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Not Quite Right in the Head - Our Responsibilities?

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  • #46
    Gotta say that half the posts here are pretty ill-informed when it comes to working with Scouts with disabilities. We have a boy who is higher functioning autistic and three kids with Aspergers. I wish I had mroe Scouts like my autistic kid. He is polite, always says "hi" and really works hard. Yes it is a bit like herding cats with him but his friends in his patrol really help him. The Aspergers kids are the same way. Yes they are a handful at times but never more so than any other "normal" kids we have.

    I think the person who said earlier that putting labels on a kid makes you look at them differently has it spot on! Whether the kid is "normal" or has a disability, the monitoring of, and discipline system for these kids should be the SAME. It should not make a lick of difference if the kid has Aspergers or not. If the kid is doing stuff at Scout events that warrants punishment then serve it up fast and make sure the parents are involved. Explain what happens if it happens again or while under "probation". HOWEVER, you need to guard against scapegoating too. All too often kids with such disabilities are treated differently and alientated by the other Scouts. We assigned Guides to help our Scouts with Aspergers and met with their patrols to discuss what to expect and to heavily suggest they keep an open mind and help the guys. Too many times the kids with difficulties are demonized which leads to further aggressive behavior.

    You may not be a mental health professional, but I bet you were never a canoeing expert, survival expert or marksman in the military either...and yet you developed those skills to help teach your Scouts. Knowing how to handle kids with a special needs like this is just another skill as a Scouter you will need to learn. Like WFA, knots or any other skill you wanted to learn to be a Scouter, this is just another skill. Whether you WANT to learn it or not is up to you.


    • Krampus
      Krampus commented
      Editing a comment
      @Basementdweller: Ill-informed because many seem to what to throw up their hands and say "I can't deal" rather than learning how to deal with the issues. As I said in the post, we think nothing of learning WFA so we can do back-country stuff or becomming NRA certified to run a rifle range, so why not become attuned to how to deal with kids with mental challenges?

      Answer: Because it is hard and not as fun as the other stuff...but for the kid in question it may very well be the difference between him continuing to be like that or finally changing. And yes, as long as you wear the uniform it *is* your duty to reach out whenever possible to help kids. Now, if they are breaking the law or abusing others then obviously professional help is called for.

    • JoeBob
      JoeBob commented
      Editing a comment
      Sorry, Krampus.
      I barely have enough time to meet with the PLC, coach my SPL through planning troop meetings, report to the committee, assign duties to my ASMs (and follow up to be sure they're okay), hold SMCs for every scout when requested, keep all my BSA required training current, occasionally visit roundtable, go on a weekend long trip once a month and a week long Summer camp every year, teach a subject every now and then, check on my boy, take care of my personal gear and uniform, and bathe. Did I mention that I have a wife who still tolerates my presence and other family members? And a full time job?
      I have to prioritize my time. Seeking out specialized training to deal with one bad apple is not even on the bottom of the list.

      If 'Surly Scout' (not diagnosed with anything that we're informed of) continues to add unwanted drama to troop activities it is my responsibility to:
      1- Inform Surly Scout and parent that continued defiant behavior will result in his removal.
      2- Be specific about what constitutes defiant behavior. ( Not participating in any group activities, refusal to follow reasonable instructions, aggression, etc.)
      3- Remove Surly Scout from the troop for the good of the rest of the group.

      Wearing the uniform means that sometimes you have to make tough decisions.

    • Krampus
      Krampus commented
      Editing a comment
      @JoeBob: I hear ya. I am in the same boat with an 83 Scout troop. We do high adventure, camp 11-12 times a year and I have not had a summer to myself in I don't know how long. That said, I still go out and get my WFA, EDGE Trainer and all the other training BSA offers but does not require for the good of my boys. I took a special course on how to handle youth with certain mental issues. Not that hard.

