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Disability Awareness Belt Loop Questions

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As the father of a Bear scout with a cognitive impairment (CI), I've thought to encourage the dens to earn the Disabilities Awareness Belt Loop. After looking through the requirements I have these thoughts on the subject


1. Doesn't seem like the requirements work well with stressing CI vs physical disability. To me it sort of feels like a 'freak show' a bit. Of course this might be my own unawareness . . certainly no one likes to be put on display, but it seems that a person with some physical impairment at least has a fuller understanding as to what he is taking part in.


2. I question whether a program stressing CI and going to special olympics or perhaps a local horseback riding facility (which I volunteer at) that works with CI riders would really get the correct message through to kids so young. Yeah we can explain it to them until we're blue in the face, but will they really get beyond the humor of 'the funny looking kid' that can only long jump one foot. Again, the 'freak show' aspect.


3. Looking at the requirements ( http://www.boyscouttrail.com/cub-scouts/acadsports/disaware.asp ) it seems that the requirements are a bit out of line with other belt loops. Most belt loops can usually be worked through in one session if not one hour. maybe some have some weeklong record keeping.


4. Maybe the solution is to attend a wheelchair sports association (there is one in our area) sporting event with a follow up den meeting discussing the topic and stressing CI. Not sure how they would feel about it if we visit one den at a time - theres a wheelchair basketball at the local Y - it might get sick of old after a few dens?.


5. I can see that the emphasis seems to be meeting people with disabilities and perhaps humanizing them to young scouts who only see the disability.


6. maybe it would be appropriate as a Pack meeting, having a sports demonstration or some other group come in. I would still like to have the follow-up den meeting - the scouts pay better attention in the smaller groups.


7. Why stress CI? Well, I know that two scouts are definitely classified as cognitively impaired. I'd guess there's two others that I don't know well who might be as well. There have been incidences of bullying and I think the CI kids are perhaps the most defenseless in such situations . . they don't respond well to it and it makes the other kids keep going.


All comments are encouraged,

much thanks for the input



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I watched a den earn this belt loop.


We had a physically handicapped person attend a den meeting and give a talk. The boys were all very respectful - there was not really a freak show feeling at all.


The boys were mostly just curious and asked lots of questions like "how do you ride a bus" or "how do you get dressed" kinds of questions. It helped that our visitor first gave a short talk about his life and how his disability has impacted him.


You'll get some off the wall questions from the boys. In our case, the boys were very nice, they just ask some questions that adults wouldn't. For example, we had a few boys keep asking questions about how they got dressed. Our visitor would explain an answer and then we'd get some similar question from another boy, but with a different twist. The boys were not trying to be difficult, just trying to figure things out and were not afraid to ask questions.


I think whoever you have them interact with needs to be comfortable with their disability.


I like having one or two people visit the den or pack. I'd be less inclined to attend a sporting event or Special Olympics as you need to be aware of the impact of the boys on the entire group - not just one or more individuals. Also, at a sporting event it's more difficult to engage the boys in Q&A, so you get more nervous energy while their watching the participants.


I'd have no problems trying this with a person with CI as long as that person is comfortable with their impairment and would be comfortable fielding the questions you'll get from the boys.



(This message has been edited by parkman)

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Some of our boys earned their DA belt loop.


Thing is, we have to remember, it is an awareness thing. Ignoring it, blowing it off, or avoiding it because WE might be uncomfortable about it only does one thing: It keeps the boys from ever learning or understanding a disability.



Education is the key!


Of course, almost every kid in our pack knows of somebody...mom, dad, grandparents, cousin, any relative or friend who has some sort of impairment or disability in some shape or form.


WE are close to many military bases in my area. Disabled vets, wounded vets and soldiers.


Evensomething as simple as a kid with ADD or an allergy ( my son is allergic to nuts) is a great wat to learn.


It's easier than you think to teach these kids.


Of course, you can't start discussing why neural pathways won't transmit certain signals, but you can start with: "See Bailey. He's your friend right? Been your friend for years and does everything you do too, right? But did you know that his body will not tolerate any kinds of nuts? He will get very sick if he does. He does not have a choice about it.


Yeah, a nut allergy is not a disability, or is it? Nah, it's not, but you step up to the next level: Glutins, then the next level.



Point is, you show the scouts why a disabilty is something that is not who we are,m just something we have. We are still people inside who have feelings too.


Now, there are always a few kids who might still crack a joke every now and then...but listen long enough and you learn they are not predjudiced. They will crack on anybody and everybody equally.

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I think I understand what you are saying. My gut reaction to the belt loop/pin and to the BS merit badge was not as positive as I would have hoped. The BSA seems to focus on the more visible disabilities more than on mental/emotional disabilities. While its great to give kids an understanding of these disabilities, it is just not the whole story. I wish we could get part the image of a well-adjusted boy skiing on one leg (although I do know an adult who wears an artificial leg and skis competitively).


I live in an area with (and work with) a lot of children on the spectrum (Aspergers, autism, PDD). In many cases, this can be an invisible difference -- kids may be socially awkward, susceptible to teasing/bullying (as you mentioned), etc. Of course, in other cases, kids on the spectrum have unusual behaviors, limited verbal skills/nonverbal, and the differences are obvious. And many (most?) of these kids have multiple disabilities.


I think what I object to in the BSA materials is that there seems to be an unspoken assumption that disabilities are a them and "us situation. People have varying physical, mental, social, and emotional skills -- I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on the continuum from typical to those with differering abilities.


Sorry not to have any great ideas for you, just empathy!

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Hey all thanks for the replies - they were helpful. Parkman - I agree with limiting it to a den or pack visit - I think the written requirements are out of line and more involved than other belt loops. Scoutfish - you are right on a lot of points . . need to show common ground as much as the differences.


Eliza - regarding the Boy Scout MB, that's the one that makes me more uncomfortable . . the thought that it's set up to have the disabled scouts be used as the subject for a MB . . It's odd that it's inherently easier for the other scouts to earn the award than my disabled son . . I guess that's the point, but it's still weird.


I happen to bump into our CM today and he was all for a disability awareness pack meeting. My initial thoughts is to set it up with a number of stations . . maybe:


Paralympics and explaining physical disabilities

special Olympics and discussing cognitive impairments

An anti bullying station

A game or two demonstrating challenges.

a Speaker


and a final thought to anyone interested in this thread, i'd like to post this link:



This is a very cool essay written by a young man on the use of the word 'retard'. Besides giving insight into this young man, I read between the lines and am VERY impressed by this young man's parents. Certainly John retains the credit for being a great human being, but (without knowing) I would guess that his parents were involved and did a great job of raising a son with Self esteem and self awareness. I think all of us parents should be so successful. Things like sports and scouts are invaluable in raising children to believe in themselves.

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I am the Special needs representative and trainer in my district and this type of question/s is actually quite common.


I have some suggestions if you are going to do a DA type pack meeting, if you don't mind. The stations you have thought of are wonderful... but I see them working better on a troop level. I would do more "hands on" type stations for the cub scout group level. Such as, attempting to tie a know with one hand, a braille constellation station, wheelchair races, cub scout motto in sign language, etc... I think you will get a MUCH better reaction and to be honest, the kids will remember it more AND learn more from that moreso than just lecture type material.



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