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Advancement & The Special Needs Scout - Why the run-around?

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Scouts with DisAbilities.... has an excellent website with some great plans. I wish National would adopt these guidelines (and their paperwork), and I wish we had more guidance from the Troop level on up as to how to handle Advancement issues for Special Needs Scouts, throughout the Scouting world.


I have a Scout who cannot complete the BSA Swimmer Test. He is a Beginner Swimmer and that''s due to his permanent condition and upper body weakness. His Occupational Therapist has written a letter requesting we (the Troop) modify or assign an alternate requirement for this particular one so he can obtain the First Class Rank.


So our Troop Committee met with the boy''s parents, discussed his abilities and decided that a 2.5 mile bike ride would be equally as challenging to his lower extremities, and require similar endurance. (Incidentally, he completed the bicycle ride on 9/4.)


We then sent the request to our District Advancements Chair for approval. We thought it would just require her to sign off on and we''d be good to go. Unfortunately she was brand new and had to consult with the outgoing Dist. Adv. Chair who wasn''t entirely sure what to do about our request either, but knew that we needed to follow a certain procedure and "get the right paperwork."


I looked all over National''s website for "the right paperwork" to no avail. My husband volunteers on the District staff so he picked up the phone and made a couple of phone calls. And our Senior DE tells my husband to have me call this lady who works with Special Needs Scouts as she will know what to do.


I called her and met with her. She sits on the Council Advancement Committee. She tells me basically that there are NO "UNIFORM" FORMS adopted by National or even our Region, Council or District that deal with this kind of thing. Because of this, she hands me an Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges, and a whole bunch of other forms (that came from the Scouts with DisAbilities website), called an ISAP (Individualized Scouting Advancement Plan) contract. This ISAP thing is basically modeled after the similar process of an IEP that occurs in the public education system setting.


I learned, that apparently our Council is not fond of allowing modifications, substitutions or otherwise granting the approval for alternate requirements. Well geee, ain''t that fun?


In addition to this new MOUNTAIN of paperwork that I need to have the Scout, the parents, the occupational therapist, the Scoutmaster, the Committee Chair, and two members of the District staff sign - I also have to get a "more detailed statement" from the occupational therapist that includes "medical terminology" and lists the Scout''s "specific diagnosis" as well as indicate whether the impairment is permanent or temporary. If his condition is temporary, she starts telling me about how developmentally disabled adults actually have Cub Scout programs that they can do. exCUSE ME!?!?!?!!


And THEN - after I go get all that information above, I can turn it back into her and THEN we should all count on waiting up to another 120 days for the Council Advancement Committee to meet so they can determine whether or not to grant the alternate!!!!!




Is anybody else ready to pull out their hair in solidarity with my frustration?


I''ll tell ya, I felt like we should have never taken it out of the Troop level and just made the command decision to "OK" the alternate and move this Boy Scout on his merry way to First Class Scout. But I knew that would be wrong, and this is what we get sometimes for trying to do the "RIGHT" thing.


This boy has been WAITING since April for a decision. I just came on board with it in July, but STILL! This process is absolutely ridiculous!!!!


Has anyone else had to deal with this kind of thing? What do other Councils do?

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What you should have done 1st was to contact the DAC & you & the Scout & parents & the DAC should have sat down & decided on the alternate requirement & what paperwork should be completed. That way, there is no question & situations like this don''t happen. Live & learn!


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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I once had a Scout with spina bifida and needed alternate requirements.


I had the parents get a letter detailing the scout''s condition. I also wrote a letter to the council''s advancement committee proposing alternate requirements. I had my troop committee aprove the requirements. I then made enough copies of the two letters for all the council advancement committee memebers. I took these letters to the next council advancement committee meeting and made this proposal in person. A short discussion about the proper procedure was held and it was decided everything was handled correctly. They were satisfied with the alternate requirements. I had every member sign their approval on my copy which I kept on file. I later received a copy of the minutes which had the letters attached.


