How to help Scouts with ADHD succeed — without hurting anyone’s feelings

Scouts With ADHD

Review a full list of ADHD symptoms published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You’ll also find an interactive list to help evaluate a child’s behavior. Please note that the information is in a shortened form and is presented for informational purposes. Only trained healthcare providers diagnose and treat ADHD.

When David Urion, M.D., was a Boy Scout, his troop met at an Episcopal church. One summer afternoon, the Scout leader turned his back for a minute. Before Urion knew it, his friend Doug had climbed to the top of the church steeple. 

The leader talked Doug down from the steeple to the church roof, then a lower overhang, and onto his shoulders. But that adventure was only one of many exploits of this inveterate thrill-seeker. “Every time any responsible adult turned his back, Doug was on top of a garage or a flagpole,” remembers Urion, a fourth-generation Eagle Scout. “We’d be on a 25-mile hike, he’d see something off the trail that looked interesting, and if you weren’t careful, at the next stop, it would be, ‘Where’s Doug?’ ”

Now a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, Urion realizes in hindsight that this relentlessly impulsive boy likely had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — known as ADHD — a condition that causes children to exhibit symptoms including difficulty staying focused, controlling behavior and hyperactivity. The average onset age for ADHD is age 7, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“When you see a kid who’s always out farther on a ledge or higher than you’d like him to be, it would be a good time to have a conversation with his parents,” Urion says, “because then you can see if he’s just kind of exuberant, or if, in fact, he has ADHD.” 

 Persistent thrill-seeking is one of several signs of possible ADHD. Doctors diagnose a child with the disorder if he displays six or more symptoms from either a list of nine inattention symptoms or from a list of nine signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity. (Find these lists here for your review.) They next ask whether he has done so for more than six months. 

If you have an “Energizer Bunny” Scout so relentlessly active and unable to focus that he stands out among kids his age, he might be among the 3 to 7 percent of school-age children who have ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This percentage is likely higher among Scouts because, as CDC data reveals, the disorder affects more than twice as many boys as girls.

A child with ADHD experiences multiple stimuli — say, a parent setting up snacks, another boy tapping his foot, a fire truck going by outside and the leader talking to the group — as equal. Faced with all of this stimulation, “ADHD kids don’t know what to block and what to focus on,” explains Jen Reid, who co-teaches a class, “Including Scouts With Special Needs” at the University of Scouting of the Flint River Council near Atlanta. “Their mind keeps shifting from one thing to another.” 

How can you cope with a Scout who can’t sit still, doesn’t seem to listen, can’t concentrate on a project or even disrupts the whole troop by constantly wandering off? 

The first step is to talk to the Scout’s parents, which calls for some advance planning. 

Partner With Parents
Whether or not their child has been diagnosed, it’s time to start building a partnership. Sometimes the parent will take the lead, as Paige Lawson did when her son Wolfgang, 9, was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. 

“I talked to his pack leaders. I told them that a lot of activity keeps him busy and moving, and that keeps him from getting upset,” she says. “I explained the medication he takes so they knew if he started behaving oddly to let me know.” If Wolfgang balked at an activity, she suggested letting him sit by himself, because he’ll usually join in later. 

“It’s about keeping open and honest communication between both sides,” says Lawson, whose son belongs to a pack in Kansas City, Mo.

Now the leader asks her questions whenever they need help solving a problem with Wolfgang. 

“Parents are the child’s biggest advocates,” agrees Kelli Fisher, who co-teaches the University of Scouting class with Reid. “Ask them what works and what doesn’t. Find out signs of a pending meltdown and how best to redirect it.” 

The partnership you build with parents of a special-needs Scout will enrich the whole troop. “If you get parents to step up and help you with their child,” Reid says, “they’ll help you with other things as well.” 

Improve Scout Meetings Helping Scouts With ADHD
“Redirection” is a crucial tool to use with inattentive or disruptive Scouts. After stating the unit’s “ground rules” for behavior — some leaders do that as often as every week — you can “redirect” or remind a Scout what’s acceptable when he breaks a rule. 

 You might assign an adult or an older Scout to “shadow” a boy who often breaks rules. That person can redirect him by saying, “This is important, so quiet down,” explains Fisher, or, “Hey Marco, we gotta go this way. Come back here!”

 After a Scout has repeatedly heard “Listen to Mr. Smith now,” Reid says, he might refocus when the “shadow” simply sits next to him or taps him on the shoulder.

