I work at a camp run by the nature center in a large local nature reservation. Each camp is for three hours, either in the morning or afternoon. Optimally, there is a naturalist leading the camp, an assistant naturalist, and a volunteer, for 14 kids. I'm an assistant naturalist; this week I'm working with preschoolers (aged 4-5 years).
The volunteer I have is a teenager about the same age as me (18-ish). This is his second week here, and he's on a camp in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both I and the naturalist for this camp noticed that while he's extraordinarily helpful when asked to do a task, he lacks direction on his own. For instance, if I'm setting up for a craft, he often won't act unless explicitly asked to do so (at which point he does whatever he's told, and does it well with no complaints). He does know what things need to be done, in general; he learned the process quickly after his first week. This was a bit puzzling for me at first.
Tasks he would help with or do include:
- Setting up for crafts
- Reading to campers during free time
- Walking in the middle of the line (instead of the back, where I am) during hikes, so someone can be right with the kids
- Participating a bit when we do games
This afternoon, we learned from a coworker that this volunteer has mild autism, and while he's quite high-functioning, this is a behavioral quirk of his related to his autism. We're not sure how aware he is of this particular symptom. I'm now quite sympathetic to his plight.
A preschool camp is always difficult, even if you're experienced, and we know that the volunteer might have gotten more than he bargained for. However, we need all three of us to work as a team for the camp to go as well as it should. Therefore, we want him to be a bit more independent. He knows the procedures; we need to get him to apply them without explicitly asking him each time.
How can we tell the volunteer that he needs to be a little more independent when doing these tasks? I do want to be nice if possible - after all, he volunteered to sacrifice his own time and take a huge step out of his comfort zone - but I also need him to do what is required.
I should add that I also understand if this is something the volunteer may not be able to do. If that's the case, I certainly don't want to pressure him too much.