This was a number of years ago and I am not sure if any of the procedures have changes since.


No there is no standard form. Perhaps it would make sense if there were. However it is not too difficult to make write a proposal.


I am surprised you need to wait that long for the advancement comittee to meet. Our council''s meeting happened every three months. It also sounds like your council''s committee is requiring you to jump through too many hoops to make it happen - for example, I don''t understand why "two district staff members" need to sign off on this. If I remember correctly the two approvals you need is the Troop committee and the council advancement committee.



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Yah, Joni, da system is a bit of a mess. I feel your pain.


It used to be that for T-2-1, the unit could waive or substitute requirements on its own, with no need for any approval from above.


Problem was, some "my kid tried his hardest and still can''t do a pullup" types started waiving requirements anytime a boy''s "best" at that moment didn''t meet the requirement. So they took the authority away from the unit (at least nominally... not that anybody would check). Da thing is, there was never any guidance issued to councils, and most council folks don''t have any real experience with disabilities. So there''s a few councils out there who have some good people and make it work intelligently, but mostly it''s what you describe.


The thing to ask yourself is whether the boy''s disability really prevents him from being able to swim, or whether it just makes it hard for him to do right now. "Upper body weakness" doesn''t sound like a good reason for a waiver; it sounds like a good opportunity to work with a boy to do something hard that will benefit him in the long run. But permanent neuromuscular deficit in the arms that makes stroking slowly impossible would certainly be good cause for a substitution. Does the boy need to use a modified bicycle when he rides (because of arm weakness)?


Off da cuff, I''d call a 2.5 mile bike ride for First Class a bit weak as a substitution, given that Second Class requires a 10 mile bike ride. If I were to advise your committee, I''d suggest something that requires some skill development in the same way that swimming requires some skill development. Perhaps make that a 5-10 mile mountain bike ride over a mountain bike course, which requires developing some biking skills beyond straight-and-flat? But then I don''t know this boy at all, so take it for what it''s worth. Yeh have to tailor it to the boy''s condition.


Just remember: Dagoal is not to "get" the boy the rank. The goal is to "get" him the experience, confidence, and peer recognition that comes from facing a real challenge, working hard, and overcoming it. That''s what makes the rank mean something.



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evmori - we didn''t have a DAC at the time. We now have one brand spanking new District Advancement Chair, and the former DAC has moved on to District Commish. Neither one of them knew in APRIL what to do so going to them was not helpful at all. They are the ones that left us hanging for an answer from April to July, as to what we, The Troop, were supposed to do for the Scout. Besides, after reading the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures Book, BSA #33088, it''s totally clear I never needed to talk to the DAC in the first place. They have nothing to do at all with the process. I guess I did them a favor by at least letting them know about the situation.



NealOnWheels - the only reason there are 2 District signatures required is because, since they don''t have any standard forms to use for this sort of thing, we had to use the "Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges", which requires the two district signatures. And I agree about the hoops - it''s just insane!



Beavah - Second Class Rank doesn''t require a 10mi bike ride. Where is that from? Second Class does however require swimming 25 FEET on the surface of the water after jumping in over the head, turning around and swimming another 25 feet. Is that what you meant? The Boy did that already as these are the same requirements for the BSA Beginner Swimmer - he just can''t make it through the entire 200 YARDS of swimming/treading water required in the BSA Swimmer Test. He''s done everything else for First Class. There is a HUGE difference between the Beginner Swimmer/Second Class requirements(50 feet in the water), and the BSA Swimmer Test/First Class requirements (200 yards in the water).


All involved absolutely INSIST this Scout EARN all his ranks and Merit Badges, not just be given them based on a disability or impairment. I am 150% on board with that. I just don''t understand why all the red tape and ridiculousness, and the non-uniformity on the whole matter.



