Scouting For Youth With Disabilities

The San Diego-Imperial Council recognizes that no two Scouts are exactly alike; each Scout is unique. Scouts are not machines who can be steered in exactly the same way, to have fun doing the same activities, or who learn in the same way from exactly the same instructions. Some Scouts need extra help from trained leaders.

A Scout is considered to have a "disability" if he or she

The outcomes of the
Scouting experience
should be fun and
educational, and not just
relate to completing rank
requirements that might
place unrealistic
expectations on a
member who has
a disability.

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities - seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working,
  • has a record of such an impairment, or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

In the discretion of the Executive Board, and under such rules and regulations as it may prescribe upon consultation with appropriate medical authorities, registration of boys who are either intellectually disabled or severely physically handicapped, including the blind, deaf, and emotionally disturbed, over age 11 as Cub scouts and over age 18 as Boy Scouts, or Varsity Scouts, and registration of young adults who are either intellectually disabled or severely physically handicapped, including blind, deaf, and emotionally disturbed, over age 21 as Venturers, and the participation of each in the respective advancement programs while registered, is authorized.1

Registering Qualified Members Beyond Age of Eligibility2

Youth and adults who are developmentally disabled, or youth with severe physical challenges, may be considered for registration beyond the age of eligibility for their program: over age 11 for a Cub Scout, 18 as a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout, or 21 as a Venturer or Sea Scout.

A developmentally disabled adult of any age, for example may be considered for youth membership and join Scouting if a qualified medical professional is able to correlate cognitive abilities to less than the upper limit of an eligibility age. Members approved to be so registered are indicated in the system with a disability code.

A disability, to qualify an individual for registration beyond the age of eligibility, must be permanent and so severe that it precludes advancement even at a rate significantly slower than considered normal. If ranks can be achieved under accommodations already provided in official literature, or with modifications as outlined below, then the disability probably does not rise to the level required. This is often the case in considering advancement potential for youth with moderate learning disabilities and such disorders as ADD/ADHD. If ranks can be earned, but it just takes somewhat longer, the option is not warranted.

Possible Criteria for Registering Beyond Age of Eligibility3

In considering registration beyond the age of eligibility, members with conditions such as those listed below may meet the severity requirement, but every case must be considered individually. If members are able to take advantage of the flexibility already built into Scouting advancement, and participate in essentially the same way as typical youth, then they may not be registered beyond the age of eligibility.

Examples of conditions that, if severe, may be criteria for registration beyond the age of eligibility include these:

  1. Autism spectrum disorders
  2. Blind or sight-impaired
  3. Deaf or hard of hearing
  4. Developmental cognitive disability
  5. Developmental delay
  6. Down syndrome
  7. Emotional or behavioral disorder
  8. Physically impaired
  9. Severely multiple impaired
  10. Traumatic Brain Injury

Young people approved for registration beyond the age of eligibility may continue working on advancement including the Eagle Scout rank and Eagle Palms, for as long as they continue to be so registered. The local council or the National Council, upon uncovering evidence that a youth was improperly registered with a disability code, or for whatever reason no longer meets the required level of severity, may make the decision to expire the registration. Registration of an adult as a youth member with a disability code may also be expired if it is determined the registrant has progresses sufficiently to be registered as an adult.

How to Register a Member Beyond Age of Eligibility4

To register a person who will remain as a youth member beyond the age of eligibility, the following documents must be assembled and submitted to the local council.

  1. Parent or guardian letter describing the disability and its severity and permanence, and petitioning the council for approval of registration beyond the age of eligibility.
  2. A completed youth membership application or proof of current membership.
  3. A completed Annual Health and Medical Record form signed by a licensed physician.
  4. A signed medical statement from a qualified health professional attesting to the nature of the disability, its severity, and permanent limitations connected with it. For physical disabilities, this must be a licensed physician; for developmental or cognitive issues, a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, or as appropriate, a neurologist or other medical professional in a specialty related to the disability.
  5. Unit leader's letter advocating and supporting the registration.
  6. Other supporting documentation, such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), treatment summaries, etc., which are optional, but can make a difference in the decision.

Advancement Flexibility Allowed5

Cub Scouts, Boy scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers or Sea Scouts who have disabilities may qualify for limited flexibility in advancement. Allowances possible in each program are outlined below. It does not necessarily matter if a youth is approved to be registered beyond the age of eligibility. Experience tells us those members whose parents are involved, or at least regularly consulted, progress the farthest. Some units have also followed the example set by Individualized Education Plans, and have established "individual advancement plans" with the same benefits. A sample of such a plan can be found in Scouting for Youth with Disabilities, No. 34059 available at the Scout Shop.

