Scott Robertson

Special Need Scouts

By: Posted On: 2014-05-31

Todays post comes to us thanks to the great folks at the Scout-L mailing list. Bob Carlson started it off with this post:

This article was FRONT PAGE on the St. Louis newspaper this morning, forwarded from our Special Needs Scouts Coordinator. It's the can do, rather than the can't do that counts.<

Barry Runnels has this to say

That would be nice, but our troop had several special needs scouts and the challenge to give them a quality program along with the normal scouts is immense. First off special needs kids require trained adults and that is a challenge in itself. “Special needs” (physical, mental or emotional) crosses a HUGE spectrum and there is no way a typical troop can prepare for that, especially if the parents aren’t involved. ESPECIALLY IF THE PARENTS AREN’T INVOLVED.

“Special needs” can also require “special Program Policies” as well as “Special Equipment”. While I was glad we were able to accept some special needs scouts, I still hurt from the memories of asking parents to take their son out of our program for his safety. We simply did not have the resources for some special needs kids. We tried, we learned and we found our limits.

I personally like the idea of special needs troops because they can better shape their program and resources for these kids to grow and succeed without worry or struggle of maintaining the proper program for normal scouts. While it may be culturally correct to mainstream special needs children into normal programs, its not practical for the average troop.

We ended up with some special needs kids because they were turned away by other troops. I had no malice what so ever for those units because I knew the leaders and I knew they couldn’t meet the challenges. Sometimes its all one can do to keep the normal program afloat.

Derek Simmons added this

That right to volunteer is a two-way street though.  I restarted an idle unit to accommodate my special needs scout.  A bunch of other kids got to go along on the adventure over the last 10 years.  I expect I'll be leaving after this year.  Maybe there will be some folks step up behind me to accommodate the "normal" kids.  Right.  You see, the problem is this, Scouting has been a place full of bullies and exclusionary minded folks.  However, my special needs son has been welcomed with open arms into his church youth group.  The leaders have gone out of their way to accept him and work with him.  It's the one place we allow him to travel with out us because the leaders have been happy to have him and welcome his outlook on the world.  I wonder where I'll be spending my time next........

Jay Thal added these remarks

It is positive that two Troops in the St. Louis area are serving the needs of youth with special needs. It is also important that readers (and parents of youth with Special Needs) realize that Scouting is open to such youth.

It is also good that (from the photo captions) people are made inferentially aware that Scouting is open to females in leadership positions and (even more) that there is no age limitation for Scouts with Special Needs.

I'd submit that the need is great everywhere and I would hope that Troop 724 isn't inundated with requests from parents and youth with Special Needs in the St. Louis area. The opportunities abound and families should demand access, the resulting benefits are great.

What troubles me is that Scouting and BSA policy has long been open to those with Special Needs (physical, mental or emotional) and NOT JUST in "special" Troops. All Troops should be open to all. What also troubles me is that Scout Kleim was discouraged by his former Troop's leaders -- only showing that they were not just unreceptive to Special Needs but weren't properly trained within their Scouting District and at the St. Louis Area Council.

I think Chuck Chatlynne words are a great conclusion to this post

As the Special Needs rep on the council Advancement and Recognition Committee I say Amen to your comments. Our fact sheet notes that "It is not unreasonable to expect the Scout's parents or guardians to be active participants in the Scout's activities." It's not fair to the rest of the Scouts when the leaders need to spend all their time with one Scout. On the other hand, with parental involvement the entire unit gains. I've seen both extremes. In one, the dad was constantly present and help when help was needed. In the other case, not only did the parents not want to be involved, but they actually had a neighbour drop off their son.

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