Even though a hyperactive Scout tries your patience, he needs praise as much or more than other boys. So tell him when you notice his improvement, and look for his strengths. It’s also a good idea to separate two impulsive kids from each other, so they won’t disrupt the rest of the group. 

Because, as Cub Scouter Hector X. Merced puts it, most ADHD kids have “all this energy inside them that needs to get out,” you can feed their hyperactivity by including plenty of activities that let them move. 

As the Cub Scout Handbook suggests, Merced, a Tiger den leader in Springfield, Va., never lets his den sit for more than 20 minutes at a stretch. The last half-hour of every meeting is a game. “That has worked wonderfully,” he says. “When you mix it up, they’re very interested.” 

Alternating active and passive activities and promoting learning while moving will benefit the entire troop. So will using both verbal and nonverbal language. 

Reid will tell Scouts to nail boards together, paint them, set them out to dry and then stencil them, but she also writes each step down and even charts them with pictures. While these methods will help an ADHD Scout in particular, at the same time they will also cater to the varied learning styles of all Scouts.

Surprises add stimulation, but consistency — like always meeting in the same place — helps keep Scouts calm and focused. Announcing next week’s activities at the end of each meeting also lets Scouts know what to expect, as does emailing that information to parents. 

Prepare Them for Life
Scouting can be a lifesaver for boys with ADHD. Its active program and diversified, hands-on skills training can give kids the competence and confidence so essential to their well-being. 

Boys who don’t shine in school can excel in archery, camping skills or photography. Scouting gives them “a place to have something other than constant messages of failure,” Urion says. 

Merced’s son Xavier has made tremendous gains in Cub Scouts. To help earn his Astronomy belt loop, Merced put the eight planets of the solar system on his bedroom ceiling, and Xavier learned them in order. “They were difficult, and he learned them all,” his dad says. “He felt very proud. His self-confidence was very low, and the Cub Scouts have given that back.” 

Programs such as National Youth Leadership Training can build the self- confidence of older Scouts, says Lisa Kirschner, of Stroudsburg, Pa. It taught her sons, Dagan and Mark, both of whom dealt with ADHD as children (they’re now 21 and 17), how a leader thinks and the meaning of leadership. 

Scouting also uniquely prepares boys for life by providing a wide array of role models. Scout leaders range from carpenters and software entrepreneurs to firefighters and corporate executives, Urion points out. As a Boy Scout, “I realized you could be good in a lot of different ways in the world,” he says. “That’s a very important gift that Scouting brings.” 

What To Avoid With a Kid Who Has ADHD
Jen Reid and Kelli Fisher, who teach a class titled “Including Scouts With Special Needs,” have compiled a list of common mistakes adults make with Scouts who have special needs:

  • Raising your voice
  • Insisting on having the last word
  • Clenching your hands or using other tense body language
  • Insulting or embarrassing the Scout
  • Bribing him
  • Attacking his character
  • Mimicking him
  • Comparing him to other Scouts
  • Using “command and demand” leadership
  • Holding a grudge. (“If the kid is a pain one day, start a new page the next day,” Reid and Fisher advise.)

Help ADHD Scouts Make Friends
In school, the boy with ADHD is often labeled the class clown, the troublemaker or simply “weird.” But Scout leaders can perform a terrific service by helping them make friends while teaching the whole group a lesson in tolerance.

When Lisa Kirschner’s sons joined Cub Scouts, the den leader not only corrected their behavior but also made clear to other boys that “We still like him, and he’s a good kid.” The results: “Three of the kids he started with in Tigers are his best friends even though they’re all in college,” says Kirschner, who both volunteers for Scouts as assistant Scoutmaster and crew Advisor and works as senior district executive for the Pocono District.

Diversity policies also promote friendships with kids with ADHD. Boys who learn to accept and understand Scouts from different ethnic and racial backgrounds can do the same for boys with special needs, Hector Merced explains. In his own den, parents of boys come from Vietnam, China, Peru, Puerto Rico and Thailand.

If a Scout has been diagnosed with ADHD, he might be taking medication. Most ADHD medication is taken once a day. When it wears off, a child might get crabby and fidgety and want to get up and run around. To prevent this behavior, some parents may decide to give their sons half a pill before late afternoon or evening meetings.

