Say Good-bye to Board of Review Anxiety

This article appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Abilities Digest.

Skit night around the campfire

Many Scouts get nervous before a Board of Review. They feel like they’re going to the dentist or something equally anxiety provoking. A knee bounces up and down between “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir” abbreviated nervous answers. Hands fidget and you might notice a muscle twitch here and there.  As a leader you try to do what you can to alleviate the nervousness. The trick is to put your Scout at ease and have this young person tell you stories about his/her Scouting experience.

Be aware that Scouts with special needs and disabilities may experience even more increased anxiety than usual. They may have a harder time focusing on questions or discussion that would otherwise have a calming effect. They might view the BoR as “test taking” which produces tense moments and inability to give the “right” answers. To the Scout, this may mean total failure and the inability to face up to impending doom. How can we create an atmosphere of peace and calming?

What are some strategies to help your Scout get through these “trials and tribulations?” 

  1. It has been suggested that BoRs should be around 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Before the BoR, educate the members concerning your Scout, especially if they are not familiar with him/her. They will need to know information that will help them provide a stress free and non-threatening environment for this Scout with special needs and disabilities. They will also be aware that for this particular Scout, different methods of communication may be necessary in order for the BoR to be successful.
  3. The Scout could utilize a photo book or slideshow of memories to help to stay focused on events during the meeting. Focus on a photo with the Scout and ask questions about certain areas of interest in the photo or where a learning point occurred. This may help stimulate responses.
  4. Have the Scout work with a parent to do a video before the BoR. The parent can encourage and prompt responses, chunking the activity (breaking it up into segments) so that the Scout can manage sensory overload. Have the Scout present it to the BoR members. Questions can be derived from the video.
  5. Utilize a “schedule board.” The items on the board could be organized into an agenda, such as greeting, introductions, questions, answers, thanks, and closing; moving a clothespin down the agenda board as the conversation proceeds.
  6. A panel of unfamiliar faces may also distress the Scout. While a parent observing a BOR is generally discouraged, it is not forbidden. The simple presence of a parent may be all it takes to calm the Scout’s anxiety by providing a visual touchstone. Consult the Guide to Advancement, sections and, for specifics of who may be included in a BOR.
  7. Ask questions that are more specific, than broad, in nature. This will help the Scout think more concretely. Sometimes a broad question such as “What did you like about the last camping trip?” is too abstract for a Scout to answer.
  8. If the Scout’s speech is difficult to understand, have someone who is familiar with the Scout “interpret.” Allow the Scout to use his/her own means of communication, if speech or expressive speech is limited. This may include more visual artifacts or reenactment of an idea or concept.

These are only a few strategies to try. They may be enough to work as a springboard towards ideas of your own. With some creative thinking, you may be saying good-bye to board of review anxiety!