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laskiplus3

Special needs scouts and summer camps

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My 13 year old son is developmentally delayed and has ADHD, but is in a regular troop. He has done fine with all the day activities including hiking and whitewater rafting. The leaders have asked that I come with on the overnights as he occasionally can wander away when he loses interest in something. I went on a couple of campouts, but no longer can as I have 2 young children and their father is not here.

 

He really wants to go to summer camp but I'm having trouble finding a suitable one for him. We need a good adult/camper ratio. I would prefer not to put him in one for special needs kids because he is in a regular school and regular troop - that would be like a setback for him. I would love to find a regular camp that can accomodate kids with special needs (so far the ones I looked at consider special needs to be things like diabetes - that's not what I'm looking for). Even a camp that's geared for first year scouts might be better. It's tough to throw him in with a group of 16 and 17 year olds and expect him to perform at the same level of responsibility as they do.

 

Though he's 13 in age, he acts more like 9 or 10, a first year scout camp would be very appropriate for him if there is such a thing. We live in NJ and my first choice would be a camp in NJ, NY, PA, CT, DE, MD, or VA, but would consider travelling further for the right camp.

 

Thanks for any suggestions you may have!!!

 

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Hello,

 

Have you talked with your son's scoutmaster about this?

 

The way most scout camps work is that there is a separate first year scout program at the camp, which runs for part or all of the day (depending on the camp). It tends to be pretty structured. The boys still participate in activities with their troop, eat their meals with the troop, and stay in their troop's campsite, but they are a little more supervised while they are in the 1st year program during the day. Perhaps that program would be appropriate for your son.

 

You also need to take the adult/child ratio with a grain of salt when you look at scout camps. Published camp staff ratios are not the main indicator because most adults in camp are the troop's volunteer adult leaders and that number (of course) varies from one troop to another. So what you really need to know is which adults from your son's troop will be attending camp and how do you/they feel about keeping close watch on your son. In some troops, two or three adults attend with 20-30 boys. In others, 8-10 adults might attend. So the situation is highly dependent on your son's troop.

 

Then there is also the youth staff. They may be 16-20 years old but they may also be highly competent staffers with plenty of experience working with kids with ADHD (not an uncommon issue). Most camps, if they know about it, will work with your troop leadership to make things work for boys with special needs. (This is true for most non-scout camps too.) Additionally, the youth leadership of your son's troop (his patrol leader and the troop's Senior Patrol Leader) should know to keep an extra set of eyes on your son at all times to make sure he's ok and doesn't wander off.

 

If your son is independent enough to be in a "regular" school and troop and there isn't some other aspect that you haven't mentioned, then I see no real problems sending him to scout camp as long as the troop's leaders are comfortable taking him and you are open with people about your son's particular needs.

 

 

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Ditto what Lisabob said.

 

Is your son's troop not going to camp this summer? If you're looking for him to attend as part of a provisional unit (made up of Scouts from all over), it may be a bit late this year to find an open slot.

 

That said, for future reference, there is a solid first-year camper program at Henson Scout Reservation, Sharptown, Md., on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Visit www.delmarvacouncil.org for details. It's an all-day program where Scouts work with paid staffers and adult leaders to cover basic Scout skills. They also do swimming and nature activities. The evenings are their own to attend programs.

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Thanks Lisabob, lots of good information in your post. I did speak with the scoutmaster and he was the one who was concerned about their being enough supervision for my son. We do have a lot of trouble getting people to volunteer for stuff like this and I remember they just about had to beg to get a couple of parents to help out with camp.

 

It was the first year program of the troop's camp that I wanted him to attend, but scoutmaster didn't think so.

 

His first year in scouts I knew camp was a no no (the boys only crossed over from webelos in may right before summer camp. His second year I spoke with the scoutmaster and he felt they would not have enough staff, but promised to watch throughout the year to see how Josh progressed and let me know if he could attend this year. He never did get back to me about this summer so I took that as a no. I contacted council and found out about a tenderfoot camp. After speaking with them, both they and I feel it would be perfect for my son to go to this year.

 

I told the scoutmaster and said that if it works out well, maybe he could go to camp with the rest of the troop next year? He didn't really seem too enthused...

