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.
Severe behavior takes many forms, from physical violence to seizures to unexpected, uninterruptible slumber. We adapt our activities to reduce the risk and impact, but we can’t always predict such incidents. How can we give young people the Scouting experience when they are subject to severe and unpredictable behavior?
For example, a Star Scout with a sleeping disorder wants to take part in National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), a week-long experience for Scouts and Venturers. The training is run by a volunteer group of adults and youth. The Scout might – or might not – suffer from a sleeping episode. Should he attend despite the risk? Would an episode put him at risk? How would an episode affect his course participation? Would an episode interfere with the course or its participants?
This question – and possible answers – apply to many other advanced Scouting activities.