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  • "special needs" boys into troop?

    Hi, I am an ASM in a our troop.Last committee meeting we were discussing Weblos recruiting. We have 1 feeder troop with 6 Weblos II. 1 of those boys has special needs, but he has made it through the cub program with all the boys in his den.
    My question is should we encourage him to go to our district special needs troop or try and get him to stay with the other boys?
    If he was to stay, I think 1 of his parents would need to acompany him on outings and no hiking/backpacking.Otherwise,I think he would be fine.
    Some adults feel that may drag down the rest of the boys, and where do you draw the line on inclusion vs. not doing something as a patrol/troop?
    My concern with our special needs troop is that they are almost all special needs men.
    I am told that there are some boys, but I have never seen any at camporee (camporees are the only place I have had an interactions with that group)While they seem to be a good group of guys, I dont think it is the same as a "BoYscout troop".
    I just wanted to get some outside point of views.
    We havent been in touch with him or his family yet. Kind of wanted to know what to think before we see if he is even interested in continuing in scouting.

  • #2
    as an add on, there is another boy who has new a stepbrother who is also special need and may want to join the troop. He seems much more problemmatic, but can you say where the line is?


    • #3
      Hmmmm.... As the parent of a special needs child, and a Disabilities Awareness MBC, technically, there is no line. In the public schools, you can't force a kid to go to a centralized program -- the school district needs to make reasonable accomodation in the school they're zoned for. Ethically, I'd encourage the same with Scout units.

      Yes, there are SN troops in some districts, and one of the units in my district is an all-autistic Cub Pack (chartered by an Autism school, which is probably the main reason they survive).

      Personally, not only do we sell the SN kids short if we tell them that the short-bus is their only option in life, but you also sell the able-bodied Scouts short by denying them an opportunity to learn from each others differences.

      Sure, kids without any exposure and otherwise ignorant to SN's can be cruel at times, but once they are introduced to the differences and more importantly the similarities betwen "normal" kids and SN kids, they are usually more accomodating than adults are.

      So, let 'em know they're more than welcome to participate in the neighborhood troop if they feel comfortable doing so. As you said, they made it thru Cubs. If they already have the desire, they can make Eagle.(This message has been edited by eolesen)


      • #4
        Yah, here's where I'd draw the line, jhubb. Ask two sets of questions:

        What are your adult leaders' skills? What are your adult leaders' capacity for growth and time available for outside trainin' and OTJ learning? Same sort of questions for the boys - what's their capacity for growth and ability to be flexible and sacrifice?

        How much accommodation is needed? Meet with the parents & the boy (and docs and teachers and den leaders and whoever). Lookin' at all the troop activities for last year, how much more effort or program sacrifice would be required to make sure this lad had a good experience?

        So on one side of the equation is your capacity, as bluntly and honestly as you can state it (rounding slightly down). On the other side is the boy's need, as accurately and honestly as you can state it (rounding slightly up).

        If they don't at least balance, that's the line. It's just not fair to take a boy into a program if you don't have a good shot of makin' it work. Not fair to the boy. Not fair to the other boys. Not fair to the adults. To be considerin' it, your program should be hummin' along pretty well, both boys and adults. That's an indication that you actually have the excess capacity to give.

        It might help a bit to add capacity (like makin' a parent come along), but don't overestimate that - parents need trainin' and help, too. Most first year parents it's a big effort to get 'em plugged into understandin' Boy Scouting on their own. Besides, in the end yeh want the boy to be part of things with the other boys, not on a family campout with dad.

        So in da case you mention, it sounds like yeh might be just fine with the first lad (?). But then you have to reduce your available capacity in the first part of the equation. So yeh might not have what it takes for the second. Dat's just honest.



        • #5
          Why are you all beating around the bush, with a largely meaningless, non-specific term like Special Needs. Every child is different. Some are more different than others. You can't discuss this rationally without knowing the individual child's needs.

          So what are they?(This message has been edited by hilo)


          • #6
            That's what I'd be asking, too.
            While one boy with "special needs" might be able to do almost everything the other boys can do, another just couldn't.


            • #7
              IMO, you should NEVER discourage ANY boy from being a scout. Ever. There's many ways to modify the curriculum to fit that scout.


              • #8
                Every situation is different. Not only the Scout and his abilities, but his parent(s), the other Scouts, the other parents, and the SM.

                In our troop, we have two young fellows with Downs. They are both having a great Scouting experience, including outdoor adventures, plenty of personal growth, and functional day-to-day interactions with their peers and other adults. I woun't be at all surprised if they both earn Eagle.


