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prevalence of special needs boys in scouting

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  • prevalence of special needs boys in scouting

    This is purely anecdotal but I'm curious to know whether others have seen this too. The other thread on special needs and scouting prompted me to ask you all about this. It seems like there is a really high percentage of boys with learning disabilities involved in scouting around here. And, as mentioned in the other thread, this is particularly the case with conditions that are not immediately apparent. I noticed this to some extent in cubs, but even more so with boy scouts.

    So what do you think: Is it really that scouts draws in a high percentage of boys with disabilities? (maybe scouting is one of few places where boys who struggle in school or with other extracurriculars feel welcome?) Or is it perhaps that there are a whole lot more boys in the general population with learning disabilities than I thought, and it just happens I notice it with scouts because it is one of the few places where I really get to hang around with kids and their parents and get to know them well? What's your take on this?


  • #2
    Our perspective, our oldest son might be slightly ADD, but we've never had him tested. No modifications at school. He has been in Scouts since 2nd grade (now 7th).

    I was a Cub Scout. Was asked to be a leader for my oldest. Now hold many hats.

    Our middle son has AS/ASD. Because of our oldest being in Scouts, he wanted to be. My wife became a leader for him. We wanted him to be in Scouts to be in a more controlled environment besides school and church to interact with other kids. The sports programs around here couldn't deal with his needs. Scouting provides a good environment.

    I'm sure the same could be said for 4-H, Camp Fire, YMCA, etc. We just happen to be a Scout family.

    Our youngest has had to watch his brothers in Scouts and can't wait til next year when he can join.

    BTW, we are in the process of starting a Special Needs Unit in our district, just 2 years after starting a regular Pack. The primary need for a SN unit is that, as seen many times in these forums, leaders have no clue how to deal with the issues that arise from SN Scouts and they will refuse to deal with or register any boys with SN. (Too many leaders don't even take the time to get the regular programs right).


    • #3

      I don't know if this will come out the way I intend but think this is one of those "which came first the chicken or the egg" type questions because is it really that prevalence is increasing? Or is it just that with more modern diagnostics and more people are -having- their kids diagnosed, that more are being given the label for their conditions and we're now just gaining a better understanding of the issues ourselves and encouraging more of these boys to get involved???? It is a complex issue, for sure!


      • #4
        That's an interesting point Sue, though not quite the phenomenon I was trying to get at. Let me try to re-phrase my question.

        Do you think that there is a higher percentage of boys with various types of disabilities in scout groups than in the general population? And if so, why is that the case? I wouldn't have thought so myself but then a friend of mine did a presentation for my son's former cub pack on scouting for disabled youth. Following that, quite a few parents (probably 1/4 to 1/3 of the pack) disclosed that their boys had diagnosed learning or behavioral disabilities. I had known about some, but I was surprised by how many boys this included.

        Or, does scouting pretty well mirror the general population (roughly similar percentages of boys with disabilities in scouts as in the pop. as a whole), and we just happen to notice it more in scouts because of the nature of the activities and the opportunities scouting provides to really get to know the boys and their families and circumstances. Scouting challenges everyone to branch out from their comfort zone in one way or another and it may just be that this process highlights people's "quirks."



        • #5
          I don't know if any statistics are available, so I can only speak from experience. Generally speaking, I would say scouting probably mirrors the society in which we live. However, individual units with positive, understanding leaders may have a tendency to attract a larger percentage of children with needs, as the parents look for a positive environment for their child to grow and interact with others.


          • #6
            Disabilities in Scouting pretty much mirror what is in the general population. You notice it more it Scouting because that is where you are interacting with the youth. Those same boys are also in the schools, sports & other organizations, but you don't personally deal with them there.

            As SueM states, these boys have always been in Scouting & the general population as well. What we now know as disabled, we used to just label as "stupid", "lazy" or "troublemakers". There is also some research to indicate that the percentages are going up overall, and that it could be related to the fact that there seem to be genetic links to many of these disabilities.