Parents might ask you to ensure their child takes medication when away on a camping trip. (First ask parents to review the prescriptions section of the Guide to Safe Scouting, as well as the BSA’s requirements for annual health and medical records.) There are no strange side effects or extreme reactions to the typical medications for ADHD. Most are slightly dehydrating, and some decrease appetite. So before a long campout, ask the parents if they want you to pay extra attention to the Scout’s food and water intake.

KATHY SEAL, the co-author of Pressured Parents, Stressed-Out Kids (with Wendy S. Grolnick, Ph.D.), is a longtime contributor to national magazines on raising happy and successful kids.


  1. I believe three things about ADHD:
    1. Some kids have a real medical issue.
    2. Sadly, our schools have just about outlawed all physical and creative activity as dangerous. So instead of providing a way to expend some energy, we medicate the life out of these kids.
    3. And finally some kids receive little structure, little instruction, and almost no correction at home. Failed parenting is diagnosed as ADHD and once again we drug these kids to turn them into zombies.

    For the last 5 Boy Scout summer camps I have attended, we have not given the boys their ADHD meds. This is with the consent of the parents and with the acknowledgement that we put them right back on their drugs if there is an issue. Not one kid has needed the meds to get through the week. It is amazing what structure, a lot of physical activity, and reasonable expectations will do for a boy. This is anecdotal of course, but I still think their is some truth to our experience.

    • Unless you are familar with the meds in question, I would be very cautious about this. Some behavior meds, like SSRIs, Intuniv or Tenex, and others, must be tapered to a new or discontinued dose. A sudden change in these meds could lead to a very sick or unhappy scout, regardless of how much structure you provide them with.

    • Please keep in mind that for anyone who is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, the use of medication can help them master the skills that they need to be successful in life. For these individuals, the medication does not make zombies out of them as is often suggested, but rather allows them to redirect their thinking at a rate that is more appropriate – as long as the medication is the right one. Medication can help children to be more aware of their surroundings which helps them to better learn social cues – an area that many ADD/ADHD people struggle with. Medication is not for every person with ADD/ADHD and should not be administered lightly. However, for some, it brings a sense of relief that they can behave and perform in a more acceptable way which makes for a happier child. ADD/ADHD children tend to be big thinkers – they see everything at once. This is often stated as they can’t focus. In reality, they are focused on everything until something catches their eye and they zoom in on that activity to the point that they may not be aware of what is going on around them. This is why the use of schedules and reminders can be so helpful. Medication can also be helpful for those children who are so impulsive that they pose a threat to themselves or others.

    • I like the way that you think, but I’m a 17 year old that lives in a very structural home, I get a ton of exercise every day from sports. Reasonable expectations? Its not going out of my way to do two to three chores when i get home from school. All of these things in my life and yet my ADHD is worse than most. I do good in school mostly. Yet my impassivity and restlessness is always there. You’re probably thinking that I drink a lot of soda or things with caffeine. When in fact i try to stay away from those. don’t take medication to control it because of the side-effects A way to help is there though. Help a kid find something that he likes to do. It could be anything, you just need to talk to them and get them help. Medication isn’t a way to help at all. Now I’m working on a big research project on ADHD. Have a good day.

      • I found that my closest ADHD Scout (dealt with several over the years but I was this one’s guardian) seemed to be abel to take control better with Scouting activitie that were necesarily calm. He excelled with firearms and archery, and fly fishing fishing. Oh, and no regular medicaton.

    • its never a good idea to withhold medication just because you disagree with a diagnosis. Its not the scout leader /pack leaders place to play medical provider.
      You would not withhold insulin for a kid with diabetes do not withhold medication for ADHD just because you do not believe a child has this diagnosis.

    • It’s true that some kids can go without their medication when presented with days and days of active outside exercise that produce dopamine in their brains (which act as their meds). But these same kids may not be able to do the more-intense merit badges at camp that require either sustained thought or multi-step directions. You may not “see an issue” with attention but are likely not with each boy in the merit badge. What are they retaining or are they just being pushed through the badge? ADHD is more than impulse. It has to do with retention and understanding too.

