If a Scout or Scouter has any of the following disabilities, these ideas might be helpful. Always ask if he or she needs, or wants, help. Ask how you can help.

Mobility Impairments

IconStar Remember that people who use adaptive equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) often consider their equipment an extension of their bodies.
IconStar  Never move equipment out of the person’s reach.
IconStar  Before you go out with someone who has a mobility impairment, make sure facilities at the destination are accessible.
IconStar  Never pat a person in a wheelchair on the head. This is a sign of disrespect for adults.
IconStar  When helping, ask how equipment works if you are unfamiliar with it.
IconStar  Prevent strained necks by standing a few feet away when talking to someone in a wheelchair.
IconStar  Find a place to sit down for long talks. Hearing Loss
IconStar  Make sure the person is looking at you before you begin to talk.
IconStar  Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
IconStar  Use gestures to help make your points.
IconStar  Ask for directions to be repeated, or watch to make sure directions were understood correctly.
IconStar  Use visual demonstration to assist verbal direction.
IconStar  In a large group, remember that it’s important for only one person to speak at a time.
IconStar  Speakers should never stand with their backs to the sun or light when addressing people with hearing loss.
IconStar  Shouting at a person who is deaf very seldom helps. It distorts your speech and makes lipreading difficult.

Vision Impairments

IconStar  Identify yourself to people with vision impairments by speaking up.
IconStar Offer your arm, but don’t try to lead the person.
IconStar  Volunteer information by reading aloud signs, news, changing street lights, or warnings about street construction.
IconStar  When you stop helping, announce your departure.
IconStar  If you meet someone who has a guide dog, never distract the dog by petting or feeding it; keep other pets away.
IconStar  If you meet someone who is using a white cane, don’t touch the cane. If the cane should touch you, step out of the way and allow the person to pass.

Speech/Language Disorders

IconStar  Stay calm. The person with the speech disorder has been in this situation before.
IconStar  Don’t shout. People with speech disorders often have perfect hearing.
IconStar  Be patient. People with speech disorders want to be understood as badly as you want to understand.
IconStar  Don’t interrupt by finishing sentences or supplying words.
IconStar  Give your full attention.
IconStar  Ask short questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no.
IconStar  Ask people with speech disorders to repeat themselves if you don’t understand.
IconStar  Avoid noisy situations. Background noise makes communication hard for everyone.
IconStar  Model slow speech with short phrases.

Cognitive Disabilities

People whose mental performance is affected may learn slowly and have a hard time using their knowledge.

IconStar  Be clear and concise.
IconStar  Don’t use complex sentences or difficult words.
IconStar  Don’t talk down to the person. “Baby talk” won’t make you easier to understand.
IconStar  Don’t take advantage. Never ask the person to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
IconStar  Be understanding. People with below-average mental performance are often aware of their limitations, but they have the same needs and desires as those without the disability.

Social/Emotional Impairments

People with social/emotional impairments have disorders of the mind that can make daily life difficult. If someone is obviously upset,

IconStar  Stay calm. People with mental illness are rarely violent.
IconStar  Offer to get help. Offer to contact a family member, friend, or counselor.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Here are some tips for leaders.

IconStar  Provide consistent, predictable structure. Be patient. Allow extra time for activities.
IconStar  Provide a visual schedule using words and pictures. All Scouts will find this useful. Don’t put times in the schedule because a Scout with autism may expect you to follow it to the minute!
IconStar  Let the Scout know about transitions early by saying, “In five minutes we’ll be ending this activity and starting another.”
IconStar  Give the Scout information about new activities ahead of time.
IconStar  Break up tasks into smaller steps.
IconStar  Alert the Scout’s parents if there is going to be an activity that may cause sensory difficulties for their son. Consider moving noisy activities outside where the noise can dissipate. If the Scout has issues with food taste and texture, carefully plan the menus around these issues so the Scout can eat the same things as other members of the unit as much as possible.

