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  • #16
    I recommend getting the BSA pub on dealing with Scouts with disabilities. It's been revised recently, and while it doesn't pretend to give all answers to all questions on all disabilities, it does give a unit leader a great place to start.

    Specifically, it advises unit leaders to conference with the parents regarding the boy and his disability. Follow the guidelines in the pub for the conference, and you'll be well on your way to understanding what his capabilities really are, and can begin to build an alternative advancement plan for him, if warranted. The conference should also spell out what the unit's expectations are, the family's, and the boy's. There shouldn't be any unreasonable demands on anyone's part. If a unit has to dedicate a patrol to keep a boy corralled, that's unreasonable.

    The people you've dealt with so far at your service center may not seem to care, but I can promise you that if you keep pressing, you will find someone who does. Get past the gatekeepers if need be, and talk to the field director or even the Scout Executive. They care, but can only help if they know you have a problem.

    Recent guidance from BSA is that they prefer that Scouts with disabilities be mainstreamed into regular units rather than clustered into "disabled units".



    • #17

      I have had experience with autistic children, several levels and in different settings. I would like to share a few practical ideas from my experience.

      Establish a relationship with the person to get to know him and his needs. Think about it like building a friendship. Begin to understand his communication style so as to integrate him into activities with other Scouts. Find out about his adaptive limits so safety and health issues will be known as you start.

      Determine the amount of supervision needed. The idea is to keep it to a minimum but not so little that safety becomes a problem. Inappropriate behaviors will happen. Some will need to be ignored but others will make for an opportunity to teach a lesson. It is similar to the interventions that all boys need but for unexpected behaviors and times.

      Pay attention to him because if there are adaptive deficits, then teaching basics will be needed. Other Scouts can and should help and/or inform you. They may need guidance in learning about his needs. They need to know how they can assist and how they can be a friend when there isn't a need. As much as possible, he needs to become part of the group. The group can integrate, teach, show, and help. The group will also grow through helping, befriending, and making room in their activities for one of their own. It sounds like a full time job but as people adjust, the work lessens.

      He should be expected to do his best and to do exactly what the requirements ask of him. If he is unable to complete a requirement, then it may be that it does not fit his style of learning or he might not be able to do it at all. That is when careful understanding is needed. A determination should be made about which it is. If he needs an alternate route to learn, then figure out different ways of doing the same thing. His parents will know some but you will also need to figure others. It is fun to do things in different ways, try it. Other Scouts should help to figure alternate routes. Boys have imagination and insights that most of us have long ago forgotten.

      Reducing fears of the diagnosis/differences is important. He is very much like other Scouts in many ways. You will begin to accept the differences as you become more familiar with him. Treat him like you do the others in as many situations as possible. His parents should volunteer to assist while he acclimates and integrates into the unit. They need to stand back as much as possible. They can help to teach others about his needs as much as help with their son in specific circumstances.

      Allot of good things have been written here on this topic but I thought maybe you might find something useful from my experience also.



      • #18
        Wonderful posts! Never assume that a child's action is a discipline problem. Autism or autisic tendencies can give that impression.

        My son is not high functioning and therefore needs an "aide" constantly. During Cub Scouts, my dh or I were with him during the meetings. Cub scouts provided so many daily skill activities. That book was opened several times a day!

        Since a regular troop would not be a good fit for my son, we started a special needs troop. This isn't to isolate these boys, but is to give them the opportunity to learn on their own level. We are going on one year and it's great! These boys who cannot consistantly tie their own shoes are tying knots. Just amazing!


        • #19
          An important aspect to keep in mind is maintaining positive reenforcement with these kids. Any child with a disability becomes an easy target for harassment or worse from other kids or even leaders and parents. Educating the ignorant is more frustrating than working with the kids that have a legitimate issue.