Frequently Asked Questions:

How are Special Needs or Disabilities defined? 

There are many different types but they are generally defined in the following five categories.  Youth sometimes have challenges in more than one category:

          1) Learning—an impairment in which a youth functions below level in one or more academic or skill areas (includes perceptual disabilities, communication disorders, and others).

          2) Cognitive—a condition in which a student functions below their chronological age level in all areas of intellectual or cognitive development (often socially immature; 90% are only mildly cognitively disabled).

          3) Developmental—a condition in which a person functions below level in all academic or skill areas (a severe, chronic set of functional limitations that result from physical and/or mental impairment).

          4) Physical—a physical impairment

          5) Emotional & Behavioral Disorder—an emotional or behavioral impairment, e.g., attention-related issues.

How & when are alternative advancements used? 

For Cub Scouts, advancement is flexible and allows substitution where a disability becomes an obstacle.  Cub Scouting is adaptable to all Scouts with disabilities without special instruction on each achievement.

For Boy Scouting, the BSA philosophy of inclusion is such that the youth should feel as much like their fellow scouts as possible.  Scout must complete as many of existing requirements as possible.  If a Scout’s disability limits him in completing a particular requirement or merit badge, then he may wish to apply for alternative requirements for Tenderfoot through First Class, or for an alternative merit badge as stated in the current official literature of the BSA. 

How can I provide effective leadership for a youth with special needs when I am not a health expert? 

Many of the same general leadership techniques for giving instruction/ encouragement/ supervision that apply to the general population are applicable to special needs youth.  Set a good example and accept, respect and embrace disabled youth—they are normal in most ways, but have additional challenges.  Visit with the parents and learn more about the child’s abilities and preferences as well as the nature of the disability and any special health-related needs--there are special assessment forms available.   Focus reward on achievement and proper behavior, and above all, judge by their ABILITIES.  Additional helpful BSA training modules will be provided.

Where can I find out more about the official BSA resource material for Scouts with Special Needs? 

The primary source is the Disabilities AwarenessExternal Link page of the National website.  On this webpage, Scout leaders will find two primary documents that cover almost every question one might have:  Guide to Working With Scouts With Special Needs & Disabilities (12 pages) and Scouting for Youth with Disabilities Manual (155 pages).   Also the Westchester-Putnam Special Needs Scouting Committee will update the WPC website with additional contacts and available local information as it becomes available.