 

I understand your question about whether I left something out, but I really haven't. I honestly feel that if the person who leads each activity just checks to make sure he shows up, and at the end reviews with him where he goes next (he would not be able to follow a written schedule by himself) that he would be fine. I'm thinking maybe I should have called the camp directly and asked them if they could handle him rather than asking the scoutmaster. I'm still trying to understand his reluctance.

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Thanks for the link shortridge - I will definitely check it out. I'm also planning to call BSA headquarters in TX to see about other similar camps.

 

As for your questions: His troop is going this summer, and they do have a 1st year program that I thought would be perfect for my son, but the scoutmaster nixed the idea.

 

Our council did mention the provisional program to me and gave me some phone numbers to check out for next year. It probably is too late for this year, and since I've already found the tenderfoot camp for this year I'm not going to look any further.

 

I'm trying hard not to assume what the scoutmaster may be thinking. As a parent of 3 special needs kids I tend to have my guard up. I'm always afraid that someone's prejudice is going to keep my son from getting the chance to show what he can do. Could the scoutmaster's concern be legitimate? Absolutely, and I truly think it is, but as a mother I can't help but let the doubts creep in. There will be a lot of things in this world that my son will never be able to do. He will not graduate high school with a diploma, but rather will age out when he turns 21, he will not be able to get a driver's license, etc. But when it comes to the scouts, he's been in since the cub scouts and wants more than anything in the world to make eagle someday. I will do everything in my power to support him in that.

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Here is a suggestion you might look into.

 

Find out who your Troop OA rep is and see if you can approach your OA lodge about having an older Scout buddy up the entire week of camp (or maybe a shortened week). This Scout would probably need to come and be with him before the camp so he can get to know him.

He would also have to learn the ways you use to "diffuse a meltdown" or keep him on track.

 

You could pick up the cost of the OA Scout for meals at camp....OA is about service and Honor Camping and for the right kid this could be a great way to give back. You might find an OA parent that has been there, ...done that.

 

Your Scout Master sounds like he is not comfortable with the greater needs of your son for a whole week of camp....and I can understand that.

 

(This message has been edited by dg98adams)

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Be prepared for National not being able to help you much. They'll be able to hook you up with local councils, but they don't know the details of each council's camp program.

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Agreed, national isn't going to be much use to you. Local camps are run by local councils. National really does not oversee any of the details of a council's regular operations.

 

The troop my son is in now has, and has previously had, numerous boys with special needs. These range from boys with mild ADHD to some with serious emotional and behavioral problems, to some with developmental delays and/or various learning disabilities, to some with physical limitations, to some with severe/life threatening food allergies. We've had boys with autism and aspergers, though fairly moderate cases. We have taken all of these boys to camp, in many cases halfway across the country, without requiring their parents to attend.

 

Of all those boys, in the last 5 years only one - who has emotional problems, behavioral problems, anger management problems, and probably other psychiatric problems - was a real problem. Although he at times stretched the limits of what our adult volunteers (and other scouts) were willing to put up with, still we managed to take him on a 12 day trip with the troop. However, after that experience (in his second year of scout camp, by the way), troop leaders had a serious talk with the boy's mom which resulted in him choosing to leave the troop. Had he stayed, I think the troop might have considered not taking him to summer camp the following year. It was really hard on our leaders and maybe it was too much to ask of people who vountarily took a week off from work to volunteer to go to camp with the troop.

 

But barring really big issues like that, I am not sure why your son's SM is coming across so lukewarm. Maybe he feels nervious and inadequate to the task. Maybe he needs education. Maybe he just doesn't want to spend his week worrying. It might be worth having a gentle sit-down discussion with the SM to see if you can better understand his point of view.

 

 

 

 

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You did not say how many other scouts are in your son's troop. It could be the SM is reluctant because they aren't sure they can do what is required for your son and do thier duties to the rest of the scouts at the same time. You stated adults are slim in count at overnites/camp.

 

Is there an adult family member or friend that would be willing to sign up as an adult member of your son's troop? That would ease up the responsibility of your son's needs on the SM.

 

I am glad there is a camp this year that your son will attend.

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Wow, so much good information from everyone! Thanks so much for all your input.