Page 13 of the 2007 Boy Scout Requirements Book, tells us all about Alternate Requirements for Tenderfoot, 2cnd Class, and 1st Class, and how to go about them. They make the process sound so carefree. It''s certainly not, and I think the main reason is because everyone is not used to Scouts with Special Needs, uneducated about Special Needs, and we, the BSA in its entirety, are not properly equipped to actually handle Scouts with Special needs, though we definitely should be. Special Needs boys are fast becoming more of a rule than the exception in Boy Scouts! It''s time the BSA gets it right, they need to "BE PREPARED" and in so doing, will then and only then be able to prepare its Adult Leaders to handle Special Needs Scouts accordingly.



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I know I will get into trouble by doing this, but there are pretty clear directions on what to do found in the Advancement Committee Guide, Policies and Procedures BSA publication 33088.

I think these policies give Councils plenty of guidance, not that the guidance is always followed however. The key is the disability be of a permanent nature. The troop I serve has had a lot of experience with this. If you have seen the Troops website, you will notice the number of walkers that are present. It helps that our Committee Chair is a Pediatrician I agree.

Given the number of disabilities and physical problems a scout can have, I am glad there are no uniform forms it would have to be massive and then wouldnt include everything.

The text of  33088 regarding this issue is as follows:

Alternate Requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class Ranks

 A Scout who has a permanent physical or mental disability and is unable to complete all of the requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class rank may submit a request to the council advancement committee to complete alternate requirements. Below are the procedures for applying for alternate requirements. To keep Scouts with disabilities as much in the advancement mainstream as possible, some advancement accommodations may be required. Thus, a Scout in a wheelchair can meet the requirements for hiking by making a trip to a place of interest in his community. Giving more time and permitting the use of special aids are other ways leaders can help Scouts with disabilities in their efforts to advance. The substitute should provide a similar learning experience. Bear in mind the outcome of the Scouting experience should be one of fun and learning, and not completing requirements for rank advancements, which might place unrealistic expectations on the special-needs Scout.

Step 1-Do As Many Standard Requirements As Possible.

Before applying for alternate requirements, the Scout must complete as many of the standard requirements as his ability permits. He must do his very best to develop himself to the limit of his abilities and resources.

Step 2-Secure a Medical Statement.

A clear and concise medical statement concerning the Scout''s disabilities must be submitted by a licensed health-care provider It must state that the disability is permanent and outline what physical activities the Scout may not be capable of completing. In the case of a mental disability, an evaluation statement should be submitted by a certified educational administrator relating the ability level of the Scout.

Step 3-Prepare a Request for Alternate Requirements.

A written request must be submitted to the Council Advancement Committee for the Scout to work on alternate requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks. The request should include the standard requirements the Scout has completed and the suggested alternate requirements for those requirements the Scout cannot complete. This request should be detailed enough to give the advancement committee enough information to make a decision. The request should be prepared by the Scout, his parents, and his Scoutmaster. A copy of the medical statement in step 2 should be included.

Step 4-The Advancement Committee Reviews the Request.

The Council Advancement Committee should review the request, utilizing the expertise of professional persons involved in Scouts with disabilities. The advancement committee may want to interview the Scout, the parents, and the leader to fully understand the request and to make a fair determination. The decision of the advancement committee should be recorded and delivered to the Scout and the Scoutmaster. The Council Advancement Committee must then secure approval of the Council Executive Board. The Scout Executive must attach a letter to the application indicating that the Executive Board has approved the application.

When applicable, the candidate''s application for his award must be made on the Eagle Scout Rank Application or Quartermaster Award Application and also recorded on the Advancement Report form. In the application of these policies for Scouts with special needs, reasonable accommodation in the performance of requirements for advancement may be made. These may include such things as the extension of time, adaptation of facilities, or the use of equipment or necessary devices consistent with the known physical or mental limitations of the handicapped individual it is urged that common sense be employed.