      I don't know your personal situation so maybe this kid falls into the category where the parents don't reign him in and professional help has not helped him either. If that is the case then cutting him for the good of the troop would be a good move. However, it seemed the course the overall discussion was taking was that kids with this type of disability are all like that and not worth the effort, hence my reluctance to join that chorus. In the end, JoeBob, most volunteers are giving people who do not give up easily. I suspect you are one of those. Your gut will tell you what to do. I just urge others to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and consider these kids as normal kids who have special issue that are not insurmountable. That's all.

  • #47
    I agree with Krampus ... to a degree. The term "disability" is too loosely used.

    I've had excellent experience with scouts that have some level of asbergers, autism or a disability. They are excellent scouts. I've also had scouts that come from broken homes or with parents in jail. We can work with them too. To be honest, I'm confounded when people talk of the category of asbergers as some type of really bad diagnosis. From what I see, they function fine in families and in society.

    The category I have had little success integrating into the troop is "EBD"... i.e. significant / severe emotional behavioral disorders. Oppositional. Defiant. Strong anti-social behavior. Meanness. "I believe" (not a clinician) those fall into the term severe or significant "emotional behavior disorders" ... "EBD". I'm at the point that when I see it demonstrated, we may or may not give a warning and/or a 2nd chance. The result is separation from the troop.

    If the scout is willing to work with us, great! We accept them. But if they want to bring meanness, oppositional, defiant or strong anti-social behaviors into the troop, they need to move on ... and very quickly move on.


    • Krampus
      Krampus commented
      Editing a comment
      Spot on! And it is not just kids with Aspergers that show these signs. However, there seems to be a high correlation to kids who have Aspergers and EBD. I was taken aback by the generalization being used around Aspergers as if the two (Aspergers and EBD) go hand in hand. Also, I have seen Scouters put themselves out there to learn all sorts of "fun" skills, so why not learn coping skills for kids with clinically diagnosed disabilities so you can help your Scout understand and help this kid? That was my point to those seemingly wanting to wash their hands of such issues.

  • #48
    As the Occidental Philosopher Harry Callahan once said, "A man's got to know his limitations",


    • #49
      Well fred and krampus, I am one of two active adults in the troop. We have a 10 to 1 ratio.....

      Our Troop does not have the resources to babysit or chaparone an unpredictable scout.

      While you find it personally rewarding to help this one boy, I have a troop full of them abandon, no or single parent home, raised by grandparents, no father in the picture. Most of them have add/adhd issues on top of it all. This isn't your rosey suburban picture of a two parent home with a white picket fence, two new cars and a dog.

      Now your going to throw a mildly autuistic scout in the mix?????

      I am a bottom line kinda guy........I don't have the time or interest in having or getting the training for this, your comparison to WFA is a bad one, WFA benefits everyone on the trip as does rangemaster training, My spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours getting trained for one autistic scout doesn't make sense........Call me lazy or any other name.

      Krampus,....guesiing your son is autistic?


      • Krampus
        Krampus commented
        Editing a comment
        With all due respect, none of your business.

        I happen to have several such kids and have seen what happens when someone gives a damn about them. We are all volunteers here and give hundreds of hours every year in the development of these youth. I am certain you have issues that arise in your troop where only a single scout is affected and you handle it accordingly. All I am pointing out is that no one should single ANY kid out as not being worthy of the effort of saving UNLESS they have broken the law OR they are currently seeking professional help and it does not appear to be working. In such instances getting the kid out is the best for greater good.

        I just find the fact that many seem to lumping these kids into a category of not being worth the time or "knowing limitations" as ironic. We deal with other kids with similar difficult issues (see thread of boy who smokes pot on camp outs and wants his Eagle) and seem to have plenty of compassion, yet in dealing with kids that may have special needs we seem to not be willing to go that extra mile. Just puzzles me.

