The national office has released a slightly revised version of the “Introduction to Working With Scouts with Special Needs and Disabilities,” item #510-071. It is now available on this web site and should also be available from the Disabilities page of Scouting.org.
Alternative advancement requirements bring the challenge within the capability of the Scout, but the Scout must still have the desire and willpower to meet the challenge. No Scout is asked to attempt an advancement challenge beyond his or her capability, if that capability can be objectively determined. A Scout is never set up for failure, but a Scout should expect to be challenged and leaders should prepare Scouts to be challenged and encourage them to overcome.
The COPE course was not the only focus of disability adaptations at Philmont Training Center last summer. Instructors and participants in the DIVERSEability and DisABILITY training course experienced several other adaptations. Long-time PTC instructor Scott Hellen (on left) was pleased to find the classrooms already prepared for individuals in wheelchairs. In a previous summer the PTC staff had produced wood blocks to raise table heights to better fit wheelchairs and the blocks were already installed when the course staff arrived. New picnic tables better accommodated people in wheelchairs as well as others with mobility problems.
National Committee member Roger Tate has produced a series of “Perspectives” on advancement that will appear in this and upcoming copies of Abilities Digest.
The mission of the BSA is to prepare young people to make ethical choices throughout their lifetime. Advancement is one of several methods for promoting the mission. There are many wonderful Scouts who never become Eagle Scouts (author included). However, many of us that focus our attention on Scouts with special needs want to see these Scouts advance, by any means necessary. Such a viewpoint does not always mesh with the mission, aims or traditions of the BSA. While we are advocates for our Scouts, the purpose of this column is to help Scouters and parents of Scouts with special needs/disabilities better understand other leaders who are advancement specialists and vice versa. This allows us to focus our advocacy in ways that truly benefit the Scout and fulfill the promise of Scouting for the Scout. Don’t let the method become the mission.
District and council volunteers who look over nominations for the Torch of Gold or Woods Services Award may learn of Scouters who don’t receive these awards, but deserve recognition for their service. These Scouters may qualify for the Special Needs Scouting Service Award (SNSSA), an earned recognition. It may be presented to adults, volunteer or professional, who show outstanding service and leadership to Scouts with disabilities.
Last summer, Scouter Angela Glunt participated in the Philmont training course DIVERSEability and DisABILITY. Here are her experiences in adapting the COPE Challenge for people with disabiilities.
Our class was approached by the COPE team and asked if we would be willing to participate in the COPE Course in order to help develop strategies for assisting Scouts with special needs. The goal was to show the struggles a Scout with special needs might encounter during the event.
Our group was very excited for the opportunity to engage in this adventure. We split our class in half. One group took the Lower Course and the other took the Upper Course. Each group member exhibited the characteristics of a different disability. By helping the staff, as if aiding a Scout with special needs, they were able to gain knowledge through the hands-on experience.
The Torch of Gold is a council award given annually to an adult Scouter for dedicated work for youth, particularly Scouts, with disabilities. It is not an award that is earned by simply fulfilling specific requirements. It is given in recognition for service in multiple areas for many years. The nominee should show a level of dedication and service comparable to a Scouter receiving the Silver Beaver Award, but for service specifically in the area of working with Scouts with disabilities.
A Scouter must be recommended to his or her council by another individual. Although there are specific criteria for this award, each council should have its own selection procedure. The nomination form can be found at scouting.org/filestore/pdf/512-495.pdf