    • The first time I read this, I got angry. The second time, I laughed. My son was diagnosed at the age of 5. This, after he put himself in dangerous positions and those of his classmates. I did not jump to medications, and waited until I had the full neuro-psych examination. Even then, he went on meds with express reservations on my part. Every time his meds have to change, I second guess the change, I worry, I hate it. The idea that someone should claim I jumped to the easy fix, should see me each an every morning struggling to keep my bright son on target to leave for school (before meds take affect), and at night as I try to hold my Webelos den meetings with every boy but my own engaged in proper activities. Should see my son angry at himself, when on the rare occasion he is off-meds because he cannot learn or think. So here are my final thoughts…
      1. You should never take a child off medications without the parents’ express knowledge and approval.
      2. If you choose to deal with my son off-meds, you do so at your own risk. I admit, if given a lot of attention, my son will have a great day. But if he injures himself or another scout off-meds, it is on you. I mean the bills, the angry parents, the loss of a scout.

    • Unless you and the parents are a doctor, I strongly suggest you NOT take it upon yourselves to withhold medication! Some medication (especially these types of medications) needs to be weaned off of or it can cause severe issues such as withdrawls, depression, suicidal tendancies and others.

    • While I realize I am late to the discussion, as a pharmacist I am quite alarmed at what seems a cavalier attitude regarding the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of the drugs you are withholding from these boys. I hope that you have realized by now that these drugs are NOT like Tylenol where you might see immediate effects. It can take up to 2 weeks to reach therapeutic levels, which also may explain the “good” behavior you are seeing (There is still therapeutic levels in the blood stream.)

      Unless you are a credentialed health care professional with VERY good malpractice insurance, I would closely reexamine your unofficial policy.

    • wow, I know I am late to this answer, but you are incorrect. It was a long hard decision to put my son on meds, even with lots of structure and physical activity. I realized I was the person holding him back. Meds help him thrive and prosper. He needs that ability to take a moment and stop the impulse driven life that was wounding him, and stopping him from having an ability to have a strong social life as well as a purpose driven life.

  2. I agree with JC Scoutleader. We have 7 autistic boys in the troop, others claiming to have ADD or ADHD. The autistic scouts are not on medication and after some time with discipline they are well behaved scouts. My autistic son made Eagle with no special accommodations. They also get discipline at home and their parents are involved. We all daydream, get distracted, so what, does that mean we need to be medicated? ADHD is an excuse for parents to be lazy.

    • My son is on the spectrum as well as ADHD & anxiety, and he also made his Eagle. My son did take a medication to help him concentrate for his ADHD. Remember ADHD isn’t just limited to hyper-active, it can also be inattentive. In my son’s case he wasn’t hyper-active, just inattentive. You have to look at each scout individually, they are like snow flakes, no two are alike. What works for one may not work for another. As leaders and parents it is up to us to help each individual scout have the opportunity to participate fully in the scouting program, and it is up to the scout to have the desire to fully participate in the scouting program. In my district and council we are promoting a unit committee position called “Unit Special Needs Coordinator”. The coordinator is the bridge between leadership and the scout & their family to ensure constant communication between the unit & scout w/special needs (& family), and drastically cut down on misunderstandings. A worksheet is filled out with the scouts strengths & challenges to better help leadership to help the scout through the program. Scouts with special needs can do the program, a great percentage can even do it w/o accomodations, what they need is leaders who understand their challenges and are willing to work with them to accomplish their scouting journey. My advice is to take special needs classes at your scouting universities, and if they don’t offer them, ask them to start offering them. Believe in them and help them, and they will give you moments of triumph that you will remeber the rest of your life.

      • Would it be possible to get a copy of your troop worksheet for special need scouts? We have several with differing challenges. I think this would be a good tool to use with the parents in helping these boys achieve their scouting goals.

    • A little information in the hands of the wrong person can be dangerous. Did you know that the brain scans of individuals with ADHD show that the area of the brain responsible for impulse control, attention (these fall under the heading of Executive Funtion skills) is less active and sometimes smaller than the brains of typical individuals? Did you know that the purpose of medication is to stimulate that particular area of the brain and build synapses that the typical brain builds. Did you know that there are many parents who have built structure and discipline into their children’s lives and these children may still suffer from ADHD. Why do you believe that differences in brain chemistry and physiological differences are less worthy of treatment than differences that occur in other human organs. If one’s thyroid does not produce the correct amount of hormones would you tell that person to “just try harder to produce the correct amount? That would be ludicrous and your thinking is no less ludicrous. You are weighing in on something where you are sadly under informed. Please perform some due diligence next time.

