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Scouting for Special Needs

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Hello all,


I've been reading over many of the posts and I have learned alot already from your collective wisdom. Thank you.


I am the Scoutmaster/Packmaster to a new special needs program in Illinois. We have started with a scout troop and a webelo den. We have over 2,000 moderately to severely special needs boys in our 5 town area so we are planning on growing to eventually (3-5 years) have a full Tiger to Adult program. (plus we already have a scout commuting to us from over an hour away!)


None of our troop/pack volunteers have much experience with Boy Scouts but we have some amazing, experienced merit badge counselors already committed to working with our boys.


We have our first overnight in less than two weeks. Wish us luck :)



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Nope, I am a mom of 2 special needs boys and my younger one did Cub Scouts in a regular troop but despite a great Scoutmaster, he wasn't able to really be a part of a regular troop. His old Scoutmaster is our first Merit Badge Counselor (Camping).


I taught special ed for 5 years and helped with his Webelo den.

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I am not sure what special needs you may be including. I know with ADHD (the real cases) they seem to be disproportionately represented in scouting...


I have a special needs son (Tourettes, Asbergers, OCD, you name he got it) and have had some asbergers, downs syndrome, and blind boys in cubs and scouts. They are, more or less, mainstreamed in with the units.


It has been great for son who is a 1st class Scout and a great camper. The outdoors has been great for him. His younger brother who is fairly normal followed him so you should expect a mix of boys as siblings are likely to join the same unit. For some of the other boys camping, especially monthly boy scout camping at different locations and with different activities has greatly helped them with those nagging "transitional issues".


For many such boys scouting is great. There is a great diversity of pursuits that leaves something for everyone to excel at. Cub Scouts is a little easier in "doing your best" is relative to the individual while meeting the Boy Scout requirements are not though you can keep trying to get it. Also little guys are, in my experience, much more accommodating of someone who is different then the older boys. In truth parents are more of a problem than boys. Parents of boys with different special needs (wheelchair vs. blind, asbergers vs. downs) seem to squabble over who should get more help/


That said I am AMAZED at what these boys can accomplish especially when working with an adult OTHER than their parent. They do things their parents never thought they could. Most special needs boys have developed coping skills that can be an asset otherwise. My son--who is hyper sensitive and easily distracted by crowded schoolrooms--uses that sensitivity in the woods and has turned out to be an excellent tracker with acute smell, hearing, and observation. Horrible with school work he is a knot tying genius --he doesn't memorize the moves he figures how it is put together and comes up with multiple ways to tie it after only seeing tied once.


Make sure you have extra adults so you can others work with your boy--I usually have some other parents who work with my boy while I work with theirs. If nothing else it is less frustrating for the adult --no one pushes your buttons than your own kid. That is true of ANY boy.


In general I have seen some of the special needs boys to be no more than a year behind the others on average; often that is that they needed a little more maturing than average or they needed to develop a physical workaround or their parents were not ready to let them try. They may struggle with a particular area but are really, really proud of what they finally conquer --provided you do not give it away. Make sure they earn it so it has meaning.


Good luck



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I think I just answered your question in the other forum about merit badge requirements.


I just want to add one suggestion of a resource that you might not have thought of. If you need help from people with "experience with Boy Scouts", then you might want to ask your local chapter or lodge of the Order of the Arrow. (The "chapter" is at the district level, and the "lodge" is the council level.) These are older scouts who were voted into the Order by their fellow scouts.


The reason I happen to think of this is because when I was a Scout, I remember volunteering at a camporee for Scouts with special needs. It was a very memorable experience for me, and I bet your OA chapter would be very happy to help out with camping and outdoor activities.


In many districts, the OA chapter meets at the same time and place as Roundtable, so if you see Scouts or Scouters at Roundtable wearing a white sash with a red arrow, be sure to introduce yourself.

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Kudo & Schiff, great sites & concepts. Clemlaw, great advice on involving the OA.


Last Wednesday after Call-Outs, I had the chance to talk with a SM of a SN unit from a neighboring District, that is made up of all MR, ASD & Downs scouts. He told me that they were chartered through their Counties Board of DD. They meet one day a week at 1:30 while in school. Several of their scouts are Members of our OA Lodge.

The lodge has been very understanding & patient with these Scouts, especially at Ordeal.


The Lodge has also been very good with our youngest son who has an Autistic Spectral Disorder, an honored him with a Vigil Call-out this summer while at camp. We are planning on attending NOAC next year, hopefully on Staff at the Disability Awareness site.


My youngest is mainstreamed in a regular Troop. Our only problem with our Troops is them not being comfortable and knowing being sure how to work with an over 18 y/o Scout. It is a slow process.


Our Council tried a SN unit in our District a couple of years back, but tried it at one of the Workshops. It didn't work due to the location being a jobsite. I'm planning on talking with Council about trying again, but in a school setting this time.


Special, keep up the great job, and keep us posted on how things work out.


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  • 8 months later...

Special Scouting,

AWESOME is starting a special needs scout unit!!


Got a brother is an Eagle Scout and has Downs Syndrome. Came from Special Scout Troop. Several of his friends have made Eagles with the AWESOME guidance of a GREAT group of dedicated leaders.


As for me, I never let my hearing loss get in the way and even did Wood Badge when several within my son's Troop told me I didn't need it. For those nay sayers there is plenty more that will go over and beyond to help ya!! Just ask if you know what you need and do talk about your needs if you don't. Someone will know and offer suggestions.


Feel free to come back here and post again if need help since now we're all connecting via this post so we'll get your request.


As for links... Thanks as I bookmarked them to use myself as MB counselor in the 'Differently Abled' Awareness and Communication MBs.


BTW.. There is a Facebook group called Deaf Eagle Scouts if you have any Deaf Scouters... *smiles

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First, as the parent of special needs kids myself, let me thank you and ocmmend you for what you are doing.


If you are near a college, you might want to reach out to the education department if they have one. My daughter is studying to be a special ed teacher and she volunteers at a local school with special needs kids. At some point, she said she would like to work with a SN girl scout troop and I have encouraged her to think about starting one when she gets a teaching job. If there are any former scouts in the department, you might find some who are willing to earn service credits by helping out. Unfortunately, soouting may not be conducive to one of the best ways of working with some sn kids - which is the 1:1 mentor, due to 2 deep issues, although if you do any type of sports programs, a 1:1 would work because it would be in plain view of everyone else.

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