      • Basementdweller
        Basementdweller commented
        Editing a comment
        awe someone edited out Krampus swearing at me

      • Krampus
        Krampus commented
        Editing a comment
        With all due respect, none of your business.

        I happen to have several such kids and have seen what happens when someone gives a damn about them. We are all volunteers here and give hundreds of hours every year in the development of these youth. I am certain you have issues that arise in your troop where only a single scout is affected and you handle it accordingly. All I am pointing out is that no one should single ANY kid out as not being worthy of the effort of saving UNLESS they have broken the law OR they are currently seeking professional help and it does not appear to be working. In such instances getting the kid out is the best for greater good.

        I just find the fact that many seem to lumping these kids into a category of not being worth the time or "knowing limitations" as ironic. We deal with other kids with similar difficult issues (see thread of boy who smokes pot on camp outs and wants his Eagle) and seem to have plenty of compassion, yet in dealing with kids that may have special needs we seem to not be willing to go that extra mile. Just puzzles me.

    • #50
      It is absolutely the forums business as to where you are writing your perspective from...... From your response the answer is probably yes.

      BTW what is your scouting resume......again seein who we are talking too.

      Mine, current SM, only 6 month, ASM 4 years, tiger, wolf, bear, webelos den leader, ACM, CM. Pack oudoor chair, District Day camp program director and CC...... I live and scout in a poor urban area, most of my scouts are from single parent, grand parent homes....Rarely is their a father figure involved. I have a troop committee of 8 60-70 year old Eagle scout life time troop members. and one other ASM in his 40's.

      Far as the Eagle who smokes some weed......I would have suspended him and refused to sign his applicaiton. But it wouldn't have made any difference council would sign it any way. Compassion, no......I hold him to the same standard I live by......In the other thread I poked them about it being illegal, because in my lifetime it won't be.....

      Worth the time, I don't have any more time......If I have to chose between a patrol of boys vs one autistic boy.......Guess who loses..........That is my reality, so unless the the Scouter Fairy delivers me 4 or 5 full trained ASM as volunteers it ain't gonna happen.


      • Krampus
        Krampus commented
        Editing a comment
        I see no need to fence with you. I owe you nothing and need to explain nothing to you. Suffice that I am a long-time Scouter in a big troop. We likely share many of the same issues, though you seem to like to throw stuff at folks claiming they are some how "rich" or that they come from the other side of the tracks....yet I noticed that you posted once many of your scouts have iPads or smart phones, so you cannot really come from "the hood". Frankly, I don't care. You are an SM, do a good job and you like it. Great! More power to you!

        My reasons for helping kids like this is because I see so many people just dismiss them because its hard or uncomfortable. Like I said, I highly doubt all of your scouts come at you with the same problems all the time. You have to approach each scout differently. Kids with these diabilities are no different, they just require special attention. I think you would be amazed at just how easy it is to deal with these kids if you give a darn.

        Sorry, but I hate to see ANY kid left behind or ignored and will do may best to make sure that never happens on my watch and in my troop. Limits? Sure, as I said above, if the kids is a true danger and/or professional help is not working. But you will never see me turn my back on a kid in need. You may not roll that way and that's your choice.

      • Krampus
        Krampus commented
        Editing a comment
        Note: My "swearing" at you was not more than Clarke Gable said in Gone with the Wind. Hardly earth shattering or offensive.

      • Basementdweller
        Basementdweller commented
        Editing a comment
        My folks claim poverty.....But yet trips to disney and iphones are on the menu. Never seen one of my scouts with an ipad. they have ipods for sure. I have been taken advantage of these folks on more than one occasion. It is about parental priorities.

        the demographic of my troop is anywhere from myself decent job and income to 4 generations living under one roof.

        Whether I do a good job or not......Not sure how to evaluate that.....My vision of success is the troop growing to a maximum of 40 members. The SPL running the program and have a PLC full of excited boys.

