BSA alternative requirements ensure youth with disabilities get the most out of Scouting

expertlogo1Special needs or disabilities shouldn’t stop a young person from joining Scouting and thriving in our life-changing program.

Fortunately, they don’t.

BSA alternative requirements benefit Scouts or Venturers with a wide range of documented disabilities, including those that are physical and/or cognitive. These modified requirements allow a registered member to remain in Cub Scouts beyond age 11, in Boy Scouts beyond age 17 and in Venturing or Sea Scouts beyond age 20.

Young men with certain documented disabilities may earn Boy Scout ranks, including Eagle Scout, even after they turn 18. They use requirements that challenge them in a specially tailored way. The requirements must be approved by the council advancement committee and should be as challenging for the Scout with special needs as the ones they replace.

I bring this up because of an email I received from Stewart, a new Scout leader in the Trapper Trails Council. Virtually every Scouting unit at one time or another will have the opportunity to serve youth with special needs, so Stewart’s question affects us all. He writes:

Dear Bryan,

I am not sure where else to turn so here you go. I am a new Scout leader and just received into my troop a young man with a developmental disability. I am in the process of working with his mom and dad to come up with some alternative requirements, not just through First Class, but all the way through Eagle. As I do not want to reinvent the wheel, I have done some looking for others who have been in this boat to see what was done and how so we can duplicate it as much as our unique situation allows.

But I’m coming up blank. Any suggestions you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Trapper Trails Council

The expert’s response

I turned to Mike Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s content management team. He writes:

Scouts with disabilities may, if qualified, be registered beyond the age of eligibility (coded with a disability code in ScoutNET). In the Guide to Advancement, Section, topics and, lists the possible criteria and procedures to register a Scout beyond the age of eligibility. Topics through explain the policy and process for applying for alternative requirements for Tenderfoot through First Class. Topic is the policy and procedures for Scouts working on Star, Life, and Eagle to apply for alternative merit badges to the Eagle required ones.

This unit leader should contact his district and council advancement chairs and advisor to get more guidance and assistance.

Resources available

In addition to the Guide to Advancement linked above, Lo Vecchio also points to these resources:

  • A PowerPoint presentation with embedded presenter’s notes available here (link downloads .ppt file) — good for giving a presentation to other parents and leaders
  • Printable presenter’s notes available here (link is a PDF) — good for reviewing the material on your own

These are among the topics covered in the PowerPoint:

  • How to document a disability and qualify for alternative requirements
  • How to register beyond the age of eligibility
  • Cub Scout and Boy Scout rank advancement
  • Alternative merit badge requirements
  • Creating an Individual Scout Achievement Plan, which is a roadmap for parents and leaders
  • Several scenarios to help you understand the process

Please share your suggestions with Stewart

Have you been through this process with Scouts or Venturers in your pack, troop, team, post, ship or crew? Please share your experiences and lessons learned with Stewart by leaving a comment below.

Together we can make sure every Scout and Venturer gets a life-changing experience from his or her time in Scouting.

Photo: Troop 1634 Scout Archer Hadley, from Austin, Texas, smiles after a morning swim at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. Photo by Mark Duncan