      • Thank you Jill Robbins!! There are too many people who just don’t understand the physiology of ADHD. I dare those people like ScoutMomTX to spend a week with my son off his meds and then tell me they are the lazy way out!!! Even with meds, we spend countless hours every week working with our son on different therapies to help him lead a healthy and productive life despite having ADHD inattentive type. We spend hours on homework; we monitor and regulate his nutrition. We give him lots of opportunities to play sports and limit his screen time to basically nothing. We work with the school. We work with Scouts. We pay for doctors, tutors, and educational assistants: for chiropractors, vision therapists, brain training specialists, and neurofeedback specialists. We help him pursue interests outside of school to help him understand that learning can be hard but it can also be fun whether it’s designing new Legos sets, creating a new video game, robotics. It would be absolutely impossible for him to attend to those kinds of learning environments without supporting his brain’s deficiencies in neuroconnectivity, neurotransmitters, and neuroplasticity.

        We worked with my son for a full year after receiving a diagnosis of ADHD inattentive type before considering meds. He blossomed when he started them and I can’t imagine ever regretting that decision.

    • As you probably know, the saying is that when you’ve seen one kid on the spectrum, you’ve seen one kid on the spectrum. Don’t make generalizations. So far, my kid hasn’t needed any accomodations, per se, but the adults around him know of his mild Aspergers, ADHD, dysgraphia and anxiety. Likely, they have him paired with an older scout who keeps him on track, put him at the front of the group or repeat instructions as necessary. Is that accommodation? He does take medication. He is also homeschooled and I sit by his side for every topic except for a couple hours he takes science and art at a homeschool co-op. So I do not believe I fit into the “lazy” category. Don’t judge based on your own experience.

    • You are wrong!!! ADHD is NOT and excuse for parents to be lazy. You do not see me struggle to get my son ready for school in the morning before his meds kick in because he keeps getting distracted. You do not see the anguish this little boy feels when he gets bad grades because it is hard for him to focus and learn, his brain works differently then the average kid and it is hard for him to sort through facts and remember even the simplest thing. You do not see him getting upset because he is socially ackward and other kids have a hard time understanding his thought process. You do not see the years of anguish i have gone through as a mother having to put my son on meds, wondering if it was the right decision, searching endlessly for alternatives to medication and finding nothing that works for him, I have literally tried everything to get him off the meds because I’m worried about the long term affects on his body. You do not see me frazzled every night because we have spent 2 hours on homework that would take the average kid 30 minutes, and it makes him hate school and work and learning. You do not see the extremely structured life we have to live to make sure that he gets all his work done, we give him extra help with things he struggles with and he gets upset when his normal schedule is thrown off. We can’t just jump up and say hey let’s do this because it is not in the schedule and he is accustom to his structure. He has to have things a certain way or it is a mental breakdown. His room is spotless cause he has to have his order. My son having ADHD has been a huge burden on him and I would give anything to make it go away so he didn’t have to deal with it. He just wants to be a normal kid like everyone else and I work my ass off every day to make him feel as normal as possible. Spend one day in my shoes watching this bright, beautiful child struggle with almost everything and at the end of the day when you are exhausted and not sure if you can go on, then you tell me it’s an excuse to be lazy. Your child is obviously normal and I feel sorry for him that his parent is such a close minded moron!!!

  3. I am also the parent of a scout with autism and I struggle to express how disappointing it is to see such a misinformed and derogatory comment about ADHD. Autism was once considered the result of poor parenting as well. We try to reach our kids that scouts is a “no put down” environment; it would be nice to know that parents of scouts are living by the same rules.

      • Apparently I need to clarify a few things, Autism has a wide spectrum, some young people with or without autism do need help from medication. There are three boys who come to our office on occasion, when they come in they are running around, screaming, with just saying stop it. I have a box with coloring and some small toys, we have a place for them to sit, I made sure they understood this is a business and not a playground. They behave for me but not for mom. There are some other home issues that I’m sure is adding to his behavior. I don’t feel he needs to be medicated and neither did his doctor.

        On the other side, my boss has a step grand-daughter the front part of her brain doesn’t work. When she was young she tried to kill some people, is doesn’t bother her that when you do wrong you are punished. She also has ADHD, she is on so much medicine and seeing several doctors to keep her out of an institution. When the medicine for the ADHD needs to be changed we can tell, so it gets adjusted.

