Earning the Special Needs Scouting Service Award

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

Special Needs Scouting Service Award medal

Scouters who support Scouting with special needs through service to units, youth training, leader training, or organization, may be nominated for the Torch of Gold or Woods Services Award. Both of these require nomination. The Torch is presented by each council once a year, and the Woods Services is presented nationally once a year.

The Special Needs Scouting Service Award (SNSSA) does not require nomination, and may be presented to any adult who earns it. The SNSSA recognizes either adult volunteers or Scouting professionals who actively support Scouting with special needs and disabilities. The SNSSA is similar to the Scouter’s Key in that the individual earns it through tenure, training, and service requirements.

To be eligible, the adult must actively participate in activities with youth who have special needs or disabilities at the unit, district, council, area, regional, or national level for at least three years. The adult must also complete six activities from the following list:

  • Attend a training seminar or conference on disabilities and special needs sponsored and conducted by the BSA or through an organization that serves youth or adults with disabilities and special needs (e.g., The Arc, blind associations, independent living resource centers, autism societies, Special Olympics).
  • Present one of the nationally approved disabilities and special needs classes (e.g., classes within the College of Commissioner Science curriculum or classes prepared by the National Disabilities Awareness Task Force) at any level.
  • Serve as a staff member at a district, council, area, regional, or national event on the theme of youth with disabilities or special needs in Scouting.
  • Create and organize a unit (pack, troop, or crew) that primarily serves youth with disabilities or special needs, but is open for membership by youth without disabilities or special needs.
  • Serve as a mentor for a Scout who has a disability or special need for six months.
  • Serve as a group discussion leader on Scouting for youth with disabilities or special needs. Do this at a roundtable or district commissioner meeting or similar gathering of volunteer or professional Scouters.
  • Promote and assist in organizing and conducting an outdoor event for youth with disabilities or special needs, or an outdoor event that promotes disabilities awareness and acceptance among those who don’t have a disability.

The candidate should fill out the SNSSA Application Form #512-067. Provide enough detail to clearly show that requirements were completed. Sign the form and turn it in to the local council for approval. Councils who have a Special Needs and Disabilities Committee may delegate the review of such applications to the committee.

Recipients of the SNSSA may wear the Scouting Service Award square knot (item #625334) with the special needs and disabilities device (item #641462). They may also receive the SNSSA medal shown in the photo (item #641463) with its blue and white neck ribbon, and an award certificate (item #649736).