on with Guiding after you’ve left Rangers?
K: I’d like to but I don’t what the options are at the moment. I’ll look nearer the time.
C: I definitely plan to continue to be part of Guiding after Rangers, whether that’s as a leader or in another role. I’m not entirely sure of the options, but I’d definitely want to continue.
What are your plans for the short- and long-term future?
K: Carry on at school, then find a job and live independently.
C: In the short term I am finishing my final year at secondary school; I’m taking Advanced Higher (AH) Music, AH Art, and a college course equivalent of Higher in Music Production and Recording. I plan to study music after school as, in the long term, I would like to have a career as a performing musician, hopefully with my band.
What would you tell other neurodiverse people interested in joining Girlguiding?
K: I would say you should join, it can boost your confidence and you get to go on great trips.
C: I would say to join and give it a go; it’s a great place for meeting new people and you are also likely to meet other neurodiverse people here. It’s great for expanding skills and learning new things, too.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
K: I’m glad that Guides are taking an interest in neurodiversity in Guiding.
C: I would like to say that I love that Guiding is making an effort to get neurodivergent voices heard within the organisation, it means a lot and will help a lot of people in the future, whether they are currently in Guiding or future members.
Find out more about how Girlguiding supports disabled volunteers and members.
Girlguiding Edinburgh’s Disability Inclusion team—Rhona and Susan—are here to help leaders with any questions you may have about how to support disabled members in your unit. You can contact us at email@example.com.