When Unit Leaders Reject an Accommodation

The following was a response to a problem encountered by a Scout parent. It originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Abilities Digest.

Campfire cooking

Here is the dilemma: the Scout has immunization problems and the Scout’s physician suggests the Scout be isolated while camping. The unit leadership does not agree.

Having a special needs child requires information and help from friends and professionals. What you do not need is for people to make decisions when they do not understand your child, or to make assumptions that they think are correct.

 Joining a troop, crew or unit takes some questioning on your part to decide if the unit members are willing to work with you and your child. Talk to them and ask members what they think. Most units are more than willing to have a special needs youth as a member.

 However, what does a parent do when you ask for a unique condition for your child and the unit leader ignores or refuses to go along with it. As an example: The family doctor or specialist says that because of immunization problems, the youth needs to be isolated when sleeping at night. The child needs to be in a single occupant tent only. You inform the Scoutmaster and Troop Committee Chairperson and they say no.

First, remain calm. Remember that not everyone understands the issues of special needs. Losing your temper or threatening does not help anyone.

Second, ask what their concerns are and see what can be done. Do they need a note from the physician or to contact the physician directly? Perhaps a commissioner or a special needs advocate in the district or council can help.

The unit can also contact the National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee (NSNDC) for ideas or guidance. The NSNDC is more than willing to talk to the leadership and help come to a workable solution. The NSNDC has as its members, people that have years of working with the special needs. We can bring together all sides and work for a possible result.

 Unfortunately, the preconceptions that people have can sometimes be insurmountable. If a solution that you feel is acceptable cannot be found, looking for another unit that is more amenable may be needed.

One solution may be tried, but another one may lead to resolution.