Alternate Merit Badges for the Eagle Scout Rank

The Eagle Scout rank may be achieved by a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified* Venturer who has a physical or mental disability by qualifying for alternate merit badges. This does not apply to individual requirements for merit badges. Merit badges are awarded only when all requirements are met as stated.

The physical or mental disability must be of a permanent rather than temporary nature.

A clear and concise medical statement concerning the Scout''s disabilities must be made by a physician licensed to practice medicine, or an evaluation statement must be certified by an educational administrator.

The candidate must earn as many of the required merit badges as his ability permits before applying for an alternate Eagle Scout rank merit badge.

The candidate must complete as many of the requirements of the required merit badges as his ability permits.

The Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Award Merit Badges must be completed prior to qualifying for alternative merit badges.

The alternate merit badges chosen must be of such a nature that they are as demanding of effort as the required merit badges.

When alternates chosen involve physical activity, they must be approved by the physician.

The unit leader and board of review must explain that to attain the Eagle Scout rank, a candidate is expected to do his best in developing himself to the limit of his resources.

The application must be approved by the council committee responsible for advancement, utilizing the expertise of professional persons involved in Scouting for people with special needs.

The candidate''s application for Eagle must be made on the Eagle Scout Rank Application, with the Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Award Merit Badges attached.

*In order for a Venturer to be an Eagle candidate, he must have achieved the First Class rank as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout.

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OGE - You''re not in trouble with me. If you see my last post, I referred to the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures Book, BSA #33088. I know, I have all these books and publications and I referred to them before providing our Troop Committee request, and I included a copy of a letter from the Scout''s occupational therapist. I took it to the Council committee, and it wasn''t enough. They gave me a stack of 11 forms that were copied and pasted from the "Working with Scouts With DisAbilities" website located at: http://www.wwswd.org


AND - an Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges to fill out too! (The Scout, his family and occupational therapist aren''t asking for MB alternatives or Eagle Scout Rank alternatives here).


I guess that''s the part I don''t get. Why all this additional paperwork that doesn''t seem to make sense, especially if it''s not tailored to Scouts with Special Needs and/or not approved or adopted by the District, Council or National for use in such a situation?


I have to chalk it up and just deal with it, I know, but it seems silly and tedious and least of all frustrating!



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Yah, Joni... just a few points/corrections, eh? ;)


Second Class requirement #2: "Using a compass and a map together, take a 5 mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) ..."


First Class requirement/BSA swim test is 100 yards (75 using a strong stroke, 25 with a resting stroke), not 200 yards as you suggest. Granted, that''s still quite a bit farther than 25 feet.


Can you share what the actual nature of the disability is?


As far as doin'' paperwork goes, as long as you''re hip-deep in it, yeh might as well deal with the alternate MB needs if there are any. Get it all taken care of at once.






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You should probably take a look at the Personal Fitness MB to see if that will work or not. Also, it sounds like he will need to take the "land route" to Eagle (hiking/cycling and emergency preparedness vs. swimming and lifesaving). If his problem is upper body strength, I can''t think of other Eagle-required MBs that might be a problem--he may not be able to do all of the options in Camping, but it seems there a probably enough he could do.

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Beavah - Ohhhhhh.... ok that makes sense then! The boys did a 25 mile hike several months ago and that's how this Scout made it through 2cd class rank.


Hunt - exactly. I looked through everything thoroughly to make sure that the boy could make it to Eagle, if he so chooses, without any additional issues coming up. His father and I discussed the Hiking/Cycling vs. Swimming and the E. Prep vs. lifesaving in relation to the boy's abilities. So this kid ought to be good to go if we can substitute this pesky Swimmer Test for him.


I turned in the packet today to the Council Advancement Committee - so we'll see how long until they get back to us! ~* Prayin' *~


Of course after I posted this, I was navigating around Scouter.com and found the other forum with the Scouts with Disabilities! :) Leave it to me to post in the wrong place! *DOH*

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Sorry, I missed two points I wanted to answer.


