Last summer, Scouter Angela Glunt participated in the Philmont training course DIVERSEability and DisABILITY. Here are her experiences in adapting the COPE Challenge for people with disabiilities.
Our class was approached by the COPE team and asked if we would be willing to participate in the COPE Course in order to help develop strategies for assisting Scouts with special needs. The goal was to show the struggles a Scout with special needs might encounter during the event.
Our group was very excited for the opportunity to engage in this adventure. We split our class in half. One group took the Lower Course and the other took the Upper Course. Each group member exhibited the characteristics of a different disability. By helping the staff, as if aiding a Scout with special needs, they were able to gain knowledge through the hands-on experience.
This story has been shared with Scouters nationwide by Charles Dahlquist, National Commissioner, in a recent issue of Scouting Magazine.
Joe could be any Scout. This particular Scout attended the National Scout Jamboree last year. While we all face our daily challenges, Joe faces a lot more than most Jamboree attendees. He arrived with a motorized cart and a special aide to help him.
Some people might discourage a Scout with disabilities from visiting the Jamboree’s Action Point, or from attending the Jamboree at all. But Joe was met with a “Can Do!” attitude by the staffers at Action Point. He had the time of his life.
Summertime means summer camp for most Scouts. Every Scout wants to take part and, more importantly, have fun. This takes preparation, especially for Scouts with special needs.
The unit leader should take some time to think about each Scout as an individual and how each will react to summer camp routine. This is especially true of new Scouts who have not attended camp before. Identify roadblocks: features of camp life that prevent the Scout from participating or feeling comfortable. Make sure that one or more unit leaders watch for those roadblocks and are ready to help bring the challenge within reach of the Scout’s abilities.
We’ve all encountered Scouts who are picky eaters because the menu is different from home and food is cooked in unfamiliar ways. Most food aversions work themselves out because most kids will not willingly starve themselves. That is not always the case, and Scout leaders need to be receptive and address special cases. One special issue with food is sensory overload. There are neurobiological disorders, including autism, where “ordinary” sensory input overwhelms the mind. Eating is a complex sensory experience because food has taste, smell, texture, and appearance. Some Scouts have sensory issues that are so intense that they refuse to eat many types of foods, no matter how much you encourage or reason with them. Parents in these situations tend to be reluctant to ask for accommodations for their child.
Beginning in 2001, every Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill included a one-armed archery activity. At the Fort, it used a special one-handed bow-and-arrow fixture in a quonset hut as part of the disAbilities Awareness Challenge. When the Jamboree moved to the Summit in 2013 there was no enthusiasm for installing the fixture on the archery range. That attitude changed in 2017.
Deaf and hard of hearing Scouts, Scouters and family members present new challenges for many units. Units, districts and councils aren’t legally obligated to provide a sign language interpreter for deaf participants, and often can’t afford a professional, certified interpreter. Yet we want to include everyone in the Scouting experience. We benefit both deaf and hearing participants when we make accommodations. These can range from pre-printed materials and visual aids to American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.
Scott Hellen, a National Jamboree staffer with limited mobility, shares observations on his Jamboree experience.
We all have preconceived expectations of what our first time on staff at a National Jamboree will be like. I was looking forward to working hundreds of Scouts from around the country and abroad as they came through the Disabilities Awareness Challenge, dAC. I also wanted to meet the adult Scouters that came from various locations and diverse backgrounds to serve as dAC staff. I learned fast that reality does not always meet one’s expectations.