Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Disabilities Awareness – Part 2

I hope that everybody is having a nice April so far. This Blog is dedicated to Autism and Scouting and I want to thank you so much for coming back or visiting for the first time.  All are welcome.

I know the other day I had done a general blog on Autism and Wandering and it did not have any information on how it relates to Scouting. I will be following up on this blog early next week on this issue with more Scout specific ideas. If you have anything that has worked for your scout, please e-mail me or post a response below. Thank You so much. 
Also, in my blog you will find many posts about the activities of our Troop because I find many teachable moments from these outings and learning experiences that I want to share. Even if your child is not in Boy Scouts but some other scouting group or in some other country, I find that these times can be helpful to share.  I will also try to mix the information up so I share information from other scouting groups as well. If you have any subjects that you would like to be addressed, let me know and I will do my best to tackle them. 

Today, I want to also talk briefly about a general topic: Disabilities Awareness – Part 2

This Merit Badge is not earned by very many scouts. In 2007 only 3,964 earned this merit badge compared to the top ranked Merit badge which was First Aid (82,274). The Rank in 2007 was number 104 out of 121 merit Badges offered that year. I personally think it is one of those life skills badges that should be earned by all scouts to better understand about the needs of the people in the community, nation and world. 

The Boy Scouts have a Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge, Cub Scouts have a Disabilities Awareness Belt Loop(first offered in 2009) and I did try to find a Girl Scout Badge but was unable to find one from the Girl Scouts of America website.  I know that the Girl Scouts have a very inclusive scouting program for all and if there are any Girl Scouts out there, if you have something to offer please let me know. If any other scouting group from another country or organization would like to share what your program has to offer, please let me know and I will make sure to include it in a future blog. 

Last Monday, I shared that I started a class for our Troop for the Merit Badge Disabilities Awareness. We started the badge with 6 scouts and we added one more scout for a total of 7 scouts in the class (a little less than 10 percent of the troop). Last week the boys worked on talking about proper etiquette and Person-First Language.  This etiquette directly relates to how people will talk and interact with scouts who have special needs. I was very pleased that all of the boys got it. We talked about how to address others with different abilities and how to interact with others to provide the most utmost respect.  

We then addressed Person-First Language. This refers to the fact that people should not be defined by their different ability but as a person and the essence of the person. I was so impressed by all of the scouts and how well they got it. They all embodied the Scout Law and Oath by the discussion and I was proud to be associated with such fine young men. 

On the meeting this past Monday, we had a discussion on how some with different abilities need adaptations to allow them to live healthy active lives. We went over Seeing Eye Guide dogs and canes for the blind, wheelchairs and braces for those with mobility issues, Teletypewriters for those with hearing issues and we also talked about the use of technology like computers (e-mail) and cell phones (texting) and how these advancements promote an active lifestyle those with different abilities.  I know that many in scouting have other conditions which require the use of additional equipment and it is important for the scouts to be aware what is available to them.

The second part of the meeting talked about how people with different challenges can still take part in sports and other recreational activities. We talked about Beep Baseball for the blind, adaptive Bowling when needed.  I did share the story on how Karen while she was bowling professionally took part in a bowling tournament for those in wheelchairs and we were both amazed how strong the bowlers were. It was a long drive (CA to AZ) and took a lot to get to the event but we where so proud that Karen took part of this great event. The boys and I talked about Basketball Wheelchair leagues, Special Olympics, the Miracle League for kiddos of all special needs, canoeing and adaptive skiing.  The boys again had tons of questions but also know a lot as well and shared with each other. 

The final part of the meeting we talked briefly about how the Boy Scouts have alternate requirements for all of the ranks in scouting for those with disabilities. I did blog on this subject a few days ago were I talked about ISAPs (Individual Scouting Advancement Plan). Here is a direct link to that Blog. ISAP and Advancement Modifications for BSA.

We will be meeting for one final time a week from next Monday and the boys have to bring back two completed projects.  The first is they have to visit two of the following (School, Place of Worship, Camp Site or Public exhibit) and report on how those places can have better access for those who have a disability. The second is to list 10 myths about those who are disabled and share it in a presentation.  In addition to that they will be making a commitment to show a positive attitude and respect to those who have a disability. 

They do have two other requirements which they need to show me or e-mail to me. One is to visit an agency that works with those who have disabilities and report back on what they find. The second is to find a profession that service those who have disabilities and provide a report on that profession.
I am so proud of the scouts that are taking part in the merit badge and I strongly encourage those of you that are Assistant Scout leaders to become a Merit Badge Counselor for Disabilities Awareness and start to offer a class to help in the education of your troop.  For the Den Leaders, set aside one meeting and offer the Disabilities Awareness Belt Loop; this will help promote acceptance and inclusion.  For the other scouting units, if your organization doesn’t have a program, borrow from the Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts and help to promote change within your group to make sure they offer a program that promotes diversity in abilities. 

My son who has aspergers is getting a lot out of this class as well.  In the class, I have respected my son’s privacy and don’t talk about his issues but I have brought up my youngest who also has autism and will be joining as a Cub Scout in about a year.  If you think that your son or daughter will not understand or will have an issue, talk to them and explain why it is important for the issue to be brought up.  Scouting is based on acceptance of your fellow scouts and mankind and should be open to scouts of all abilities with respect to access to the scouting program. Leaders should be aware (this is another deeper subject for later on) of the scouts issues' so they can better provide the support that is needed for the success of each scout. 

I have been personally rewarded as well by offering this class and am very proud of each scout.
You can let me know here what you think or on the Facebook Page: Autism and Scouting.  Thanks for coming by. 

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