The following was originally published in the May-June 2017 issue of Advancement News.
“Meet the requirements as they are written, with no exception.”
The quote above from the Guide to Advancement, topic 10.2.2.0, at first glance may sound harsh, restrictive, and could even leave one wondering how a Scout with special needs can meet requirements that sometimes seem too tough. Well, with a little bit of creativity and teamwork, Scouts and leaders have found exceptional ways to complete requirements without exception.
Communication with the Scout and his family are important ingredients that can really help. Using resources such as school teachers and other community groups and leaders is really important, too. Another great resource could be your council’s Special Needs Committee .
We have heard great stories over the years about individuals with disabilities finding creative ways to meet requirements. For example, a Scout who can’t move his hands or arms to tie a knot, has learned the steps required and can dictate them to a friend who tied the knot for him. Similarly, other Scouts have used communication devices to work with an able-bodied partner to complete other requirements.
We really want to do all we can to enable Scouts with disabilities to advance in rank and complete merit badges, all while upholding the high standards of the badges. Every so often, we encounter a case where that’s just not possible, and that is the time to submit a request for alternative requirements or alternate badges.
Guide to Advancement topic 10.2.2.2 provides clear instructions on how to request alternative requirements for boys working on the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class. For ranks above First Class, the requirements cannot be modified; however, a Scout can request authorization to complete an alternative merit badge in place of one that just is not possible for him to complete. Again, the GTA can help you navigate and understand this process.
One thing that is important to remember is that advancement is not meant to be easy for any Scout, and that is why only a very small percentage of Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle. Meanwhile, it is equally important to remember that advancement should never get in the way of providing new, meaningful, and fun experiences for all Scouts.
A personal view:
“As an individual living with a physical disability, I use a wheelchair for mobility. I can still hike (pushing my chair instead of walking), I can bike (using a handcycle instead of a [pedal] bike), I can camp in a tent (even if I need a little helping getting in and out), and I can creatively find a way to do most things I want to.”