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jhubb

"special needs" boys into troop?

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As a father of an autistic son who has been through scouts since tigers and is now approaching his 18th birthday, I have some parental perspective on the topic. I have also been a scout leader since before that as well as being a special olympics coach and have been involved in other youth programs and projects. Unless there are boys in the troop that will help your son as observed in an earlier post, I'm sorry to say, boy scouts seems to have little positive to offer. The adults are very unlikely to try to understand your son's needs and opportunities to grow and will not be likely to want to learn. Although BSA has the disabilities awareness merit badge, disabilities that are not physical get little sympathy or understanding. The attitude is more to keep special kids separate even offering special needs troops so other kids are not exposed to them. I am not sure how much is due to pressure from parents to protect their kids from "different" kids or if that feeling comes from the leaders themselves.

 

Because of my extensive experience with BSA, special Olympics, and other youth organizations I have a perspective broader than most. I wish I could be more positive but I have yet to experience an exception to this scout experience even though I have worked with hundreds of scouters. What I discovered was that since I had my own son in the troop, I was assigned to deal with the kids with issues who did not have parents along.

 

If you wish to have an autistic son go though the scouting program, you will have to be his leader adn don't expect your responsibilities to be limited to your son. The desire to ignor your son by others will appear most during and after summer camps and other large group activities even though you will be required to attend also. Advancement and merit badge records will not be credited or recorded. You will help your son repeat the work the next time only to have the same neglect delay his advancement. Since you will be an adult, you will be expected to help other kids as well and you can bet, they will not be the issue free kids. Considering the cost, rules, etc. it becomes a judgment call if your son will get any benefit or if your time would be better spent elsewhere.

 

Autism is spectrum, not an on-off switch. It occurs to varying degrees and will be mixed with other personality traits and likely other cognitive impairments. One autistic kid will not likely be like another. Autism is unlike most other disabilities in that the kids may be very intelligent just unable to deal with stimulus or verbal communication. Like other disabilities, they can have fears most people do not understand even exist and will often act out because of the fear. The people interacting with special needs kids should learn to deal with the fear and positive behavior will follow. If they can master that, they will find a lot less problems with "normal" kids as well. Too many adults resort to fear to control kids and it completely backfires with special kids. I would argue it fails with normal kids too, they just know better how to get away with things. From my experience, scouts could use a lot more education in this area. I have seen the confrontational type of discipline exhibited by the youth leadership in scout troops, OA and at scout functions with adults practically nodding approval. Even when leaders were warned, my son was confronted for his own OA tap out and was terrified. Even though twice elected, I chose not to subject him to ordeal and as a result, he does not have his arrow sash. The many ignored advancement achievements cost him advancement as well leaving me to wonder if it was all worth it. I dont plan to stay involved with scouting because of these experiences even though the thanks I get from young adults and parents has been wonderful. I became a scout leader because parents asked me to. I was specifically asked to be a father figure for their kids.

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I also have a son with special needs High functioning autism and cub scouts has been great for him he has a wonderful time and everybody loves him (so they tell me lol). But I am and active member in the pack leadership and will take special precautions when the pack is doing something that is difficult for him or causes issues. Example we do not come to the pine wood derby car clinic the sound of power tools is pure torture.  At the bike rodeo I ran next to him on his bike and pushed him so we would not be there all day waiting for him to make a lap.  He still had a great time he thought I was like Mario Kart !!!  

 

So when my son crosses over in to Boy Scouts I am going to do the same thing.  If the troupe is going to take a bike ride my son most likely will not go. or I will go and work something out.

 

Not sure what needs your scout in question has but his parents should not push him to do stuff that is hard for him on his own

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Rent a trike-bike.

 

There's always an option out there that will work, just need to figure out what it is.  Otherwise, maybe one of the other boys would work out a tandem bike option for him.

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I know that this topic was a few years ago but hope that people still are interested in it. The comment has come up "where is the line" for allowing special needs boys into their scouting troop. All boys are welcome in scouting. If your a good leader and are doing it for the right reasons then you find away that each boys fits in to their best ability. It's discrimination and exclusion of you don't. Just becasue a boy is on the spectrum or has another form of disability doesn't mean that they are less then and don't deserve what every other boy wants. Just like every other boy if they love scouting and love what it stands for them find a way for them to be included.