 

DG98adams - thanks for the suggestion about finding someone from OA. I had mentioned to our SM and the council that I thought we might be able to have the boys help out and use it to earn their disabilities awareness merit badge or towards service hours. No one seemed too keen on those suggestions. As for meltdowns, Josh doesn't have any. I know - you're probably thinking he must be on the autism spectrum or something and that's the reluctance of the troop. He's not. The more people I talk with the more confused I am about SM attitude. The other SM I spoke with all seem to feel there's no problem - even if he's more disabled than I have described to them! I don't get it...

 

shortridge - thanks for the heads up about national, I didn't realize that. I still want to talk with them anyway. I'm going to run a hypothetical by them about our case and see what they think could/should be done.

 

Lisabob - sounds like we're really on the same page here. I really don't understand the reluctance. My son's disabilities are mostly intellectual - he's 13 but reads at a 2nd grade level. In social situations people generally don't realize he's disabled. When I tell them they're shocked. I agree that I need to pick SM's brain and find out what's really going on. I'll wait and see how tenderfoot camp goes first, then I'll have some cold hard facts to discuss with him.

 

kbandit - I think there is some real truth in supervision being hard to come by in our troop. Your suggestion about bringing in a volunteer is a good one. I've already talked with some folks and though they're all happy to help out on day outings, no one is in a position to take time off of work to help out with summer camp. This is where DG98adams suggestion about OA may come into play for next year. It may all be a moot point if he is successful at this year's camp though.

 

This year seems like it's pretty much in good shape. I think I need to start mulling next year over in the back of my mind. Do I really want to even consider sending him with our troop next year (if that is a possibility) given the reluctance of SM? Or do I want to find another equally as wonderful camp that would be happy to have him? I'm glad I have plenty of time to decide for next year....

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Aside from summer camp, how is the rest of your son's scouting experience working out so far? It might just be that this is not the troop for him, if the SM is in for the long haul and unwilling to work with you.

 

Of course I wouldn't presume to suggest I know anything about your son's specific situation, but maybe you'll like to hear this anyway.

 

We have a young man in our troop now who has some considerable intellectual disabilities. He is the same age as my son and they've been in various school, scouting, & other activities since they were about 7 (so about 7-8 years now). I have to say, this boy is a role model for the rest of the troop, including my son. While it is true that there are some things he will probably never be able to do, he demonstrates scout spirit in a way I can only hope other boys without his challenges will emulate. He's the first to volunteer to help, always smiling & looking for the bright side of a situation, willing to try new things, goes out of his way to be friendly to everybody.

 

I've counseled him on some of the Eagle-required merit badges. It takes a different way of working with him, but he has met those requirements at least as well as boys who don't have his disabilities. In some cases, maybe he's met them more fully because he has had to struggle to complete them, where as many boys just sort of coast through doing the minimum they can get away with. In fact, he has advanced more quickly than my son, who has none of this boy's hurdles to overcome. And it isn't because anybody is giving this boy a free pass, either.

 

This boy has gone to camp with the troop every year and never had/been a problem. He has been a patrol leader, a den chief, a troop guide, and held several other troop positions of responsibility, all of which he has fulfilled pretty well (and again, often better than less-challenged scouts).

 

He earned his Life rank a couple of weeks ago and is now starting to think about an Eagle project. I can hardly imagine a better Eagle candidate.

 

There's every reason in the world for your son to expect and to have a full scouting experience, including going to camp with his troop and eventually, earning his Eagle. If this SM really isn't willing to help him along the way, consider looking for a SM who will.

 

 

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Have you looked at the possibility of "adopting" another local troop for camp this year?Having this Josh kid,and a parent to go with another unit for the week? See what camp the other troops are attending,and go from there.Does he have high functioning autism,or Aspergers?If my troop were closer to you,I would think about this. I had a kid like him several years ago,and as a troop leader,always wrestled with the idea of taking Aaron to camp.My only stipulation was a private parent meeting and one parent attend camp with him.As for the SM,it sounds like he is only a SM for his kid and the "normal" scouts,and therefore not much of a SM in my book.A SM needs to gear the program for ALL of the kids in the troop,weather it is modified or what.This kid has the right as a troop member to be included in any age appropiate troop activity without any discrimination.I've been there with this issue with Aaron a few years ago,with not only the boys shutting him out,but some leaders as well.So,if he needs to hook up with another unit,so be it. It may be a blessing in disquise. Me-as a committee member,I would raise this at the next comm.meeting before changing units,away from his friends.You can PM me if you wish to discuss this any further.(This message has been edited by tagguy)

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