        I will not view my time in scouting as an adult as a success till one of my current scouts introduces me to his son who is currently a scout.
        Last edited by Basementdweller; 03-05-2013, 09:36 AM.

    • #51
      Well BOR with CC, 2 CM's, SM, Problem Scout and mom last night. Scout was read the accusations against him, read the quotes from the scouts who quit and relay the incidents witnessed by those in attendance. He was given his moment to speak and address his action and then was suspended for 30 days. I followed up with my feeling about him putting his patrol mates at risk and his behavior in public is an embarrassment to our unit.

      His response was the one line mom taught him and mom quoted the line as well. Here is the hitch, the CC asked for a Diagnosis from the Physician because it was not noted on his current BSA physical on file with the troop. According to it he is completely normal.

      Mom left in a rage and is going to call scout office and have our jobs......I am ok with that.

      I contacted the youth that used him as the reason they left the troop. I will see next week whether they return or not.

      The overall experience has left me flat.

      We lost two scouts because of this youth.

      The scout and parent involved are not taking the suspension and BOR seriously and threatened the troop leadership.

      The scout will not take this moment to reflect on his behavior.

      Parent and scout have the attitude that the troop leadership are out to get him.

      After all that I wonder if that hour of sitting with the scout and mom was worth it.
      I wonder if we just should have dismissed him from the troop.
      I wonder if the suspension is going to make a difference in his behavior or life.
      I wonder if he will return or not.

      I did not leave the room with a warm and fuzzy feeling and to be real honest I was sick to my stomach.


      • #52

        I take it you documented the reason for the Board of Review and how it was received. You did the right thing. You talked to the boy and mother, he and his mother were presented with the issues and how the issues were being dealth with

        You did the right thing, take some comfort in that


        • Basementdweller
          Basementdweller commented
          Editing a comment
          The CC demanded documented he took notes and recorded it. I guess he is expecting problems.

      • #53
        BD....looks like you got re-affirmation on how trying to deal with these kinds of people can be an excercise in futility.

        A few things from my experience.....

        1. Took a class with BSA university of scouting several years back on "Dealing with difficut scouts". One thing I clearly remeber and want to share with everyone was an experience from an unfortunate troop and scoutmaster somewhere (I relate the story they provided, I have not taken the time to reseach to verify it myself).....A scoutmaster somewhere who had an extremely difficult scout in his troop finally at some point made a casual verbal note (In a kind way) to one of the scouts parents that they might need to consider some professional assistance. Parents did seek professional assistance and it was diagnosed the kid had issue and recieved treatment or therapy or meds or whatever. parents then proceed to hire a lawyaer and eventually the scoutmaster is sued for the costs involved since he was not trained in phsycotherapy and had no business making the initial recomendation ! That right there told me that having difficult kids in he troop is a growing liability potential and if they end up gone from the troop most all would be better off.

        2. My own 2 boys have had pretty extreme mood disorders, it hasn't caused an issue at the troop as we paid for professional diagnosis and medication that got the issue under control...except at home where dealing with them can many times be very difficult. I have worked with phsycoligists because of this an know that even them with years of training, education and experience that dealing with people with issues is trying, not an exact science and very difficult and many tiems impossible. This is from very good pros on the subject. For Krampus to casually suggest that a volunteer scouter should simply get training to deal with such scouts and to suggest that accomplishing this is as simple as LNT or YT or safeswim training is ridiculous.

        The first really serious situation I had with a scout was one I "inherited" from the previous SM. Kid pulled a knife on another kid and threatened at summer camp, was to be booted but the grandmother pleaded with the previous SM to keep him as the troop was this kids only hope(She was right). In the next year he tried to fight other scouts, intimidated the younger ones, pee'd on a tent, peed in a kids water bottle and other things I have since forgotten, on top of all the ussual stuff (Never helping at campouts, running around at meetings, damaging troop and other kids stuff etc etc). I had other majr issues intthe troop at the time but when I got them resolved this kid had to go. I had others who would not go to campouts if this kid was going and some considering switching troops to be away from him. We tried suspensions etc but nothing helped. I did have one ASM that really wanted to reach this kid but even he knew after about 6 months we were gaining no ground with him and were potentially lsing good scouts. He was told to find another troop at recahrter, having been suspended from all troop activities the 6 moths prior. The drama was gone, the other boys happy and the kid in question we last heard became a drug addict on the streets in a city in California. We did our best but we have 2 dozen other boys to serve, we aren't mental health professionals.

