Communication and Creativity are the Keys to Helping Scouts with Special Needs Advance Along the Trail to Eagle
The Advancement program is meant to be challenging for every Scout. Those challenges can become even larger for Scouts with special needs. Since the Guide to Advancement clearly states that all requirements have to be met, communication between the Scout, his parents, unit leaders, and even educators can lead to real success stories.
Here are some tips to help:
- Work together as a team to develop a year round advancement plan just like schools do with an IEP. Everyone works better when they have a plan to follow!
- Review rank requirements to determine the ones that can easily be met and which will be more challenging.
- Use all of the resources available to assist a Scout complete the tougher requirements. Often this will require thinking outside of the box.
- Allow other Scouts in the unit to help with this process too, as this can provide them with a unique learning opportunity.
- Recognize that there will be some requirements that won’t be able to be completed by every Scout, so when you reach this point, be sure to apply for alternative merit badges.
- Don’t wait until a Scout with Special Needs turns 17 to register him to continue advancing “beyond the age of eligibility.” This option is explained in Section 10 of the Guide to Advancement and will take pressure off of the Scout, his unit, district and council if you do this earlier on.
- Lastly, seek help from other unit leaders who have had success in this area. We have seen great examples of a Scout who uses a wheelchair leading a hike, a Scout who uses a computer as a communication device making a “speech” or leading a meeting, or a Scout with visual impairments seeing the stars and constellations through cut out paper plates.
Recognize that these are opportunities and not roadblocks. Scouts and leaders should be confident that advancement challenges have solutions when we work together as a team. Look for resources at the troop, district, council, and national level to support advancement for Scouts with special needs.