Attention Deficit Disorder

Troop leaders have a positive effect on children with attention deficit disorder (ADD). Here are some ways leaders can help.
IconStar  Structure Scout meeting time, activities, and rules so that the Scout with ADD knows what to expect. Post a calendar of events.
IconStar  Be positive. Praise appropriate behavior and completion of tasks to help build the Scout’s self-esteem.
IconStar Be realistic about behavior and assignments. Many children with ADD simply can’t sit for long periods or follow detailed instructions. Make learning interesting with plenty of hands-on activities.
IconStar Monitor behavior through charts that explain expectations for behavior and rewards for reaching goals. This system of positive reinforcement can help the Scout stay focused.
IconStar Test the Scout’s knowledge and not just his ability to take tests. Testing orally or in several short testing sessions might help.
IconStar Begin a formal achievement program. Weekly reports to parents could increase their involvement.
IconStar Work closely with parents and members of the education team. People working together can make a big difference.
IconStar Be sensitive to the Scout about taking his medication. Avoid statements such as, “Johnny, go take a pill.”
IconStar Simplify complex directions. Give one or two steps at a time.

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities (including minimal brain damage, perceptual disabilities, communication disorders, and others) are usually disorders of the central nervous system that interfere with basic learning functions.

IconStar Listen and observe carefully to find clues as to how this Scout approaches problems and what his difficulties are.
IconStar Remember that praise and encouragement can help build self-esteem.
IconStar Let other troop members use their friendship and support to show the Scout that he belongs.
IconStar Use short, direct instructions that help the Scout know what is expected of him.
IconStar As much as possible, stay with a regular troop schedule, allowing the Scout to help with assigned duties.
IconStar Give the Scout extra time when needed. Don’t rush his answers. Reword instructions or questions if necessary.

Resources Available From the BSA

The following resources are used to help increase disabilities awareness in local council and district Scouters as well as to help the local council develop working relationships with other local agencies and organizations that work with people with disabilities:

IconStar Scouts With Disabilities fact sheet, No. 02-508
IconStar Boy Scout Handbook in large print. Boy Scout Division, 972-580-2539
IconStar Scouting for Youth With Disabilities, No. 34059
IconStar Woods Services Award Nomination Form, No. 89-258 (revised and sent to councils every September with a December 31 deadline. One person is selected each spring to receive this national award.) See Guide to Advancement, No. 33088, section 10.2.4.1, for details.
IconStar Torch of Gold certificate, No. 33733 (for local council use in recognizing adults for outstanding service to youth with disabilities) See Guide to Advancement, No.33088, section 10.2.4.2, for details.
IconStar Disabilities Awareness merit badge pamphlet, No. 33370  Application for Alternative Eagle Scout Merit Badges, No. 58-730
Design examples available from Engineering Service, BSA, Irving, Texas:

  • Accessibility Standards for Camp Facilities
  • Barrier-Free Troop Site
  • Barrier-Free Tent Frame
  • Barrier-Free Latrine/Shower for Campsite
  • Existing BSA Facilities and the Americans With Disabilities Act

BSA Resources Available Elsewhere

IconStar Boys’ Life magazine (in Braille). Library of Congress for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; 101 Independence Avenue, SE; Washington, D.C. 20540; telephone: 202-707-5100; Website: www.loc.gov.
IconStar Recordings of the Boy Scout Handbook and various merit badge pamphlets. Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic; 20 Roszel Road; Princeton, NJ 08540; telephone: 800-221-4792; Website: www.rfbd.org.
IconStar Boy Scout Handbook (in Braille). The Lighthouse of Houston; P.O. Box 130345; Houston, TX 77219-0435; telephone: 713-527-9561; fax: 713-284-8451; Website: www.thelighthouseofhouston.org.
IconStar Merit badge pamphlets (in Braille). National Braille Association; 3 Townline Circle; Rochester, NY 14623-2513; telephone: 716-427-8260; fax: 716-427-0263; Website: www.nationalbraille.org.
IconStar Boy Scout Handbook and merit badge pamphlets are accessible by online library through a partnership with BookShare. c/o Benetech; 480 South California Ave.; Palo Alto, CA 94306; telephone: 650-392-0198; Website: www.bookshare.org

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