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.
Remember that people who use adaptive equipment (wheelchairs, crutches, etc.) often consider their equipment an extension of their bodies.
Never move equipment out of the person’s reach.
Before you go out with someone who has a mobility impairment, make sure facilities at the destination are accessible.
Never pat a person in a wheelchair on the head. This is a sign of disrespect for adults.
When helping, ask how equipment works if you are unfamiliar with it.
Prevent strained necks by standing a few feet away when talking to someone in a wheelchair.
Find a place to sit down for long talks. Hearing Loss
Make sure the person is looking at you before you begin to talk.
Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
Use gestures to help make your points.
Ask for directions to be repeated, or watch to make sure directions were understood correctly.
Use visual demonstration to assist verbal direction.
In a large group, remember that it’s important for only one person to speak at a time.
Speakers should never stand with their backs to the sun or light when addressing people with hearing loss.
Shouting at a person who is deaf very seldom helps. It distorts your speech and makes lipreading difficult.
Identify yourself to people with vision impairments by speaking up.
Offer your arm, but don’t try to lead the person.
Volunteer information by reading aloud signs, news, changing street lights, or warnings about street construction.
When you stop helping, announce your departure.
If you meet someone who has a guide dog, never distract the dog by petting or feeding it; keep other pets away.
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.
Stay calm. The person with the speech disorder has been in this situation before.
Don’t shout. People with speech disorders often have perfect hearing.
Be patient. People with speech disorders want to be understood as badly as you want to understand.
Don’t interrupt by finishing sentences or supplying words.
Give your full attention.
Ask short questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no.
Ask people with speech disorders to repeat themselves if you don’t understand.
Avoid noisy situations. Background noise makes communication hard for everyone.
Model slow speech with short phrases.
People whose mental performance is affected may learn slowly and have a hard time using their knowledge.
Be clear and concise.
Don’t use complex sentences or difficult words.
Don’t talk down to the person. “Baby talk” won’t make you easier to understand.
Don’t take advantage. Never ask the person to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
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.
People with social/emotional impairments have disorders of the mind that can make daily life difficult. If someone is obviously upset,
Stay calm. People with mental illness are rarely violent.
Offer to get help. Offer to contact a family member, friend, or counselor.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Here are some tips for leaders.
Provide consistent, predictable structure. Be patient. Allow extra time for activities.
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!
Let the Scout know about transitions early by saying, “In five minutes we’ll be ending this activity and starting another.”
Give the Scout information about new activities ahead of time.
Break up tasks into smaller steps.
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.
Structure Scout meeting time, activities, and rules so that the Scout with ADD knows what to expect. Post a calendar of events.
Be positive. Praise appropriate behavior and completion of tasks to help build the Scout’s self-esteem.
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.
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.
Test the Scout’s knowledge and not just his ability to take tests. Testing orally or in several short testing sessions might help.
Begin a formal achievement program. Weekly reports to parents could increase their involvement.
Work closely with parents and members of the education team. People working together can make a big difference.
Be sensitive to the Scout about taking his medication. Avoid statements such as, “Johnny, go take a pill.”
Simplify complex directions. Give one or two steps at a time.
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.
Listen and observe carefully to find clues as to how this Scout approaches problems and what his difficulties are.
Remember that praise and encouragement can help build self-esteem.
Let other troop members use their friendship and support to show the Scout that he belongs.
Use short, direct instructions that help the Scout know what is expected of him.
As much as possible, stay with a regular troop schedule, allowing the Scout to help with assigned duties.
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:
Scouts With Disabilities fact sheet, No. 02-508
Boy Scout Handbook in large print. Boy Scout Division, 972-580-2539
Scouting for Youth With Disabilities, No. 34059
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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