Edited by Robert W. Peterson
Illustration by Bill Basso
Cubmaster G.A. wrote in our January-February issue that several boys in his pack have physical or learning disabilities. He asked readers for specific ways leaders can modify Cub Scout activities for these boys.
The Cub Scout motto, "Do Your Best," is the best measuring stick for any boy - with or without disabilities.
In this, my third year as den leader, there are 13 boys in the den, including a brand-new Cub Scout who has cerebral palsy. Reading, writing, and most physical activity are challenges for him, but the attitude of the other boys and the leaders has helped him succeed. For the first two months of our program year, den meetings began with the boys grouped around posters we had made for the Cub Scout motto, Law of the Pack, Promise, and so on, reciting them to help the new boy earn his Bobcat badge.
During one den meeting, we went to the library, and two boys teamed up to help the disabled boy find books and then to assist with the reading. During another meeting, when we were working on the Games, Games, Games! and Building Muscles achievements for Bear, two of the more athletic boys partnered with him. When another Cub Scout saw that the disabled boy was having trouble posting the colors for the flag ceremony, he ran over without prompting to lend a hand.
Den Leader G.W.
Our pack has two Cub Scouts in wheelchairs, one who uses a walker, and four with Down's syndrome. They participate in every activity.
The key to success is planning. Use facilities, parks, and campgrounds that offer no barriers to boys with mobility challenges. Our den and pack calendars always include a trip to the fire or police department, nature hikes, and family camping.
Advancement requires the active involvement of parents. The standard for every Cub Scout is: "Has he done his best?" Who better than the parents of boys with disabilities to work with their sons and leaders on advancement?
I'm a special education teacher who has taught youth of various ages with special needs. Working with each child is a unique challenge, but if you have patience, a sense of humor, and common sense, you are qualified! A little creativity and an open mind are helpful, too.
These pointers will work with Cub Scouts and older Scouts, too.
- What works for one often works for all. Whether they have unique difficulties or not, all Cub Scouts can benefit from careful planning. It's time-consuming to plan two different, simultaneous activities. However, if you have a capable and willing den chief or adult present, you could create two separate groups for an activity.
- Have the Cub Scout with verbal difficulties - or any Cub Scout who is shy, scared, or has difficulty with required speaking - prerecord his message in a tape recorder prior to an event. He can be in front of an audience while his voice plays in the foreground.
- Have words, nonverbal signs, or signs ready to go if the child cannot hear well.
- Give no more than two-step directions, one direction at a time if necessary. Do not
overload with stimuli.
Wait for silence before giving clear and concise directions. Keep the pace appropriate for the group, giving examples and making goals clear. Model the activity, step by step. Don't assume anything is obvious.
Have the Cub Scout sit or stand by an adult or Cub Scout that is a great role model. If needed, say "look and listen" or "focus" before giving a direction.
- Structure and routine are the keys to success in any program. Predictable behavior on your part will keep things calm. Change is O.K. as long as there are no surprises. Reassure them that the rest of the schedule remains as before.
- Encourage, but don't push too hard. If a Cub Scout is doing his best, but he is having problems or seems to be frustrated, ask how you can help.
Pack Committee Chair L.L.
Each type of disability requires a different adaptation. That is, a child with limited mobility would need a different adaptation than a child with only one arm or a learning disability.
The best bet might be to contact an occupational therapist through the school. This professional specializes in adapting activities and equipment and probably would be willing to work with Cubmaster G.A. to help Cub Scouts with disabilities.
Assistant Webelos Den Leader K.W.
St. Clair Shores, Mich.
As a former Scout and leader in units with both undisabled and disabled boys, I found it wise to look for abilities, not disabilities, in every boy. Do not push or harass - and definitely do not ridicule - any boy.
Remember that the Cub Scout motto is "Do Your Best." If a boy does that, he has succeeded.
The best resources for leaders are the parents, teachers, and therapists who work with disabled boys. Many of them will be glad to help since Scouting often reinforces what they are doing to help a boy.
Here are some other ideas:
- Allow the boy to give oral rather than written responses.
- Hike on paved trails or walkways where wheelchairs can travel.
- If boys with learning disabilities cannot tie required knots, substitute different knots that will serve the same purpose.
Webelos Den Leader D.D.
As a longtime Scouter, I have often had the pleasure of working with boys with disabilities. I have learned to treat such boys as you do any other. Do not single them out or make a great to-do over them or their limitations. Work closely with the parents and they will work with you. Love, caring, and praise will go a long way.
As Scoutmaster of Troop 737, half of whose members have special-needs disabilities, I find careful planning vital to success.
For Scouts with limited mobility, I find that an older Scout can become a "companion" for activities requiring hiking, running, walking, etc. You may also redefine the activity. A thesaurus is very helpful in producing creative alternatives. For example, "hike, walk, run" can be replaced with "accompany, escort, lead, ride, assist, propel," etc.
"Swimming" activities can be replaced with "float, bob, skim, or drift" using a flotation device. (I have seen a boy with spina bifida "skim" the water, propelling himself with the breast stroke to complete the Mile Swim, BSA since his legs are paralyzed.)
For boys with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and similar disabilities, a "companion" Scout is a must. One-on-one assistance will often keep them on task. Keep activities simple, with not more than two or three steps to complete.
For additional ideas, information, and resources, visit Troop 737's Web site, "Reaching Beyond Limitations in Scouting," at http:// members.tripod.com/baldibear. New ideas are posted weekly.
Of the eight boys in my Bear den, five are in special education. Following are things I do to keep den meetings active, fun, and to meet advancement requirements.
- Last year when we were working on Wolf requirements, I used address labels frequently. For instance, for Wolf Achievement 12 (Making Choices), I typed the correct answers on address labels which the boys stuck into their books. I did this so they wouldn't have to write in their answers. For achievements requiring lists or longer answers, I used shipping labels.
- When we discuss safety, I use a bee puppet, named Bee Safe, to keep the boys' attention and guide the conversation. The bee swoops down to them and asks questions and praises a right answer. The boys heckle the bee but they enjoy him.
- I take advantage of snack time (when their hands are busy and their mouths are quiet) for safety discussions. I also use the time to explain what we'll be doing that day.
- I try to alternate quiet activities with physical things. For activities like Bear Achievement 16 (Building Muscles), rather than having one rowdy meeting at which we practice all the requirements, we do one or two at each den meeting. The denner chooses which ones we do.
- Two den members are not as well coordinated as the others. I have occasionally had them practice physical fitness requirements before or after den meetings so they won't be embarrassed.
Den Leader V.P.
HOW DO YOU STRENGTHEN A TROOP'S PLC?I've been involved with five Scout troops, and in every case attendance and enthusiasm for the patrol leaders' council was weak. These boys have incredibly busy lives. How can we ensure that junior leaders participate in this important experience of troop program planning?
Assistant Scoutmaster W.F.
Send your answers to Front Line Stuff, Scouting magazine, 1325 W. Walnut Hill Ln., P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079. Responses will appear in Scouting's October issue.
We also solicit new questions of a provocative nature and pay $50 for each one used in this column.
May-June 1999 Table of Contents
Copyright © 1999 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.
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