Preparing for Summer Camp: Disabilities and Special Needs

campsiteSummertime 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.

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Include the Torch of Gold in Spring Council Recognitions

Torch of Gold Award medalThe Torch of Gold is a council-level distinguished award of the Boy Scouts of America to recognize adults for exceptional service and leadership in working with Scouts who have disabilities. Each council may recognize one Scouter per year with the award. Details are listed on the nomination form, available online.

The nominee must be a registered Scouter with at least three years of volunteer service supporting Scouting with disabilities. The service may be in any Scouting leadership capacity related to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers with disabilities, including educating other Scouters about disabilities and working with youth who have disabilities.

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When Food Becomes a Special Need

Campfire cookingWe’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.

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Annual Torch of Gold Awards

The process takes place entirely within the council. Typically the council’s Disabilities or Special Needs Committee will collect nomination forms and choose a recipient.

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