        Kid 2 came to us with a known bad history from cubs, the other nearby troop got 7 Webelos crossovers, many of which we MIGHT HAVE GOTTEN....they found where the difficult kid was going and went to the opposite troop. I taked to all thos families and 5 saidpoint blank they preferred our troop but since scout X signed up with us they were going to the other troop to avoid this kid. From our experience withthe first scout I described, I was in no mood to live through the mess again. Kid went to summer camp and was a problem begining to end. Was a constant problem at every troop meeting and camput he went to. We started swift and sure with the warnings, ultimatums etc. Scout was soon getting suspended from campouts by PLC decision and held to agreements which predictably caused protest by the parents. We stuck to our guns and they quit in protest relatively fast. Troopo continued to prosper without the drama, distraction and non productive stuff.

        Botom line for me...there were many kids with minor issues we would coach and help but thre extreme problem kids are going to screw up the troop, waste your time and energy and potentially expose you to problems. We are amatuer voluntters with our own lives, we have no obligation to be proffesional therapsts for lost cause kids with frequently, disfuntional families attached.

        Don't worry BD, if they make life hard on you because of this problem family, I find the pay is the same if I am employed as a SM or not.


        • Krampus
          Krampus commented
          Editing a comment
          You miss my point entirely. I was address Asperbergers and folks dismissing the boys as "those kids" or even the offensive post title "not right in the head".

          No where did I say that volunteers getting trained will solve the problem. What I said was 1) you don't simply dismiss kids with autism, aspergers, ADD or ADHD as head cases that are always going to be problems, 2) many times dealing with such kids may take a bit of patience and understanding...just like dealing with ANY Scout can be. If you recall, my response was speficially to those folks saying it was too much effort or they were not trained so therefor should not have to deal. They do have training you can take and I believe I said that it was no replacement for professional diagnoses or help.

          Some of the stuff you point out in your post is pretty bad. As I said earlier, if laws are broken then Scouts should go...full stop!

      • #54
        >>After all that I wonder if that hour of sitting with the scout and mom was worth it.<<

        I think so, its not a scout problem anymore, it’s the parents problem. You made her responsible for the future of her son in your troop.

        >>I wonder if we just should have dismissed him from the troop.<<

        For every one parent I dealt with in your situation who didn’t care, five did care. You are giving the family and yourself another chance.

        >>I wonder if the suspension is going to make a difference in his behavior or life.<<

        No it will not, but this is about the parents, not the scout. I personally don’t care for suspensions because all they really do delay the inevitable. Either the family will agree to terms, or not. I usually knew within a week.

        >>I wonder if he will return or not.<<

        I wonder if mom will come around.

        I think you did good.



        • #55
          The sad thing is.........The guilty I feel hoping he never comes back.

          I don't believe there is any way to help this young man or mom from with in scouting, He will continue to use his disability, real or imagined, as an excuse or crutch. He will continue to be an issue inside the troop with the youth.


          • #56
            Here goes. I hope my comment doesn't evaporate in the ether.

            I think:
            (1) If a boy is consistently "mean" than that is an issue that needs to be addressed--I would advocate a Troop "time out".
            (2) Parents need to be upfront and part of the team; helping out the Troop as much as possible. I understand how tempting it may be to "dump and run" when you are emotionally exhausted with some of these kids.
            (3) Scouters need to be patient with the fact that some boys will be slower getting their skills up to speed than average. So they have to wait an extra year for the big trip? Happened with mine but now they practiced the skills better than average once they got them.
            (4) Incorporating some difficult scout training into the Scoutmaster training would be helpful but even I would balk at an additional requirement. Better yet to develop some better support materials and point people to them.


