Scouts with Special Needs

NSW Scouts supports the inclusion of youth with special needs, including physical and intellectual disabilities, into Scouting. Each situation will be assessed on the individual needs of the youth, the needs of the Section and the support available within the Group.

Leaders prepare programs for the whole section, taking into consideration the ability of all the youth present. Modifications and adaptations may be made if required for youth with special needs, but there may also be times where the section undertake activities which are not suitable for all.

Joining a group

Before attending a Scout section meeting, parents should arrange to speak with the Group Leader and Section Leader. This provides time to discuss the child’s individual needs and support required. Information to be shared may include diagnosis, successful support strategies used at home and school, positive behaviour support strategies, medication requirements, modifications and adaptations required, mobility and access issues, communication needs, etc Any management plans for behaviour, allergies, asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, etc should be provided to the Leaders. We understand that some information is private but ask that you do not withhold anything that may prevent us from providing your child with the best support.

All new members undergo a trial period of 4-6 weeks. This time allows your child to see if they enjoy Scouting but it also allows the Group and the Section to assess how your child fits in, the support they require, and assess any hazards and risks. After this time you should ask to speak with the Leaders again and address any concerns.

Please note that:
* Scouting cannot cater for all situations. In some cases a request to join may be denied.
* Not all Leaders are confident to look after a youth with special needs.
* Not all Groups or Sections have sufficient Leaders to provide extra attention to a youth with special needs.
* Not all Scout halls have suitable facilities to cater for specific mobility or access needs.

Specialised Groups

Most youth with special needs are included in mainstream Scout Groups. However there are a number of Special Needs Scout Groups in NSW, including 1st Cooks Hill in Newcastle, Bangor Kangaroos near Wollongong, Campbelltown Ghost Group in Campbelltown, and 1st Cromehurst in Sydney North. Each group is very different in the age and range of youth or adults attending.

Parent Involvement

*Scouting is a volunteer organisation and relies on parent involvement as parent helpers, leaders, and committee members
*You may be required to provide additional support for your child during Scout activities. As much as possible you should be there as a parent helper for the whole section rather than focusing on your child for special attention.
*Open communication between the parents and the leaders is vital for ensuring appropriate support is put in place
* You should encourage your child to participate as much as possible and do their best
* Our Leaders are all volunteers; they need your support in order to make Scouting fun for all youth.

Linking

Where possible youth with special needs should always be supported to link up to the next section in Scouting at the same age as others in the Group. However if the individual needs of the youth will be better supported by delaying linking up then approval can be sort from the appropriate district and regional leaders. Possible risks to the youth or others in the section should be considered. Delay of linking up should be no longer than 12 months.

Award Scheme

Achievement in the Scouting award scheme is assessed on “best of my ability”. In some cases, adapting the existing requirement may be enough, in other cases providing alternate challenges may be required. For example a youth with dyslexia may be supported to use a map for a blue cord hike by including pictures, symbols or photos, but a youth who uses a wheelchair may organise a public transport hike over a longer distance to achieve the same award. Adaptations should be based on individual needs and always require the youth to do their best.

Any adaptations for higher awards such as Promise Challenge, Grey Wolf, Scout Medallion, Queen Scout, and BP Award should be approved prior to the youth undertaking the task by the relevant district and regional leaders.

Camps and Activities

The Special Needs Team occasionally organises day activities especially for youth with special needs, but open to all to participate. In the past these have included visits to wildlife parks and Sailability.

Agoonoree

NSW Special Needs Team hold an AGOONOREE annually at various locations. This camp is usually held over 4 days and includes opportunities for day visits. The camp is open to all youth in all sections, but especially caters for youth with special needs. Parents, carers, volunteers, and siblings are welcome. The program and theme changes each year but always includes a diverse range of activities suitable for all levels of ability.

Leader Support

The NSW Special Needs Team has representatives in each region. The team acts to increase awareness of issues for youth with special needs, provides support to Leaders, creates opportunities for Leaders to increase their understanding and skills, and organises activities and camps especially for youth with special needs.

Special Needs Conference

Held annually, over 2 days – available to all Leaders
* Strategies for supporting young people with special needs.
* Providing opportunities for participation in Scouting activities
* Overcoming barriers, adapting programs, and supporting youth to do their best in the award scheme
*Opportunities for sharing ideas and raising relevant issues
* Content of the conference varies each year but usually includes some information on specific disabilities

Special Needs Workshop

1-3 hour workshop, available on request to be run at any meeting where Leaders are present. Eg Group Council, District meetings, Regional events, etc
* Disability awareness
*Awareness of myths, attitudes and personal feelings
*Identifying and overcoming barriers
*Adaptations to a program / award scheme
* Where to seek support
* Specific areas of interest can be included in the content

More Information

Contact our membership hotline on 1800 SCOUTS (1800 726 887) or about
Scouts with Special Needs.
Contact our Region office -, to find a Scout Group in your locality.
Cassie Rec -  (GWSR Special Needs Team Representative)

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