scouts-l Mail Archive for April of 2000: Re: Special needs
William N. Dilla (wdilla@IASTATE.EDU
Fri Apr 21 2000 - 16:15:39 CDT
Hollyanne and Pat,
I've got a son with Asperger's, but no, I can't give you any "special"
strategies for dealing with this type of child. Pat's right in that the
disorder can manifest itself in many different ways. Dealing with my son in Cub
Scouts wasn't much of a problem, partly due to his rowdy den mates. Boy Scouts
has been more difficult, as (1) my son has been asked to take on more
responsibility and (2) his peers have moved far ahead of him in terms of social
Even though it's aimed at ADHD Scouts, Pam Glidden's "Coping With A Hyperactive
Boy Scout At Summer Camp" applies very much to Aspergers' as well. It can be
found at http://www.boyscouts-marin.org/wwswd/coping.htm
Another pointer is to build on the Scout's strengths, as an Aspergers' child
will have an area or two that he's very very interested in. Fortunately, my
son's is nature--he's got no problem doing the observations for e-science and
other merit badges, even though he can barely sit still for anything else
(except to play computer games).
Coaching the other boys is very important, both in encouraging them to help the
child with disabilities and to make sure that they don't tease or harass the
child. Boys are much more sensitive to helping a peer with disabilities than
you might think. This is especially true as you get to the Boy Scout level. At
that level, the boys should be giving most of the help to the special needs
child. Sometimes that can take the form of "tough love"--making sure that the
boy is carrying his own weight to the best of his ability--not having things
done for him. At the same time, there should be very little tolerance for any
form of harassment or teasing, after all, that's what the Scout Law tells us
Another issue is to what extent the Scout's parents and other adults have
responsibility for the child. In some cases, the special needs child does a
better job of coping when the parents are not there--either they listen better
to other adults, or maybe its a case where the parents coddle the child too
much, and other adults just do a better job making the child stand on his own.
On the other hand, there are cases where the child is too much for other adults
to handle, and we may want to ask for the parents to be around. However, I feel
this is really a last-ditch solution, to be taken after other strategies have
failed. After all, the Scout Oath and Law binds us as leaders to "do our best"
to serve all boys, not just the easy ones to handle.
I think that Hollyanne is very right when she says that it's not the program
that's the problem, it's just certain leaders. It doesn't sound like the tiger
cub leader in her case was really doing her best. Sometimes this makes for
difficult choices, or maybe for good opportunities. A leader who wouldn't "do
his best" in dealing with my middle son (the Aspergers one) a few months ago
caused me to move him from the troop he had chosen when we moved here to the
one where his older brother was active, and where I'm now SM.
Anyway, best of luck to both of you. Let me know if you come across any
especially useful information.