        My original comments were not for every scout or kid, each one is different, I talk to people about autism and accepting those with it. I use my son as an example of how someone with some forms of it can function just fine. The football team at my son’s school has said, “you pick on ‘him’ you have to answer to the football team”. He has lots of friends and is in the work program. The other boys in the troop have more severe forms of autism but are doing just fine. A few were snubbed by other troops who didn’t want them in.

        So before you call someone thoughtless understand what they are saying and don’t assume you know. I go by my own experience and understand not everyone is the same. Everyone is not the same and I hate that people think everyone is.

      • I don’t need to know your whole story and I’m sure you don’t need to hear mine. I was referring to your comment, and I quote “ADHD is an excuse for parents to be lazy”. So instead of preaching to me about how every child and situation is different, maybe you should think about what you are saying before you post a blanket statement about all parents with children diagnosed with ADHD. I still think your comment was ignorant and thoughtless.

      • Your right, I should have looked better at how I said it, I didn’t realize that was what everyone was upset about, I thought it was the autism. I apologize for not wording it better, thank you for calling me on it.

  4. Good dialogue… I am interested in being proficient when interacting with the young men of tomorrow. Thanks, Scouting Magazine for this article.
    My son’s kindergarten teacher, with 30 years experience in the system, was convinced he was a candidate for ADHD after 6 months. Despite his Pediatrician’s involvement, that cloud followed him throughout elementary school. For him, it was a maturing process that needed to be nurtured. Public schools expect our children to be skilled in classroom mannerisms, no matter how much exposure they have had. My son is in the 5th grade now without any concerns.
    I do work with scouts that have concerns. One of my biggest challenges is learning the scout well enough to help. Every boy is different, that is how God made us. Some adults are better, perhaps more patient than others when working with this. I have read & studied about this issue and find the jury to be out on this subject. I just know our boys deserve the best we have to offer.

  5. “Doctors diagnose a child with the disorder if he displays six or more symptoms from either a list of nine inattention symptoms or from a list of nine signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity. (See the lists at”

    Where’s the list?

    As someone who has ADD, not being able to find something that I have been tol is at a certain place is akin to being sent on a safari to find a left handed smoke shifter.

    • bubba, you are asking the same thing I am wondering. i read the paper magazine today and saw the same reference, and do not see the lists… would be great to have them where they should be. perhaps the editors will update the content soon.

    • Sorry for the confusion. The link to what you’re looking for was embedded in the text, but challenging to find. Our mistake.

      It’s now at the top of this posting. Visit to review ADHD symptoms and treatment as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks for your inquiry. —Gretchen

  6. This is a great article but I want to point out that the scout leader should *never* diagnose the kid before talking to the parent. That is the job of the doctor. It is also not the leader’s job to make medication or therapy recommendations. Do ask the parent what works for them. Do be positive. Do mention what works in scouting activities.
    And please, please, please do not disparage other parents until you have walked in their shoes.

  7. Greetings,

    I read with joy your coverage of the challenges that await that BSA in dealing with boys with disabilities. There is just so much to say that I don’t know where to begin. I’d like to tell you about a brilliant 13 year old boy named Tommy (Not his real name) A kid that would give you the “shirt off his back”. The kind of scout who was running out of room on his sash for all of his merit badges. The kind of kid who wouldn’t miss a meeting, camping trip, fund raiser or outing. I know this young man well, because I’m his pastor. Tommy and his family are faithful members of the church I serve. His Dad is the same way, not perfect, but a good man. Both a little outspoken about their passions in life, especially their faith. That can rub some people the wrong way, I know. It’s an issue in Scouting, because here in New Jersey, scouting is very pagan. I know that too, because I was a cub leader and trained Boy Scout leader for 6 years.

    The most important point I should have already made, is that Tommy has Asperger’s syndrome. Tommy had trouble functioning socially in the troop, although for the most part, the boys liked him. The parents and leaders told me that his staunch religious views made them uncomfortable. My question is, “Then why did they make him the Chaplain’? LOL

    You want a chaplain that doesn’t talk about religion? Go figure. Anyway, Tommy is a history buff, especially military history. This kid can amaze you with the facts he’s committed to memory. But he has a way of saying inappropriate things. I’ve tried to work with him. Honestly though, I think his love of Jesus in a troop of many unchurched parents put him “behind the eight ball.” I don’t make statements like that lightly. The boy was singled out because of his strong and vocal viewpoints.

