I. Leadership Techniques
Wise leaders expect problems but do not consider them overwhelming. Keep a confidential record of each youth for background information. Though you may view the Scout with a disability as an individual with significant differences, he really is not one. All boys have different needs. The wise leader will recognize this and be prepared to help.
Leaders should make a personal visit to the parents and the new Scout with a disability to learn about the Scout, his physical limitations, his abilities and preferences, and whether he knows any of the other boys in the troop. Some youths with disabilities will try to do more than they are capable of doing, just to “fit in” with the rest of the boys, which could result in unnecessary frustration.
Many youths with disabilities have special physical or health needs. Parents, visiting nurses, special education teachers, physical therapists, doctors, and other agencies can help make you more familiar with the nature of the disability. Get parent permission before contacting health care persons.
Accept the Scout as a person and give him the same respect that you expect from him. This will be much easier to do if you know the Scout, his parents, his background, and his likes and dislikes. Remember, any behavior of his that presents difficulties is a force that can be redirected into more acceptable pathways—rather than erased and rebuilt.
Example is a wonderful tool. Demonstrate personal discipline with respect, punctuality, accuracy, conscientiousness, dignity, and dependability.
Become involved with the Scout in your care. Let him know that you care for him, difficulties and all. A small word of praise or a pat on the back for a job well done can mean a lot to a boy who receives little elsewhere. Judge accomplishment by what the Scout can do, not by what someone says he must do or by what you think he cannot do.
Rewarding achievement will likely cause that behavior to be repeated. Reward can be in the form of a thank-you, a recognition made by the group for helping the group perform at a higher level, a badge, a prize, or a chance to go on a trip. Focus rewards on proper behavior and achievement.
Do not let the Scout or parents use the disability as an excuse for not trying. Expect the Scout to give his best effort.
II. Providing Encouragement
Reward more than you criticize, in order to build self-esteem.
Praise immediately any and all good behavior and performance.
Change rewards if they are not effective in motivating behavioral improvement.
Find ways to encourage the Scout.
Teach the Scout to reward himself. This encourages him to think positively about himself.
III. Giving Instruction to Youth With Disabilities
Maintain eye contact during verbal instruction (except when the Scout’s culture finds this inappropriate).
Make directions clear and concise. Be consistent with instructions.
Simplify complex directions. Give one or two steps at a time.
Make sure the Scout comprehends the instructions before beginning the task.
Repeat instructions in a calm, positive manner, if needed.
Help the Scout feel comfortable with seeking assistance.
IV. Providing Supervision and Discipline
As a leader, you must be a number of things to each boy: a friend, authority figure, reviewer, disciplinarian,
resource, and teacher.
Listening is an important technique that means giving the Scout an opportunity to express himself. Whether as a part of the group or in private conversation, be patient, be understanding, and take seriously what the Scout has to say. Keep yourself attuned to what he is saying; use phrases like, “You really feel that way?” or “If I understand you right. . . .”
Avoid ridicule and criticism. Remember, all children have difficulty staying in control.
Remain calm, state the infraction of the rule, and avoid debating or arguing with the Scout.
Have preestablished consequences for misbehavior for all Scouts.
When a Scout is behaving in an unacceptable manner, try the “time out” strategy or redirect his behavior.
Administer consequences immediately, and monitor proper behavior frequently.
Make sure the discipline fits the offense and is not unduly harsh.
Enforce troop rules consistently.
Do not reward inappropriate behavior. Praise when the Scout exerts real effort, even if unsuccessful, and/or when he shows improvement over a previous performance. Never praise falsely.
Do not accept blaming others as an excuse for poor performance. Make it clear that you expect the Scout to answer for his own behavior.
Behavior is a form of communication. Look for what the behavior is saying (i.e., does the Scout want attention?).