Alternative advancement requirements bring the challenge within the capability of the Scout, but the Scout must still have the desire and willpower to meet the challenge. No Scout is asked to attempt an advancement challenge beyond his or her capability, if that capability can be objectively determined. A Scout is never set up for failure, but a Scout should expect to be challenged and leaders should prepare Scouts to be challenged and encourage them to overcome.
National Committee member Roger Tate has produced a series of “Perspectives” on advancement that will appear in this and upcoming copies of Abilities Digest.
The mission of the BSA is to prepare young people to make ethical choices throughout their lifetime. Advancement is one of several methods for promoting the mission. There are many wonderful Scouts who never become Eagle Scouts (author included). However, many of us that focus our attention on Scouts with special needs want to see these Scouts advance, by any means necessary. Such a viewpoint does not always mesh with the mission, aims or traditions of the BSA. While we are advocates for our Scouts, the purpose of this column is to help Scouters and parents of Scouts with special needs/disabilities better understand other leaders who are advancement specialists and vice versa. This allows us to focus our advocacy in ways that truly benefit the Scout and fulfill the promise of Scouting for the Scout. Don’t let the method become the mission.
Reprinted from the July-August 2018 edition of Advancement News.
The Guide to Advancement addresses council advancement committee responsibilities in Section 184.108.40.206, and it is always wise to ensure that the committee has someone well versed in special needs awareness issues so that other committee members can properly address them when they arise. Better still, the committee can “be prepared” by having a plan in place that will enable it to address things in a proactive instead of a reactive way.
“Scout Jay has serious vision impairment, but he’s really excited about the Astronomy Merit Badge. Can he earn it?”
Substitute any merit badge for “Astronomy” and you have a common but tricky question. The answer lies in the exact written requirements. Scout Jay must meet the requirements exactly as written, no more and no less. If a disability prevents him from completing the requirements, then Jay must earn a different merit badge.
Modern merit badge requirements are often flexible to benefit Scouts with disabilities. For example, most merit badges don’t explicitly require reading, writing, or speaking. Instead of saying “Write a list of the five most visible planets,” or “Recite a list of the five most visible planets,” the Astronomy requirement simply says “List the five most visible planets.” The form and structure of the list is not part of the requirement.
Communication and Creativity are the Keys to Helping Scouts with Special Needs Advance Along the Trail to Eagle
The Advancement program is meant to be challenging for every Scout. Those challenges can become even larger for Scouts with special needs. Since the Guide to Advancement clearly states that all requirements have to be met, communication between the Scout, his parents, unit leaders, and even educators can lead to real success stories.
Special needs advocates at the National Capital Area Council have developed this handy table to summarize advancement accommodations available to Scouts, Venturers, and Sea Scouts with special needs.
The following was originally published in the May-June 2017 issue of Advancement News.
“Meet the requirements as they are written, with no exception.”
The quote above from the Guide to Advancement, topic 10.2.2.0, at first glance may sound harsh, restrictive, and could even leave one wondering how a Scout with special needs can meet requirements that sometimes seem too tough. Well, with a little bit of creativity and teamwork, Scouts and leaders have found exceptional ways to complete requirements without exception.