                • #9
                  Thank you for your post Dawny. I'm new here, and my son started cubscouts this year. He has high-functioning Autism, and this is his only extracurricular activity. I felt comfortable with him joining scouts; since it doesn't have a sports-like, strong competitive atmosphere. However, he struggled with the last campout. Since then, I've felt somewhat uncomfortable and not looking forward to the next campout. I enjoy all that scouting has to offer, and I've even joined our troop as a committee member. I just hope I'm able to help my son; so that he can get the most out of scouts, and we don't have to give up.


                  • #10
                    Last weekend our Troop hosted a Webelos Den on our campout. The Den Leader, Cubmaster, one Dad, and four Webelos came. Great weekend. The Den Leader's son has autism. These guys are planning to cross over to our Troop in the fall after they earn the Arrow of Light and we are looking forward to it.

                    Talked a long time with Dad about his son. He wants his son to get the most out of the Boy Scout experience, but realizes that it will most likely require his (Dad's) presence on all outings. Dad has already decided to take our Council's SM/ASM trainings in the fall and intends to sign on as an ASM with our Troop when his son crosses over.

                    The autistic Scout is a delightful young man, high functioning, amazingly articulate, pretty good social skills (although he has trouble looking people in the eye when he talks), and seems to have formed a special bond to my younger son and me. During the weekend, he would wander off from time-to-time, but one of our Scouts would follow him and bring him back to the group. What was very cool to me was that Dad didn't hover over this boy, but rather let our Scouts step in and help. Very proud of our Scouts for their patience.

                    jhubb, I think you should talk with the family of the Webelos Scout and find out what they want for their son. Most likely they would want their son to continue with his group from Cubs and will take an active part in your Troop. Beavah makes a good point about discussing with the family their expectations and the program your Troop offers. Your Troop's typical activities may be more than the boy could handle and therefore wouldn't be a good experience for him.

                    Don't sell your Scouts short - I've seen many special needs Scouts in Packs and Troops over the years and have always been impressed with the patience and understanding shown by the other Scouts.


                    • #11
                      PalmettoScouter, welcome!

                      As another parent of a scout on the Autism spectrum, I want to encourage you not to give up. My son has Asperger's, as well as some other neurological and physical issues, and he has really prospered in scouting. He started as a Wolf, and just reached First Class as a Boy Scout. It took him three years in Boy Scouts to reach First Class (whereas most of his peers did it in one year), but that just makes me more proud of his accomplishments.

                      Scouting has helped him do things I didn't think he would ever do. Learning to swim (a requirement for First Class) was one of the big ones. He's also learned a lot of independence.

                      Campouts have been a struggle for him as well, and I make sure that I go along on all campouts to be there in case there are issues, but at the same time, I have learned to *only* be the safety net, and to let him do for himself, even if it means he won't always be successful the first time.

                      My best advice to you is to educate, educate, educate. Help the other leaders understand your son's unique perspective, and show them ways to help him cope with issues that may come up. We actually ended up switching troops a few months back because the leadership at the old troop wasn't very compatible with his needs. He has really thrived in his new troop.

                      I'm not sure if your son is a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout, since you said "cubscouts" but then talk about a troop and campouts. Campouts are certainly not a requirement for Cub Scouts (although they can be lots of fun, and are great experience for the boys). If he is a Cub, be prepared that you may need to look carefully for the right troop when he is ready to cross over to Boy Scouts. If he is in Boy Scouts, I'll try to give you some additional advice on how to make campouts more comfortable for him, if you like.


                      • #12
                        it all depends on what you and the Troop are willing to do. Check this picture, thats one of the scouts in the Troop I serve with the crutches. He uses those crutches to get everywhere he can. He was adopted from Russia by his mother when he was 8. He is 17 now and working on Eagle. He has MS and a hard time speaking, but he is on NYLT staff. Then there is my favorite scout is sitting next to one of our assistant scoutmasters, another young adult with MS, this guy is an Eagle Scout and is on staff at NYLT. My son was on JLTC staff, thats how long ago he was in, he has epispadias and has to urinate through a catheter he puts in his abdominal wall. At night he sleeps with a catheter placed in and a drainage bag. He was elected SPL and patrol leader to the 2001 National Jamboree, He is also an Eagle scout.

                        We have had a few autistic scouts and those with Aspergers as well. Somew we have had sucesses with and others not so much. The biggest indicator of success was how much the family was willing to work with the troop. The parents who didnt help much had youth that did not get much from the program. Those who do work with us, their sons get a lot. Then there are those who we cant handle because of violent mood swings, but the only way to find out is to try. Each troop will have its level of acceptance dictated by the Troops leadership background, we are lucky to have a pediatrician as a Committee chair, that helps but everyone has to be willing to work.


