Re: Down syndrome Scout advice needed
Bruce Harper (bharper@VT.EDU)
Thu, 14 Sep 1995 14:26:42 +0900
On 9/13/95, Bill Gremillion wrote:
> This week we had a 15 year old First Class Scout transfer in. He
>has/is Down Syndrome.
Troop 56 in Blacksburg, Virginia, is proud to have Peter Gwazdauskas as a
member of the troop. Several years ago, HBO spent the school year at
Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg filming Peter's transition
(and everyone else's) from a special school to a regular 3rd grade classroom.
The result was the Academy Award winning documentary _Educating Peter_. It
shows up on HBO on a fairly regular basis, so if you get the chance, watch
it and tape it to share with your troop. Peter is now a 7th grader and
fits in just fine with the other kids at school, on the soccer field, and
at Scouts. Because of his Down Syndrome, Peter does have some behavior
quirks, but the kids know that a firm "no, Peter, I don't like that" is
usually effective in stopping any problems.
Peter is accompanied to meetings and other activities by either his mother
or father, although they stay in the background and let Peter participate
like any other kid. The troop went on a two-day canoe trip on the upper
James River last month; Peter and his mom were part of the crew. Peter also
went to summer camp and participated in the first-year program (he is a
second-year Scout, but wasn't able to attend camp last summer). While there
are accomdations made for Peter's disability, the main plan is to make him
an equal member of the troop, just like any other Scout who shows up to
>The father didn't say anything one way or the other about
>his limitations or abilities. We didn't press him, in part because we
>were busy (we also had visiting Webelos) and in part, I think, because we
>didn't know what to ask...or not ask.
The adult leaders should first sit down with the father and talk about the
best course of action. His father will know what works best for his son,
but probably is most interested in his son being accepted like any other
Scout. Once everyone understands what the situation is, the Scout leadership
(SPL, PL, etc.) should be brought up to speed with how to act and react
with their new member. Ultimately, the whole troop needs to have a sit-down
discussion about what the expectations are from all sides. Parents at least
need to be told about the new Scout, but their negative reactions (if any)
should not impact negatively. If it all plays out the way it has in
Troop 56, the kids will be the least of your worries when it comes time to
accept and include the new member of the troop. With Troop 56, most of the
Scouts were either classmates of Peter or at least knew who he was (Blacksburg
being the small town that it is).
Don't look at this with fear and trepedation, but accept the experience for
the education for Scouts and adults that it will provide.
Bruce in Blacksburg Webelos Den Leader, Pack 56, Blacksburg, Va.
P.S. My familiarity with Peter stems from that year in third grade, when
my son Andy was a member of the class. Andy and several other students have
been with Peter since then, in class, soccer, and Scouts. The whole
experience has been great, and the kids know better how to deal with Peter
than some adults.
Bruce B. Harper (540)231-4360
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