New Policy for Accommodating Special Needs

In our quest to have policies that help our leaders and Group Scoutmasters, we are proud to present our newest policy. This policy is the Scouting Accommodations Policy for Outdoor Service Guides. This policy outlines OSG’s expectations for how our groups will work to accommodate scouts who are neurodiverse, disabled or otherwise may not be able to participate in scouting in a typical way. 

The goal of this guide is to make it clear how and when you should accommodate scouts. While some leaders in our program may feel this is easily accomplished, not everyone has a background that makes figuring out accommodations intuitive.  To help you follow these guidelines, we offer an entire 35 page book written by our leaders that expands on how to make these accommodations.  Having this policy helps us to all follow our motto of “Scouting for Everybody.”

Scouting Accommodations Policy for Outdoor Service Guides

Outdoor Service Guides strives to be inclusive of everyone who wants to participate in scouting with us. As such, our Group Scoutmasters are required to welcome youth with disabilities to participate in their groups. Each Group Scoutmaster (GSM) is responsible for working with parents and leaders to make reasonable accommodations for the guides who need them. 

Support Materials: 

All GSMs and youth leaders working with guides with disabilities, whether mental, emotional or physical, should read our OSG Guide for Accessibility and Adaptive Scouting. Which is a 35 page document written by OSG leaders who are therapists and teachers. It is designed to provide insight and both general and specific information on how to include and accommodate atypical individuals. It can be found on the Resource page for Accessible and Adaptive Scouting.


The following changes should be made to the program to meet the needs of individual participants as needed. 

  1. Uniforms may be altered to accommodate the needs of the individual guide. This may include wearing badges on a vest or jacket instead of the shirt, or wearing a different shirt that meets the needs of the guide. To encourage inclusion, the entire raft, patrol, or six may also choose to wear this alternative uniform option.
  2. Badge requirements may be adjusted to be attainable by the guide. When adjusting a requirement, it is required that the badge otherwise be reasonable for other guides the same age and experience level to earn. For example, it is not appropriate to alter the requirements of a senior level pathfinder badge to meet the needs of a 12 year old pathfinder, as those badges are all designed for guides over the age of 14. When adjusting a badge requirement, it is important to adjust it in a way that is in line with the purpose of the badge. This may mean substituting another task or reducing the distance or repetitions needed to accomplish the task. 
  3. Regular meeting spaces must be accessible to all members of the group.
  4. Parents or guardians may be required to attend meetings, camping trips or other events for the purpose of helping their child be included in a safe manner and so that leaders can maintain two deep leadership. Groups may require these adults to become registered with OSG and maintain a current background check.
  5. Groups may have events that are not accessible for every guide in their group, provided these represent no more than 20% of their annual activities. This means that 80% of meetings and events should be accessible to all, with up to 20% designed to be too dangerous or challenging for some members in the same level of the program.
  6. This is specific to age level programing, as it is expected that pathfinders will have programming that is too dangerous for younger guides, and that is not problematic for inclusion and necessary for safety and appropriate scouting skill development. This applies to all situations when discussing older vs. younger age groups. 
  7. It is at the discretion of the individual groups if they will use the Individualized Scouting Plan forms developed for OSG, or create other documentation to help meet the needs of their guides. These forms, when used, should be used to facilitate communication between leaders, guardians, and guides so that youth can participate as fully as possible in the program. 
  8. Guides may participate in a younger age level of the OSG program than their biological age indicates if it is agreed upon by the guide, guardians and leadership team that that is the best way to include a guide in the program. For example, a child of 11 or 12 may continue to participate as a Timberwolf instead of moving up to Pathfinders. This should also be done with the consent of the guide and with consideration for the friend group that that guide currently has. Staying with a cohort and working on adapted badges may serve some guides better, while spending extra time in a younger section will work best for others. 
  9. GSMs may create specific policies for their group to meet the needs of their guides and leaders, as long as those policies do not contradict anything in this policy or other OSG policies especially those of inclusion and youth safety.  
  10. GSMs must ensure that materials and communications are provided in a manner that best meets guide’s and their guardian’s needs. GSMs will endeavor to support interpreters, but groups are not responsible for scheduling or paying them. Examples: Written materials for the deaf or people who are hard of hearing, or audio/verbal instruction for people with visual impairments. 

This policy was written by Laura Sowdon OTR/L and Carrie Davis, SLP who both have experience working with youth with a variety of needs both in scouting and in their professional work. If you have feedback, you can reach out to either of them, or to to let us know what  you think of this policy.

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