                        • #13
                          I'm a Special Needs Trainer for my district (which encompasses 3 counties in the Greater St. Louis area) and we have an AWESOME special needs program. I would suggest checking with your council to see if your area has one. And if they don't? Tell them you want one! Tell them you want to be a part of it!

                          PalmettoScouter, one big suggestion I would make is to read through your son's rank handbook. Go through the requirements and electives and write down how YOU would modify that requirement/elective to best fit your son's needs. If your area has a Special Needs Committee, then you can talk to them about an ISAP. (I'm not sure if every area has one or if they're singular to my area, I'll admit to being ignorant on that point) The Cub Scout motto is "Do Your Best" and there's a way to modify EVERY elective to fit any scout so they're still doing their best. I've done them with Tigers, Bears, and Wolfs thus far.

                          Feel free to email me or pm me if you'd like to discuss this further.

                          Good luck!


                          • #14
                            To anyone with a special needs boy, look and keep looking till you find a troop that your scout fits with. The benefits will be worth it. Some do better in a full SN troop and some get great benefits from regular troops. Alot depends on the parents and the boys in the troop.
                            We have an autistic boy in our troop that gained alot from his interactions with the adults and the older boys when he join the troop. He joined a few months before my son so I have watched how he has grown and changed by this interaction. His councilor has also seen great improvement because he is in scouts. He is now a star scout without any changes need in the requirements. Yes, it has taken him a bit longer to get there but he wanted to do what all others did. This was hard as he had some major problems with water. We are now looking into an age extension so he can continue to benefit from scouts as long as possible. 
                            Helping young men grow and become self-reliant is what scouts is all about. It is really noticable in those that need the most help. That is when you get the best felling that you, as a leader, are making a difference in all the boys' lives.


                            • #15
                              As a father of an autistic son who has been through scouts since tigers and is now approaching his 18th birthday, I have some parental perspective on the topic. I have also been a scout leader since before that as well as being a special olympics coach and have been involved in other youth programs and projects. Unless there are boys in the troop that will help your son as observed in an earlier post, I'm sorry to say, boy scouts seems to have little positive to offer. The adults are very unlikely to try to understand your son's needs and opportunities to grow and will not be likely to want to learn. Although BSA has the disabilities awareness merit badge, disabilities that are not physical get little sympathy or understanding. The attitude is more to keep special kids separate even offering special needs troops so other kids are not exposed to them. I am not sure how much is due to pressure from parents to protect their kids from "different" kids or if that feeling comes from the leaders themselves.

                              Because of my extensive experience with BSA, special Olympics, and other youth organizations I have a perspective broader than most. I wish I could be more positive but I have yet to experience an exception to this scout experience even though I have worked with hundreds of scouters. What I discovered was that since I had my own son in the troop, I was assigned to deal with the kids with issues who did not have parents along.

                              If you wish to have an autistic son go though the scouting program, you will have to be his leader adn don't expect your responsibilities to be limited to your son. The desire to ignor your son by others will appear most during and after summer camps and other large group activities even though you will be required to attend also. Advancement and merit badge records will not be credited or recorded. You will help your son repeat the work the next time only to have the same neglect delay his advancement. Since you will be an adult, you will be expected to help other kids as well and you can bet, they will not be the issue free kids. Considering the cost, rules, etc. it becomes a judgment call if your son will get any benefit or if your time would be better spent elsewhere.

                              Autism is spectrum, not an on-off switch. It occurs to varying degrees and will be mixed with other personality traits and likely other cognitive impairments. One autistic kid will not likely be like another. Autism is unlike most other disabilities in that the kids may be very intelligent just unable to deal with stimulus or verbal communication. Like other disabilities, they can have fears most people do not understand even exist and will often act out because of the fear. The people interacting with special needs kids should learn to deal with the fear and positive behavior will follow. If they can master that, they will find a lot less problems with "normal" kids as well. Too many adults resort to fear to control kids and it completely backfires with special kids. I would argue it fails with normal kids too, they just know better how to get away with things. From my experience, scouts could use a lot more education in this area. I have seen the confrontational type of discipline exhibited by the youth leadership in scout troops, OA and at scout functions with adults practically nodding approval. Even when leaders were warned, my son was confronted for his own OA tap out and was terrified. Even though twice elected, I chose not to subject him to ordeal and as a result, he does not have his arrow sash. The many ignored advancement achievements cost him advancement as well leaving me to wonder if it was all worth it. I dont plan to stay involved with scouting because of these experiences even though the thanks I get from young adults and parents has been wonderful. I became a scout leader because parents asked me to. I was specifically asked to be a father figure for their kids.