    I know that’s a fact because when the leaders told me there was a problem, the first thing they brought up was “Tommy’s Religion.” The Aspergers took a back seat to his “constant talk about Jesus”. What happened to God and country?

    So, one time last year at summer camp, Tommy is being harassed by a few other kids, and he stands up and says that he’s going to kill everybody. Wrong thing to say, especially with all the violence were suffering through right now in this nation? Like my Swedish Lutheran friends would say, “Ya, You betcha!” Should the boy be disciplined? No question. Made to apologize? No doubt about it Further actions? Maybe…but

    The witch hunt that ensued? NO, not by a long shot, especially with this boy’s condition! I know this young man. Kill? Forget it. Did he run off at the mouth? He sure did, and he should be disciplined. The Father and I met with the SM and ASM. They met with the parents. Here’s what they came up with

    1. They stripped Tommy of his Chaplain title. (I thought religion has nothing to do with it) POPPY COCK!!

    2. Tommy is not allowed to attend Summer camp next summer! I’m stunned at this decision.

    3. Tommy is not allowed to come to regular meetings unless his father is present. This is almost impossible with his Dad’s work schedule. This rule in and of itself guaranteed that Tommy would not be able to participate any longer. In effect, they got rid of the problem kid.

    Tommy is no longer a scout. My own 13 year old son, Tommy’s friend, is no longer a scout. I am no longer a scout leader. My youngest is a WEBELOS, and to be frank, the minute he says, “Dad, I’m bored.” He’s out of there. What’s even more disheartening to me, is that as a community leader, I can no longer recommend scouting to young family. Not in good conscience. I can’t believe I’m saying that!

    I used to say Scouting is a great organization. Now I say Scouting is a good organization. After 6 years, I’d have to say that your real problem is not the boys, not kids with disabilities, not the program itself. The real issue is that you’ve got a huge leadership issue. Listen, I understand, like the church, you work with volunteers.

    If I had to give you advice, I’d say it’s education, and integrity. You can teach one, the other, well, I don’t know.

    I wasn’t going to write this email, but then I read your articles on disabilities, and I felt like I had to tell you what you’re up against.


    Rev. James Jacob

    Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

    Brant Beach, NJ

    • Rev. Jacob,

      Since it appears you are a part of the church’s leadership, would it be possible for Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to charter a troop?

      I don’t know the troop’s side of this story and obviously I don’t know “Tommy”.

      I have had boys both in baseball and in scouts, where I have required the parent to be in attendance until their son was no longer a danger to himself or anyone else.

  8. This is a very good discussion. Great points have been made and I wanted to share one more story:
    My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD. He can’t sit still most of the time. Homework is his arch nemesis. He is considered twice exceptional because he is also classified as gifted.

    My son didn’t use the telephone until he was 9. He would say “hello” to his grandparents and then walk away. He can sit with a book for hours, but he barely writes and he has very few friends at school.

    As a Webelos, we had just finished the last requirements for the Readyman badge. As I signed his handbook, the power went out. I asked him if he could look up the phone number while turned off the computer backup batteries (the alarms were beeping loudly). He agreed.

    As I turned off the last alarm, I heard my son dialing for the utility company on his own. He reported the outage and I couldn’t have been prouder than that moment.

    My son is now a Tenderfoot, almost at 2nd Class. He is confident. He is making friends with nice boys. Today, he cooked his own breakfast. He tells me that he wants to make Eagle, like his grandfather and I think he’ll make it.

    He’s not perfect. He rubs some kids the wrong way, but our troop is mostly supportive. I’ve even had other adults tell me that I don’t need to worry about him because he’s fitting-in on his own.

    At Scout camp this summer, my son got into a basketball game. He threw the ball to the wrong team. He made other mistakes. Not one boy yelled at him in anger. He was corrected politely. He felt included and I was impressed with every boy there.

    We are the only Jewish family in a Church sponsored troop. It has never been a problem. I’m starting to look forward to seeing my son’s friends at his bar mitzvah in a couple years because I think he will have some.

    I wanted to let y’all know, that when you include a boy like my son, when you accept the medications and the odd quirks, when you accept him as he is, you validate his parents’ hopes. You will also broaden the possibilities for that young man’s future.

    Without question, Scouting is working for this family, even if we need to work a little harder ourselves.

