Use these proven strategies as a guide to working with Scouts or Scouters with special needs or disabilities.
- People who use adaptive equipment see their wheelchair or crutches as an extension of their body, so never move those out of reach.
- Before booking a campout or field trip, check to make sure the destination has accessible facilities and aids like ramps and handrails.
- Offer assistance, but give help only if it’s wanted.
- Face the person directly and enunciate clearly. Speak in a normal volume.
- Remember the person might be trying to read your lips, so never stand with your back to an audience or with the sun behind you.
- If you don’t understand what the person with hearing loss just said, simply ask him to repeat it.
- If the person needs or wants help with guidance, let him hold on to your arm. Don’t grab onto him or try to lead him.
- Let them use their hands to touch and feel the world around them; this is how they see.
- If you meet someone who uses a guide dog, never pet or feed the animal.
Speech and language disorders
- Don’t shout. People with speech disorders often have perfect hearing.
- Avoid noisy situations. Background noise makes communication hard for everyone.
- Don’t interrupt by finishing sentences or supplying words. Model slow speech with short phrases and yes-or-no questions when appropriate.
- Plan short sessions. Intersperse seated activities with more active, hands-on ones.
- Don’t give long lists of instructions. Give three or four at a time, and then add more when those are complete.
- Be sensitive to Scouts when talking about taking medication. Never use public proclamations like, “Trevor, go take your pill.”
- Don’t ask a Scout with a learning disability to read aloud unless he wants to and has practiced.
- Use praise and encouragement to build self-esteem, and ask the Scout’s buddies to support him.
- Be patient and give the Scout extra time if needed.
- Remember that it’s called the autism spectrum for a reason: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Learn the person’s coping methods and what triggers negative reactions.
- Be patient and allow extra time for activities. Supply a visual schedule of the day’s events — something all Scouts will appreciate. Avoid using specific times on the schedule, though, because you might be expected to follow them to the minute.
- Talk with the Scout’s parents before planning noisy activities that could cause difficulty for the Scout. Perhaps these activities could take place outside, where noise dissipates.