“Scouting helps by giving Scouts with disabilities an opportunity to prove to themselves and to others that they can do things- and difficult things too- for themselves.” ~ Lord Baden-Powell, Founder of the Scouting Movement
The Boy Scouts of America, Alamo Area Council, Scouts with Disabilities Committee (SWD) is committed to making Scouting accessible and enjoyable to all boys and girls.
Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has included fully participating members with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. The BSA’s policy is to treat Scouts equally and with respect. The BSA strives to make accommodations in advancement if necessary. By adapting the environment and/or our instruction methods, Scouts with disabilities can be successful in Scouting.
The basic premise of Scouting for youth is full participation. Youth with disabilities are to be treated and respected like every other member of their unit. Scouts want to participate and Scouting provides that opportunity.
An individual has a “disability” if she or he:
- has a physical, intellectual, or developmental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities-
- has a record of such an impairment, or
- is regarded as having such an impairment.
A collaboration of the Scout and his or her parents, Scout leaders, and qualified health professionals can complete the information that must be submitted to the local council for approval. This team should have a good understanding of the Scout’s abilities and disabilities, and how these will affect his or her ability to complete requirements for advancement. The information submitted will help the council make a proper assessment, so preparers need to be sure to include as much detail as possible.
It is suggested that any Scout who qualifies should be registered this way as soon as possible so he or she has ample time to complete the requirements. The advancement program is challenging, and many Scouts with disabilities have enjoyed success. Providing extra time to work on requirements and merit badges, when approved in advance, has proven to be helpful.
Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility
Youth members with severe physical disabilities and youth and adults with developmental or cognitive challenges may be able to Request Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility, No. 512-935 in the BSA. This allows them to work through the advancement program at a pace appropriate to their needs. The steps to do this are relatively easy and you will find them outlined in section 10.2.2.4 of the Guide to Advancement.
Application for Alternate Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges
In order to earn merit badges, Scouts must successfully complete all requirements as stated, no more, no less. Though this rule applies to Scouts with disabilities, some, because of their disability, are permitted to earn alternative badges in lieu of those required for the Eagle Scout rank. Topic 10.2.2.3 “Alternative Merit Badges for Eagle Scout Rank” in the Guide to Advancement outlines the process. Scouts with special needs must first earn as many of the Eagle-required badges they’re capable of earning before applying for any alternatives. With help from the parent or guardian and unit leader, the Scout’s careful review of the requirements prior to starting work on an Eagle-required badge will help the Scout determine if the badge is attainable. If this isn’t possible, the Scout should apply for approval to earn an alternative badge once he has completed all the other required ones. Planning ahead is the key. If the Scout qualifies, the parent or guardian and leader may proceed helping the Scout apply for alternative merit badges early on so the Application for Application for Alternative Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges, No. 512-730, can be completed and submitted on time. It should also be noted the alternative merit badge chosen must provide a similar challenging experience as the required badge.
There are many resources available to parents and leaders of Scouts with disabilities and special needs. Contact the SWD committee by email at ScoutsWithDisabilities@AlamoAreaBSA.org, if you need help with:
- Registering a special needs child in Scouting
- Finding or starting a special needs Scout unit
- Adapting rank or other requirements to accommodate a special needs Scout
- Filing Eagle Scout Alternate merit badge form with the council
- Identifying camping opportunities for special needs Scouts
- Developing an Individual Scouting Plan for a special needs Scout
- Conducting Scouts with Disabilities and special needs training for your group
- Assistance with the Disabilities Awareness merit badge
- General support for families and units with special needs Scouts
- Nominating someone for the Torch of Gold Award
- Nominating someone for the Woods Services Award