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RainShine

One rocking, one struggling

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We have two patrols. One has four active guys, the other has eight active guys. The smaller patrol rocks the skills and always wins the inter-patrol competitions. The other patrol struggles. They are all roughly the same age.

There is a lot surrounding this - history - that I will leave out for brevity. The part I want to get to is this. In the larger patrol, there are three fellows that have learning disabilities. One fellow its fairly severe. He can walk and go to the bathroom and clothe himself, and he can feed himself, although he needs to be reminded to go to the bathroom and eat. He can talk and he can ask good questions, even if the questions aren't relevant to what we're doing. But he cannot tie a knot or pitch a tent or chop an onion. Getting a sleeping bag into its stuff sack totally bewilders him. I don't know much about autism but there is some disconnect between his brain and his hands.

The other two affected fellows are highly functional but kind of hyperactive, personality disorder, "on the spectrum" type stuff. Everyone in the room is doing this activity, folding flags or lashing poles. The two of them are sword fighting with pencils or whatever.

I'm sensing the other five guys in Patrol B are feeling put-upon. And well yes, were it just them against the other patrol they would probably excel.

We're all learning lessons about patience and humility, and about helping others less fortunate, and all that. But there is growing frustration and its hard to expect 13 yo's to be patient when, lets face it, they want to win too. They didn't exactly sign up for Social Services work. Plus the fun of winning in Patrol A is diminishing as their competition isn't really close.

Obviously as Scoutmaster I could just declare a restructuring of patrols but I don't want to do that. And I'm sure the fellows in Patrol A don't want the trouble they observe in B. Plus there is some history in Patrol A, in the old days, where the one guy was ignored. I think every individual in both patrols feels a sense of belonging to their patrols.

I know, I know, "Welcome to being a Scoutmaster". Okay. But I'm new at this and feel like I'm in a tough spot. Please advise.

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This is going to get a lot of comments, I'm sure.  I will try to be brief.  Not writing off the special needs folks, but there may be some units nearby that may be a special needs troop that is prepared, trained, and ready to assist these scouts.  There are also a couple of options you have if you keep them in the troop.  You can have a senior scout or assistant SM assist each of the special scouts as a mentor or troop guide.  I wouldn't be too quick to restructure the two patrols as it only compound the issue and scouts blame it on the special scouts.  

I've seen troops have a "challenged" outing where each scout was assigned a disability and went with it all outing.  The parents had to read into this as to why and approve what their scout was going to use.  It helped scouts and the troop with special need awareness.  We even had activities like wheelchair basketball and one handed knot tying. 

Too bad you couldn't offer to have a special needs patrol for your district and take in others.  I  bet they could come up with cool patrol names.

   

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1 hour ago, RainShine said:

 

Obviously as Scoutmaster I could just declare a restructuring of patrols but I don't want to do that. And I'm sure the fellows in Patrol A don't want the trouble they observe in B. Plus there is some history in Patrol A, in the old days, where the one guy was ignored. I think every individual in both patrols feels a sense of belonging to their patrols.

I know, I know, "Welcome to being a Scoutmaster". Okay. But I'm new at this and feel like I'm in a tough spot. Please advise.

Your instinct is correct.  With narrow exceptions (health, safety, YPT), the Scouts are to decide who is in which patrol.

A well-oiled machine is not an objective.  Learning by experience how to at least try to deal with problems is part of leadership - one of our objectives.

I am sure you have shared with the PL (and APL) your appreciation of the real effort they have made to lead their less-than-perfect team - and coached them on how to cope.

What is "perfect" in the realm of imperfect humanity?

Stay in long enough, and you WILL be faced with human challenges that are beyond our powers.  I had a totally blind, autistic Scout who Mom had addicted to opiates to "settle him down."  After nearly two years, we passed him on to a more qualified program after he was found behind a curtain beating his fists to a bloody pulp on a wall in frustration and rage after Mom left Dad for another "partner."  But he got to backpack in PA, to listen to the falls of Johnnycake Run, and to hear a porcupine scrounging around the campsite at night.  He got to smell the forest and experience other kids showing that they cared a lot about his happiness.  And those others still remember how they felt then and what they learned, even as they raise kids of their own.  Perfect.

Edited by TAHAWK

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Maybe a quote about how challenges can be blessings in disguise will help? (maybe for you or maybe your troop)

Anyway, suggestions in no particular order:

Talk to the parents of the scout with the most severe disabilities. Can they help? Having to remind a scout to go to the bathroom is asking a lot. If scouting is just a reprieve for the parents then ask your troop if this is what they're interested in doing. If so, figure out how to share the load.

Next, talk to the scouts. The issue you brought up is competitions between patrols. First of all, find out if they have a problem with the competitions. If they don't care about the competition then your problems are over. If they do or just some do, then next talk about the scout law. At the same time recognize that their problems are real. On the one hand they need to help and on the other they want to compete. Now you're set to ask the most important question: how do you guys want to solve this? You might be surprised at the insights they have.

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1 hour ago, RainShine said:

The other two affected fellows are highly functional but kind of hyperactive, personality disorder, "on the spectrum" type stuff. Everyone in the room is doing this activity, folding flags or lashing poles. The two of them are sword fighting with pencils or whatever.

Thats, obviously, AHDH type behavior, though of course it could be something else that just looks like adhd. Do you know if either of them have a DX, and as importantly are they normally taking medication to help manage such behaviors? There are ways to encourage parents to give a booster dose before scouts if needed.