 

If you can't find a way for inclusion or have the mentality that they don't fit in then maybe scouting isn't for you as a leader.

 

Are you going to be the one to tell this boy and his family... Sorry you aren't welcome becasue your son is to much work or the other boys don't want someone who is differnt around?

 

Scouting can be so rewarding for a disabled boy as well as a typically functioning one... Each can learn so much from each other.

Edited by 2eaglesons

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@@2eaglesons

 

Welcome to the forums and I appreciate your comment, it is spot on!  If a leader has a special needs scout, they had better learn how to deal with it, the struggle is no where near what the boy is going through to just get to scouts.

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I know that this topic was a few years ago but hope that people still are interested in it. The comment has come up "where is the line" for allowing special needs boys into their scouting troop. All boys are welcome in scouting. If your a good leader and are doing it for the right reasons then you find away that each boys fits in to their best ability. It's discrimination and exclusion of you don't. 

No unit is a like and they shouldn’t be expected to be all things to all boys. Our troop has a lot of experience with handicapped and learning disabled scouts, so with respect I disagree with 2Eagles and stosh. The statement presumes that every boy no matter their mental or physical ability can handle all the activities of every unit program and that is simply not true. And, I learned they hard way that it isn’t safe either.

 

In short, the limitations of any scout’s physical and mental abilities has to be balance with the units ability to provide safety and growth for the whole of the program. When the limitation of a scout limits or puts scouts at risk, then the program is not the best fit for that scout. And in some cases, the general scouting program as it is presented is not the right program either.  

 

A troop program should not have to lower its performance abilities simply for a boy with below average abilities. That is not to say that if the added responsibilities and effort of taking in a handicapped scout can indeed improve the program, then by all means. Welcoming scouts with lesser abilities should be a positive growth experience for everyone.  However, there are limitations to each unit’s capabilities and I believe that it is the parent’s obligation to and find the best match for their situation. Not the other way around. 

 

We never turned away from the challenge of any new scout, especially with families where the parents where all in with helping. But as a result, I have learned that there is nothing harder than sitting down with parents and explaining that their son shouldn’t be in a typical scouting program. If you really have compassion for these young men, then be more concerned about finding the right fit instead of forcing units to take in boys that hurt the unit program.

 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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@@Eagledad you're right. We usually sit down with special needs scouts and their parents and discuss several things: parental involvement, activities which can/can't be done, approach to requirements, MBs and rank, etc. It is important to get their buy in and participation early on.

 

We are awarding Eagle to two Scouts on the spectrum next year. Both Scouts and parents have been actively involved since Day 1. My happiest day will be awarding these guys Eagle!

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I always love the way you disagree with me and then turn around and support the comment I just made. :)

 

ALL LEADERS NEED TO KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH ALL BOYS REGARDLESS OF THEIR ABILITIES AND DISABILITIES..

 

So, Mr. SM gets a new boy who is significantly handicapped.  So the process begins..... Does the SM turn him away?  Does he evaluate the boy to see if he'll fit in with the unit?  If not does the SM have resources to help the boy find a unit that has the resources to best help the boy?  

 

With my background I can handle just about anything anyone tosses my direction.  Not everyone can do that, but are they savvy enough to know what they can do? and if not, what can they do to get and keep these boys in scouting?  

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No we disagree. I think the parents need to be savy enough to find the right troop. 

 

@@Eagledad you're right. We usually sit down with special needs scouts and their parents and discuss several things: parental involvement, activities which can/can't be done, approach to requirements, MBs and rank, etc. It is important to get their buy in and participation early on.

 

We are awarding Eagle to two Scouts on the spectrum next year. Both Scouts and parents have been actively involved since Day 1. My happiest day will be awarding these guys Eagle!

Our best experiences are with the scouts whose parents are very involved. But even then a troop may find themselves challenged. We had one scout so mentally challenged that nobody really knew if he knew he was in the woods. Dad wasn't at the campout where his son walked off in the woods on a 35 degree rainy night while only in his underwear and socks. His parents were fully understanding when we suggested finding something different. 