            • #57
              >>The sad thing is.........The guilty I feel hoping he never comes back.<<

              Yes, I’m sorry that I have no consoling words to help, but I think guilt is a reflection of a good person trying hard to do the right thing in a hopeless situation. Some years later I still reflect on the scouts that didn’t come back. Most were very troubled and I pray they are doing OK as adults. But I have far more success memories to keep my sanity balanced.

              What you are doing is hard and it pulls on all our emotions. There were many nights I couldn’t sleep. Some nights I smiled and laughed myself to sleep, some nights I cried. It’s a hard world out there and the SM sees more than his fair share because the title alone assumes them to be more trusted than the average person. Some parents expect us to perform miracles, some just want us to babysit.

              But what you are doing is noble and it requires courage to stand up against the constant waves of strife we see in these kids. Our own families suffer and our sole takes a beating. Sometimes we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and we become an outlet for the single mom who feels hopelessness in how to raise their son into a man. But in the end, the rewards make it worth it and even motivate us to hurry to the next activity hoping for another day as good as yesterday. For every step backward, we go two steps forward.

              It’s hard to get it right every time, but I promise the skills you learn from this situation will be needed again.

              I love this scouting stuff.



              • Basementdweller
                Basementdweller commented
                Editing a comment
                Oh I know that in time, I will feel better about it. The kid is a punk and mom is an enabler. There is no notation about autism or asperbergers on his medical form.

                It still never feels good to sit a mom and son down and say your son did x,y and Z to jimmy and he quit because of it. Then he acted proud of his shenanigans.

                If the two boys come back next week and have solid attendance......I will ask the CC to dismiss him from the troop.

            • #58
              I posted this in another forum but it seems it is appropriate here too, so forgive the double post. There is training out there to be had to deal with ADD/ADHD and austism spectrum Scouts and is offered through at least one Council. Maybe your Council can incorporate it into your region's training if there is a need. Given 12% of kids are being diagnosed with this it might make sense. Food for thought.



              • #59
                About basementdweller's situation ... a few comments

                Talk with the parents BEFORE the scout is involved in a formal meetings or discipline.
                ---- Zero surprises.
                ---- Early and up front communications

                You need to remove the scout from the troop
                ---- if the scout won't own the issues
                ---- if the parents won't agree on a solution
                ---- if the troop leaders don't believe the situation is fixable

                Make sure the troop leaders are being honest with themselves.
                ---- Red flag phrases.
                --------- "If any kid needs scouting, ..."
                --------- "It's our duty to ...."
                --------- "Isn't this why scouting was created ..."
                ---- Troop leaders are responsible for the health of the WHOLE troop.

                I'd NEVER put a scout in front of an adult disciplinary board or even a youth version.
                ---- Don't hold a trial or a punishment committee.
                ---- Deal with the scout one-on-one
                ---- Have at least two or three adults present, but one is the key player.

                Follow the techniques a manager uses for a problem employee meeting.
                ---- Think of it as coaching
                ---- Pre-plan. Be specific. Use examples.
                ---- Listen to the scout
                ---- Make sure the scout owns the issues and agrees to fixing things.

                IMHO ... scouting is not about punishments. Having to debate punishments means something is wrong. Might be the troop. Might be the specific youth. But something needs to change.


                • #60
                  At this point in my SMship I am not comfortable with suspending or dismissing a scout.....I will let the CC do his BOR and suspend the scout if he feels it is necessary.

                  I have had conversations regarding behavior issues with scout and mom. CC was calling scouts who did not recharter and that is when this all started.

                  I feel much better about it now and wish it had happened sooner.