Supporting Special Needs
Special needs can range from special dietary requirements, to allergies, to physical and mental disabilities and to some of the more challenging behavioural areas such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD and Autism. As an organisation Scouting Ireland promotes integration and is open to all.
All Scouters should educate themselves as much as possible in dealing with the specific needs of the young people in their programme Sections. Here are some pointers which you may find useful.
The very best advice we can offer is to encourage the Scouters to talk to the parents and ask them to make full disclosures on an activities consent forms regarding any conditions which may apply to their children. Tell them to inform the parents this will discussed only with those who need to know and will be treated with the best interest of the child in mind at all times.
Once the parent has made you aware of a special need ask them if they would be willing to speak to the relevant Scouters to ensure they all have a full understanding of what is involved and how to deal with any issues which may arise. It has been found that most parents are willing to do this and can provide invaluable information and insight.
Scouters should remember a few very important things when dealing with any child with a special need
- First and foremost remember that the child should be paramount in everything we do
- Keep details of the condition confidential - only share relevant information with those who need to know
- Do not exclude the child - if you are doing an activity they cannot take part in give them a job; they could keep score or take photographs or you could ask them if there is something they could do to be involved. Do not avoid activities because they cannot do them as other may resent this. Keep a balance.
- Do not be afraid to discuss the condition with the young person if they bring it up - they can offer insight into what they can and can’t do better than anyone else.
- Be careful of ‘labels’. This can cause us to make assumptions regarding conditions.
- When we think of someone being dyslexic we generally assume they have problems with writing and spelling, this is not always the case, there are various different types of dyslexia and they all have different effects, some of which are physical.
Scouting Ireland’s programme is based around a Personal Journey and we should always bear this in mind when dealing with any member of the association who has a special need.
Scouting Ireland’s ‘Supporting Special Needs’ booklet which outlines some of the conditions your Scouters might encounter and offers advice on how to deal or cope with some of these conditions. Please use this book as a reference and not a bible.
You could also visit the various websites that offer information on individual Special Needs, however please remember that the best source of information on a young person’s specific needs are the parents or if appropriate the young person themselves.