Cub Scout Program Advancement:

There are no alternative guidelines for Cub Scout Advancement for Scouts with cognitive or emotional disabilities. However, some modifications may be made since many of the requirements are signed off by the parents. In keeping with the spirit of the alternative requirements suggested for the Boy Scout program, I would suggest the following:

  1. Allow the Scout to complete as many standard requirements as possible.
  2. Any modification of requirements should be fostered by the motto "Do Your Best" and allow the Scout to perform at the highest level of his ability.
  3. The Unit leader and parents should determine appropriate modifications before starting the advancement process.

Boy Scout Program Advancement:

For the Boy Scouts, all current requirements for an advancement award must be actually met by the candidate. There are no substitutions or alternatives permitted except those which are specifically stated in the requirements as set forth in the current official literature of the Boy Scouts of America. Requests can be made for alternate rank requirements.

Guidelines for Pursuing Alternative Requirements

  1. The physical or mental disability must be of a permanent rather than a temporary nature.
  2. A clear and concise medical statement concerning the Scout's disabilities must be submitted by a licensed physician. In the alternative, an evaluation statement certified by an educational administrator may be submitted. For cognitive/emotional disabilities, a statement from a licensed psychologist may be submitted. The statement must state the doctor's opinion that the Scout cannot complete the requirement(s) because of a permanent disability.
  3. The Scout, his parents, or leaders must submit to the council advancement committee, a written request that the Scout be allowed to complete alternative requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class rank. The request must explain the suggested alternate requirements in sufficient detail so as to allow the advancement committee to make a decision. The request must also include the medical statement required in paragraph two above. The written request for alternate requirements must be submitted to and approved by the local council prior to completing alternate requirements.
  4. The Scout must complete as many of the regular requirements as his ability permits before applying for alternate requirements.
  5. The alternate requirements must be of such a nature that they are as demanding of effort as the regular requirements.
  6. When alternate requirements involve physical activity, they must be approved by the physician.
  7. The unit leader and any board of review must explain that to attain Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class rank a candidate is expected to do his best in developing himself to the limit of his resources.
  8. The written request must be approved by the council advancement committee, utilizing the expertise of professional persons involved in Scouting for disabled youth. The decision of the council advancement committee should be recorded and delivered to the Scout and his leader.

Alternate Merit Badges for the Eagle Scout Rank

  1. The Eagle Scout rank may be achieved by a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified Venturer who has a physical or mental disability by qualifying for alternate merit badges. This does not apply to individual requirements for merit badges. Merit badges are awarded only when all requirements are met as stated.
  2. The physical or mental disability must be of a permanent rather than a temporary nature.
  3. A clear and concise medical statement concerning the Scout's disabilities must be made by a physician licensed to practice medicine, or an evaluation statement must be certified by an educational administrator.
  4. The candidate must earn as many of the required merit badges as his ability permits before applying for an alternate Eagle Scout rank merit badge.
  5. The candidate must complete as many of the requirements of the required merit badges as his ability permits.
  6. The Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Award Merit Badges must be completed prior to qualifying for alternate merit badges.
  7. The alternate merit badges chosen must be of such a nature that they are as demanding of effort as the required merit badges.
  8. When alternates chosen involve physical activity, they must be approved by the physician.
  9. The unit leader and the board of review must explain that to attain the Eagle Scout rank, a candidate is expected to do his best in developing himself to the limit of his resources.
  10. The application must be approved by the council committee responsible for advancement, utilizing the expertise of professional persons involved in Scouting for people with special needs.
  11. The candidate's application for Eagle must be made on the Eagle Scout Rank Application, with the Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Award Merit Badges attached.

In addition, there are a number of suggested alternatives for required merit badges that may provide a similar learning experience for the Scout. It is important for Unit leaders to use reasonable accommodation and common sense in the application of the alternate merit badge program. One reasonable accommodation is allowing for extended time to complete the requirements.

Resources

Questions and Information

If you have questions, or need more information, about Scouts with disabilities, contact Karl Shelton at 619.298.6121 x253.

Wheelchair Gift

A generous person has made available a wheelchair as a gift to a needy Scout. Perhaps a wheelchair-bound Scout could put it to use as a swiitchout on campouts.

It is a model ZRA, manufactured by TiLite (www.tilite.com). There is a Fact Sheet, as well a couple of photos (Photo 1 and Photo 2).

If you are interested in learning more about this wheelchair, contact Karl Shelton at 619.298.6121 x253.

References

  1. Guide to Advancement Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America Article XI. Business, Finance, Properties, Contracts, Registration Section 3. Special Types of Registration clause 20. Intellectually Disabled or Severely Physically Disabled Youth Members
  2. Guide to Advancement Section 10.1.0.0
  3. Guide to Advancement Section 10.1.0.1
  4. Guide to Advancement Section 10.1.0.2
  5. Guide to Advancement Section 10.2.0.0