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.
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.
The recent issue of Scouting published a feature article on Scouting for youth with special needs (March-April 2017, vol 105, no 2). It is now available online.
The article gives examples of working successfully with youth who have special needs and talks about BSA’s resources and activities at the national level to support this work.
Here is a remarkable video released last month for World Autism Month. Targeted at a young audience, it explains invisible disabilities, focusing on autism. The video portrays autism as an amazing difference, not a terrible one. The writer/producer/director has included closed captions and distributes the video in multiple languages.
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.
We never call Scouts with special needs “special-needs Scouts.” Why, you ask?
That’s because word choice matters, and Scouters on the Disabilities Awareness Committee recommend using person-first language that describes what a person has, not who a person is.
“Even though it does get a bit wordy and awkward in everyday speech,” committee chairman Tony Mei says, “this emphasizes the personhood of the individual and places the disability as a secondary condition that the individual must live with.”
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.