  9. As a Webelos den leader, I have a few kids in my large group of 18 that the parents say have ADHD. But I don’t see it really when they’re in the group. However, my son, who himself is diagnosed with ADHD, is off the walls disruptive and constantly out of his seat. We have chosen not to medicate him and trying behavior modification. When I saw this article in the Scouting magazine I was glad to have it addressed because I myself and struggling with it with my own son.

    So with an ok from my son, I enlisted the help of his fellow scouts in our den. I explained to them (without using the words ADHD) that he has trouble staying focused and has a need to get up and walk around. I asked them to show good leadership among themselves by helping him out, being a good friend by encouraging him to stay with the group and listening, participating. I asked them not to laugh at/or with him when he has his moments. I will tell you there are some boys that have really stepped up to help in regards to his behavior. It’s still a big challenge when running meetings myself with my own son acting up. But the one overall thing I notice is that they are all pulling for him, they cheer for him and each other during Pack activities and make sure he’s included. Leadership from the adult leaders that is demonstrated to the youth will be picked up on and they will in turn reciprocate for those kids with disabilities. 🙂

  10. these recommendations should apply to every scout with or without a health condition
    •Raising your voice
    •Insisting on having the last word
    •Clenching your hands or using other tense body language
    •Insulting or embarrassing the Scout
    •Bribing him
    •Attacking his character
    •Mimicking him
    •Comparing him to other Scouts
    •Using “command and demand” leadership
    •Holding a grudge. (“If the kid is a pain one day, start a new page the next day,” Reid and Fisher advise.)


  11. To leaders of the Troops: I know that your primary job, as a Scout Leader, is to teach boys to become “responsible young men,” and that is why most parents have their boys in Scouts.

    So when a parent comes to you and says, “My son has ADHD, and often has trouble taking notes and keeping his calendar. He has a notebook, a pencil, and his calendar, along with his Scout Handbook. Will you please see that he takes notes about outings, and places them on his calendar?” … Please do not then look at that parent, who is likely struggling with this in more than one aspect of his or her son’s life, and reply, “Sorry, we don’t do that. That’s the boy’s responsibility. We can’t babysit them.”

    And it doesn’t have to be notetaking, it can be leadership, making friends, sitting still for knot-tying lessons, understanding the rules of a game. ADHD shows up everywhere in these boy’s lives.

    I’ve had Scout Leaders say similar things to me. It’s a challenge to impress upon them that I’m not asking for “snowflake” treatment of my son, rather, I have noticed deficiencies in areas and know that this is where he needs more guidance. Trust the parents. They know their boys. They are placing those boys in your hands. Be partners with them, not adversaries.

    I’m happy to say that our situation is improving, but it’s discouraging to face the kind of judgements that have been outlined on this board – everything from “ADHD is an excuse for bad parenting” (a sentiment shared by more people than you’d think) to “They have to learn responsibility themselves.”

  12. What is a good way to a parent involved with an ADHD boy? We have a 10 year old boy who will cross over next week who has been camping with our troop a couple of times. He isn’t really with a den because there weren’t any active in his area, but the scoutmaster was helping him with AoL. And the scoutmaster is their neighbor. Our troop is small, about 10-13 boys. There are only two patrols other then the new scout patrol. I am an active scouter who going on all the camp outs because I have a mildly autistic son. I also cook for the adult patrol and often run the archery range on shooting campouts and help with the trail to first class boys. And there is another mom who does the same for her son. That being said, the only other adults are the scoutmaster, capelin, and my husband. There are not enough adults or older scouts to keep an eye on the boy 100% of the time and get scouting skills taught.
    At the last campout the SPL came up to me and ask me to watch him because the SPL has made an ax yard to chop wood and the boy entered it 3 times after being told he needed to stay out for his safety each time. The boy also has a habit of picking up the camp stove lighters and playing with them, not listening to the boys or the adults, going behind bb gun safety lines to pick up the guns with it wasn’t his turn to shoot. My husband was the ranger master at the time and had to have the boys watching him take him back to the campsite. Everyone has stressed how important safety is to him.
    I feel it would be helpful if a responsible adult was along to guide him until he got used to the way a boy scout troop operates and can understand the safety precautions.

  13. Helping Scouts with ADHD succeed while being considerate of everyone’s feelings is so important. Thanks for sharing these valuable insights on how to achieve this balance in Scouting!

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