 

I think what I find surprising by some of the comments is the lack of understanding and compassion for individual personalities of these boys and their families. Is it really compassionate to intimidate a troop to take on a scout under the guise of "It's discrimination and exclusion if you don't". Each boy with a handicap and learning disability is different and require additional skills and effort. Trying figure out if they fit in the program can be extremely challenging.

 

After two years in the troop, the parents of one scout voluntarily pulled their autistic son from our troop because he couldn't camp. He had a terrible fear of water. Just a cup of water in front of him sent him in a terrified rage. We had no real problems with the scout because he only came to meetings. But I guess it must have been pretty frustrating for him and his parents when the troop spent much of the meeting preparing for normal out door activities. 

 

One of our scouts was fully deaf. He was easy because he could read lips. We had a mentally retarded scout who was near Eagle, but struggled with his temper when he reached puberty and became somewhat dangerous. I will never forget the look on his dad's face when he realized his son would not earn the Eagle. He is a Silver Beaver, so he understood scouting. He pulled his son, not us. Many of these scouts will live with their parents the rest of their lives. 

 

I think folks who believe any handicapped or learning disabled boy can be in boy scouts is nieve of the risk of camping in the woods. Many normal scouts have been  lost in their own camps and died, not to mention hurt when not paying attention to rules and guidelines. And then there is the added task of taking care of these scouts. I don't know what it is, but something about learning disabled scouts needing a lot of sleep is very hard on patrol mates. Our Troop was once chastised by the summer camp staff because we arrived very late one morning to opening as a result of one handicapped scout who couldn't wake up. An adult finally had to baby sit him. They both missed breakfast. Not a huge hardship, but unless it has been experienced, a unit doesn't know what they are getting into. Handicapped and learning disabled scouts will double if not triple the work and responsibilities of adults and patrol mates. That is fine is you understand up front, but very stressful for the unexpected unit that doesn't have the experience of knowledge of working with these scouts. 

 

So I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that it is every adults duty to accept handicapped and learning disabled boys. 

 

Barry

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So I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that it is every adults duty to accept handicapped and learning disabled boys. 

 

Barry

 

Again, I'd have to agree.

 

We had a small incident this weekend with a boy on the scale. Nothing major, but he became aggressive, felt persecuted and appeared to want to hit me. My training and experience told me this was not the case. I got him to use a coping technique and he was able to calm down. Five minutes of work. No problem, no issues. No risk to other kids or adults. Spoke to parent at home and the boy is going to take a break for a month to work on his control.

 

The adult who was with me was at a loss for words. Didn't quite know what happened and was admittedly lost on how to defuse the situation. Could not imagine your "average Scouter" being in that situation and it ending up the same. Only my training and experience kept me from escalating this situation in to something ugly.

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My son is on the spectrum and has been involved in scouting since he was a tiger. He is currently a star scout. Being in scouts has done amazing things for him and it would be a shame for someone to turn a scout away just because they have special needs. I do think choosing the right troop is key.

As a leader you should have a frank and honest conversation with the parents so everyone knows what, if any, limitations the scout has. I would strongly encourage his parents to get involved, so they understand the program and offer support to leaders and their son. We have several boys with different needs in our troop, in fact, many have come to us from the troop down the street who are not as accommodating.

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My son is on the spectrum and has been involved in scouting since he was a tiger. He is currently a star scout. Being in scouts has done amazing things for him and it would be a shame for someone to turn a scout away just because they have special needs. I do think choosing the right troop is key.

As a leader you should have a frank and honest conversation with the parents so everyone knows what, if any, limitations the scout has. I would strongly encourage his parents to get involved, so they understand the program and offer support to leaders and their son. We have several boys with different needs in our troop, in fact, many have come to us from the troop down the street who are not as accommodating.

@@andysmom

 

It may not be fact that they are not accommodating in as much as they probably don't have the skill set or temperament to deal with such situations.  It does take a ton of patience and in our society today, patience is a very rare commodity.  If I was approached by a parent with a special needs son and I knew I couldn't handle the situation I would be honest enough to say so up-front before any expectations were established.  

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