For Beavah - I meant to say, I thought you were saying the 10mi bike ride was required for 2cd class. I see it was an either or thing.


His disability:

According to the IEP forms his father gave me, the OTR (Occupational Therapist) states, "diagnosis of Asperger's in the Autism spectrum."


Then there is something about "Sensory Modulation" and the OTR states, "he continues to have underlying upper body weakness and sensory processing problems, which impact fine motor skills." There is something else about low normal muscle tone, fine motor delay and sensory processing issues that affect his ability to react, and the speed in which he does so.


He uses something called a "right start" pencil gripper, and Alpha Smart technology (?). It also says because of the issues in the above paragraph his fluency in writing is sometimes illegible.

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Yah... hmmm....on da surface, that diagnosis does not seem to me to preclude learning how to swim. Swimming is not a fine motor skill, and muscle tone reflects use and is improvable with fairly reasonable effort.


Workin' with Aspergers kids, I have noted that water sports tend to be much more difficult for these guys to cope with than land-stuff. Too dynamic/too much going on/sensory overload type stuff. Perhaps someone more in-the-know could comment. I'd suggest one-on-one swim coaching in a patient, controlled environment that allows the boy to focus. But I bet he could get there.


And dat would be a nice lifelong gift to give the lad, eh?






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We're in the same boat. Our youngest son, originally diagnosed with Bipolar with ADHD tendencies was also diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, poss. Asperger's. Luckily we haven't had to worry about upper body strength issues. We do have to worry about dehydration and overheating more rapidly then the normal Scout, due to the medications.


As for the Alpha Smarts, we're talking using a word processor for written assignments because of the fine motor skills issues and terrible penmanship, and of course he wants to be the Scribe.


Back in March or April, we turned in a letter, along with the requested documentation from the Psychiatrist and school psychologists to Council, asking for additional time to complete Eagle requirements due to the LD's, had Dan reregistered as disabled, and have been waiting. Three weeks ago, while at a committee meeting at Council, I asked the program director how the paperwork was going and if the Adv. Comm. had made a decision. He informed me about the 4 page green form, went and brought me one and asked that we fill it out and turn it back in. Of course it was for alternate merit badges. I asked if this was the appropriate form and was informed that it was the only form. This, 6 months after the original request was made. Needless to say, I wasn't real happy that no one at Council had bothered to inform us about this form over the last 6 months and we have waisted all this time.


I think National should make things easier by having one form just for requesting a variance in the time requirements, and the green one for Scouts that need to have alternative MB's, or have a combination form with both requests on it.


Good luck,


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Beavah - Not sure if the boy can get there or not when it comes to the entirety of the BSA Swimmer Test. I'm certainly not a professional on the subject. But I have to believe that if the boy's Occupational Therapist and his parents do not believe he will - they must know something more than I do about his individual condition and future prognosis, know what I mean?


Is it right to forbid him to move past First Class Scout in the hopes he will "get there" some day, hold him off in Advancement - make him try and try and try again to get past that swimmer test, and just wait and see if he can do it by the time he's 18? I think that would be a fate far worse than the substitution of one requirement.


But that's why those folks that make the big bucks and have the knowledge are the ones that have to make the final determination. All I've done is move the paperwork through to make the official request. I have no real opinion on the matter because I am not educated enough to even dictate one. I hope the Council Adv. Committee makes the right decision for the boy, whatever that may be.


I just really wish the system was more uniform on this type of thing. We have professional Scouters that haven't a clue as to where to go or what to do about this sort of situation. We spend months at the unit level trying to figure it all out and try to use what we feel is a common sense approach, just to be told it's not enough and we still need a mountain of paperwork returned to have the Scout considered. We're given paperwork that has nothing to do with scout rank and all to do with merit badges, as ASM915 states.


I don't know... maybe in time it'll be easier to understand for ALL BSA'ers, from the unit level on up, and we'll all be on the same page.

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