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I'm curious what you see as the bigger goal of your patrol competitions.  Interpatrol competition can be a fine thing as a means to an end --- maybe to foster a sense of camaraderie within the patrol, maybe as an incentive to up the skills of some individuals, maybe just as a way to showcase skills that have been mastered.  But there are other ways to accomplish all those things.  If the result of holding competitions turns out to be something negative rather than something positive then maybe rethinking ways to accomplish your goals is in order.

Coincidentally, we have the mother of a former scout who helps run a fundraiser for us every year.  Tonight she was there to talk about the fundraiser at a parent meeting that also included the parents of AOL scouts about to crossover.  SM was telling the parents of the differences between Cubs and Scouts, emphasizing that each scout's journey and advancement now is his own to do and at his own pace.  The mother, then stood up to talk about the fundraiser, but started by telling, unprompted, something her son said to her just as he was completing his Eagle,  She said "My son is currently a doctor at Mayo clinic, and i couldn't be prouder of him.  But he told me when he made Eagle 'Mom, I tried every sport there was, and I wasn't good at any of them,  but I was good at scouts because I didn't have to be better than anyone else, I just had to be as good as I could be."

Competition can be a great thing, but it's not one of our aims or methods, and it's not a necessary part of scouts. If it is accomplishing what you want it to accomplish, great,  but if it's not ,think about other ways to get where you want to be.

What happens on campouts?  Does patrol B pitch their tents, get out their equipment, and feed and clean up after itself (truly special needs scout excepted)?  If so, why worry about if they do it faster, slower, more efficient or less efficient than their troopmates?

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23 hours ago, malraux said:

Thats, obviously, AHDH type behavior, though of course it could be something else that just looks like adhd. Do you know if either of them have a DX, and as importantly are they normally taking medication to help manage such behaviors? There are ways to encourage parents to give a booster dose before scouts if needed.

This was a very real struggle in our troop till the end of last year.  

Some parents see the BSA as Baby Sitters of America and would send their son on every possible campout/lock in to get a break.   But they would not medicate their son during the outings thus creating constant chaos in our troop even during the week at troop meetings(no evening booster dose).  If enough boys from each patrol was present for a campout, we would sometimes combine the groups and it would be groans from the others if one of those 2 scouts were in their patrol.   We tried to preach patience and understanding.  We could never put the 2 in the same patrol, it was just too much for everyone involved.   For one scout, on a rough campout, he was arguing with everyone, saying foul words and apparently a racial slur. Scout was warned with each occurrence that it would not be tolerated.  At the racial slur incident, the parents promptly were called to come pick up their son.  Parents were told that they must accompany their child on any future outings to help curb the behavior.  The other scout,  most camp outs were him whining loudly or crying.  Then on campout last February, where there was worrisome behavior witnessed and an almost fight between him and another scout, we then asked that the parent accompany their scout on any future outings.  These were not isolated incidents, it had been a year or more of various issues.  So guess who no longer went on anymore campouts?   Yep.  We were being for lack of better words: used.    It was our only option as we had tried to work with their behavior for quite a while but we could no longer tolerate hateful speech/un-scout like  and violent behavior.  

I will probably get flamed but I was never more relieved to hear that 2 scouts were not re-chartering.  Its been much smoother sailing since.  If they had gone to another unit, I am sure it would have been the same situation for whichever unit they went to.   I do feel bad but these 2 scouts just killed our program for a year.  We couldn't get them to cooperate, work on advancement, earn merit badges or participate in meetings other than distracting the others by running around or laying on the floor while someone else was talking.   Most 13 year olds are impatient at the best of times and to add further friction in a situation, we were lucky to only have some bad language and a shoving match be all that happened. 

 

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1 hour ago, Jackdaws said:

But they would not medicate their son during the outings thus creating constant chaos in our troop even during the week at troop meetings(no evening booster dose).  I

One recommendation on this is to be clear with parents in advance that if a scout becomes a distraction or problem the parents will be called regardless of time or distance, so do they really want him on a medication holiday?

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1 hour ago, Jackdaws said:

I will probably get flamed but I was never more relieved to hear that 2 scouts were not re-chartering.  Its been much smoother sailing since.  If they had gone to another unit, I am sure it would have been the same situation for whichever unit they went to.   I do feel bad but these 2 scouts just killed our program for a year.  We couldn't get them to cooperate, work on advancement, earn merit badges or participate in meetings other than distracting the others by running around or laying on the floor while someone else was talking.   Most 13 year olds are impatient at the best of times and to add further friction in a situation, we were lucky to only have some bad language and a shoving match be all that happened. 

 

I won't flame you, but I do have a slightly different experience. We had two different scouts that were on the spectrum. One might have been co-morbid with ADHD. Anyway, one scout had a parent that was heavily involved, knew the issues, and taught us how to work with his son. Everything worked great. Another parent didn't want to admit their son had challenges. They did volunteer for a while but eventually their son got in so many fights that they took him out. So, it depends on the parents. I will add that kids with hyperactive ADHD likely will not sit still for advancement. They should have been taken out and run around. That's how they're wired. For inspiration look up famous people that have/had ADHD. 

 

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19 hours ago, malraux said:

One recommendation on this is to be clear with parents in advance that if a scout becomes a distraction or problem the parents will be called regardless of time or distance, so do they really want him on a medication holiday?

This actually something we are working on putting in the Troop handbook.   Asking that the parents continue to medicate the scout so they have the best possible experience.

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