            • #7
              Having been a youth soccer coach as well as a den leader, I have had AS kids in both settings. In my experience, AS/ADD kids don't stick with sports because their disorder doesn't tolerate chaos, loud noise, etc. Scouting and other youth groups are non-competitive, build self-esteem, and have the unique advantage of allowing parental interaction which you can't have on a soccer field.
              I have an AS scout in my den who I also coached in soccer. I was glad his parents chose to not pursue competitive teams sports with him, it's way out of his realm to perform under game conditions. Even in the den he can get out of hand when we play a group game, but his parents can step in and help him get back under control. This boy is very intelligent, but his disorder prevents him from doing things most people consider typical "boy" things like baseball and riding a bike without training wheels.
              While I dislike broad generalizations, I think Scouting does attract those kids' parents more so than other activities because of the smaller group size, the focus on individual achievement at your own pace, and the generally quieter nature of the program. I also feel a lot more parents are being more open about so-called "hidden" disabilities and disorders; as noted by ScoutNut, these kids used to be labeld as "weird" or "troublemakers" when they had a genuine developmental problem. Yes, these kids are also in the schools, but within our unit there are 42 registered cubs and 4 known AS boys, a much higher percentage than in my sons' entire third grade.


              • #8
                It's not a statistically valid sampling, but I have had a few parents of special needs kids tell me that their doctor/counselor/social worker encouraged Boy Scouts. I believe it is because of the social skills development and the fact that it is not purely competition-based.


                • #9
                  I think accross the board, that the ratio of SN Scouts to Average Scouts is less than say public scoool populations. The higher concentration I believe comes from certain troops attracting more special needs scouts than others. We rejected 3 other area troops before settling on the one we're in, and that goes for a couple other families I know of also.


                  • #10
                    Lisabob's question is an excellent one, and one that I have considered myself. I have a little bit of info and opinion for ya'll to ponder.

                    A disability is contextual, that is a condition is only disabling to the extent that it impedes a child's (in these cases) ability to progress in a given context. If a child has a reading disability, that impedes his progress in school, he is identified under the individuals with disabiltiies education act as a child with a learning disability and is provided with accomodations and remediation. Now when that same child joins scouts, reading becomes less a focus of his progress. Scouts is it's core an experiential program based on skills development in areas not directly related to reading.

                    This contextual piece of the definition is very important because a child can be disabled during school and well-abled during a cub/boy scout meeting. What a gift that is! Many parents gravitate toward BSA because of this very issue. Given this, many disabilities are wider reaching and more debilitiating than the one I've mentioned. This is especially so with those involving conditions that are physically evident, say... something that impacts a child's ability to walk, talk, sense, or care for themselves. Even still, the BSA offers significant flexibility in requirements for those kids.

                    As to prevalence of disabilities in scouting keep in mind that the best figures available indicate that about 12-15% of school aged children have educationally disabling conditions, somewhat higher in boys than in girls. I don't know the BSA figures, however my experiences lead me to agree with some of our other posters' hunches. There does appear to be a higher number of boys with educationally disabling conditions in scouts than in the general population.

                    Lisabob hit it right on the head in my opinion. I think that BSA creates an ideal program to celebrate achievement in kids who have difficulty achieving in school. Semper may also have it right, understanding and welcoming leadership may increase membership for special needs boys. In fact, many school personnel suggest to parents that they enroll their child in scouts for these very reasons. This is especially so with children with social difficulties, such as children with Asperger's, children who have a very hard time reading and responding to social cues.

                    I would suggest that if you have a child in your unit with a disabling condition, keep an eye on what they are capable of and succeding with and make sure that the child and parent knows it. Often the disabilty can become the focus for that child's adult caregivers and teachers and the parents do not hear enough about what is good in the child's ability set.

                    For all the heat the the BSA may take regarding certain exclusionary policies, this is absolutely an area where We've got it right.


                    • #11
                      I agree with SemperParatus.
                      While I can't back anything up with numbers.
                      I think that maybe we do see slightly more special needs members in Cub Scouting than might be the "Norm".
                      I remember when I was Day Camp Director, it seemed that about a third of the little fellows were taking something for ADD.
                      When I took Boy Scouts to the Jamboree, out of 36 we only had 2 taking meds.
                      We have one Lad in the Ship that has a rough time with it (ADD) At times he can be very annoying. The other Scouts (one is his little brother) are aware of his condition and really try to accommodate him. Still when he gets to far out of hand they just tell him to "Shut up!!"
                      His Dad is a Ship's Mate, sadly he seems to be the one who does the worse job of working with him.
                      There are times when I feel really bad for the Lad. Nearly all of the Scouts we have are very bright kids, they talk about report cards that are full of A's. This poor kid is really struggling at school, I know that he is really trying and at times I know he must get so very frustrated.
                      The Lad is a good Lad, he knows that I like him and does at times come to me. I'm not in that field, so the best I can do for him is just be there for him. Thankfully I don't get upset hardly ever and it seems when he is going a little to far I can just say his name and give him "The Look" and that seems to work.
                      He was with me at the Jamboree and never presented me with a problem.