Outdoor Service Guides believes in accommodating the needs of all of our members so that they can participate in scouting. This means that we do all we can to welcome guides who are differently-abled. We strive to be inclusive of everyone. We know that not everyone can participate the same, nor do we all need the same things from our scouting experiences. We each come together as unique individuals and we work to meet each person where they are. We even have a specific policy about how to be inclusive of scouts who are disabled or neurodiverse, and you can read it here.
Here are just a few ways we are working to meet the needs of our guides.
Each group can choose to make accommodations with the uniform for guides with sensory needs. These accommodations can include not wearing a hat, adding badges to a different shirt, or even placing uniform badges on a vest or other clothes the scout can tolerate. Some kids do better with short sleeves instead of long sleeves, or with wearing a tag-less brand of shirt. But the uniform is always secondary to the needs of the person. If the uniform is a barrier, then we want to do something different. We are proud of our uniforms, but if you or your child do not want to scout with us because of it, then we need to find what works for them. The child is always more important than the clothes they wear.
Some OSG groups are fortunate enough to have assistant leaders that are great at helping those with additional needs. However, many groups simply ask parents to join in and help their kids as needed. If your child needs a lot of help, you may be asked to register and become a special assistant leader to your group so you can help your child get the most out of their scouting experience. You should always try to provide the least amount of help possible, so your child is doing as much as they can. In scouting, it is okay to struggle and fail. It is a place where everyone fails sometimes. We fail to light a fire on the first try or get that new knot just right. But we keep trying. We want your child to fail, try again, and eventually succeed. That is the joy of scouting. If you aren’t sure how to help without doing things for them, discuss it with your child’s leader.
Being inclusive means that we try to accommodate the needs of every guide in a way that doesn’t single them out. This means that if we have a guide in a wheelchair, we choose a meeting space with ramps instead of stairs. If we have a guide with hearing loss, we have special activities that are well lit so they can read lips or see signs. We plan meals to accommodate food allergies to keep everyone safe. We strive to make sure that everyone can participate in our groups and feel included.
Resources for Leaders
Specifically written for OSG leaders, by OSG leaders, we offer a Guide for Accessibility and Adaptive Scouting that has information on how to meet the needs of scouts with handicaps, learning disabilities, and neurodiversity. The booklet is 35 pages long and has information on how to meet the needs of guides with a wide range of challenges. It also explains how to adapt badge requirements and has practical tips for how to instruct in a multi-sensory way. It was written by a group of OSG leaders who are teachers, an occupational therapist, and a speech-language pathologist with the intent of sharing practical advice and ideas for our Outdoor Service Guides leaders.
We also have our own Individualized Scouting Plan forms that you can use to plan how to meet the needs of your guides. They have space to write down what parents are concerned about and where leaders will need more help. You can also document which badge requirements you will need to adjust to make the badge a reasonable goal for your otter, timberwolf, or pathfinder. While we want our guides to stretch themselves to earn badges, it should reflect something they can do with practice. A disability should never stop a guide from earning a badge.
If you are an OSG leader and are looking for more help being inclusive of scouts with different needs and neurodiversity, you can find more help on our page for Accessible and Neurodiverse Scouting.