Do special needs kids deserve special consideration?

Do special needs kids deserve special consideration?

Right now, in the My Autism Help Forums, we have a discussion going on about a child with Aspergers, trying to pass the swim test for the Boy Scouts of America.

This child is having a really rough time passing this test and his mother is afraid that he’s going to give up. 

It seems that the Boy Scouts are reluctant to make accommodations for him.  I don’t believe that it’s mean spirited.  I think it’s more a concern over setting a precedent.  I honestly can’t blame them because I could imagine the complaints from other parents about fairness.


They are currently working together to try and come up with a solution.

This has got me wondering if this type of thing is preventable. I mean, should we have some type of IEP for outside of school?

I can imagine there would be both positives and negatives to that idea.  I’m not suggesting that we give a special needs child an advantage. Instead, I’m asking whether we should level the playing field?

Do you think that special needs kids deserve special consideration?

I would love to get your thoughts on  this and also your help in the My Autism Help Forums. 

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our kids put forth 500% just to do what other kids take for granted. If only others could see that. I’m currently in the same place. My son has tried and tried and has put forth a LOT MORE effort to trying to complete this than any “typical” kid without autism. He already had put forth the effort, and them some with this requirement. I don’t even see a need for requesting some alternate other than requesting what he has already been doing. The Cub Scouts Motto is “Do Your Best” . Boy Scouts seem to have this attitude of “just do it or else”. the “else” is to just sit there at the same rank till they get discouraged enough and drop out.


Can you clarify if you are talking about the swim test to use the pool, the swim test for 1st Class Scout or the requirement for the swimming merit badge? 
Because, as a (former) Scout leader, I have a different answer for each.


MBee you can speak directly to the mother at this link
My understanding is that her son has been stuck at tenderfoot for a few years because he can’t handle the water for the swim test. This would likely be a direct result of Aspergers and sensory issues. This kids keeps trying and trying but can’t make it through. He’s become discouraged and she afraid that he’s going to give up.


lostandtired MBee THIS  is EXACTLY what I am going through also, right now. My son has been stuck just for 8 months and they don’t want to do anything till it has been one year, and that is not acceptable. He has done all of the other requirements for both Second Class and First Class rank, but the one thing keeping him from this is 8A.  There are different things they can request to do in place of the one 8b swimming requirement. Here is the requirements:
Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.
Using a compass and a map together, take a five-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.*
Discuss the principles of Leave No Trace.
Since joining, have participated in five separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), two of which included camping overnight.
On one of these campouts, select your patrol site and sleep in a tent that you pitched. Explain what factors you should consider when choosing a patrol site and where to pitch a tent.
Demonstrate proper care, sharpening, and use of the knife, saw, and ax, and describe when they should be used.
Use the tools listed in requirement 3c to prepare tinder, kindling,and fuel for a cooking fire.
Explain when it is appropriate to use a cooking fire. At an approved outdoor location and at an approved time, and using the tinder, kindling, and fuel wood from requirement 3d, demonstrate how to build a fire; light the fire, unless prohibited by local fire restrictions. After allowing the flames to burn safely for at least two minutes, safely extinguish the flames with minimal impact to the fire site.
Explain when it is appropriate to use a lightweight stove or propane stove. Set up a lightweight stove or propane stove; light the stove, unless prohibited by local fire restrictions. Describe the safety procedures for using these types of stoves.
On one campout, plan and cook one hot breakfast or lunch, selecting foods from the MyPlate food guide or the current USDA nutrition model. Explain the importance of good nutrition. Tell how to transport, store, and prepare the foods you selected.
Participate in a flag ceremony for your school, religious institution, chartered organization, community, or troop activity. Explain to your leader what respect is due the flag of the United States.
Participate in an approved (minimum of one hour)service project.
Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of wild animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, mollusks) found in your community.
Show what to do for “hurry” cases of stopped breathing, serious bleeding, and ingested poisoning.
Prepare a personal first-aid kit to take with you on a hike.
Demonstrate first aid for the following:Object in the eyeBite of a suspected rabid animalPuncture wounds from a splinter, nail, and fishhookSerious burns (partial thickness, or second-degree)Heat exhaustionShockHeatstroke, dehydration, hypothermia, and hyperventilation
Tell what precautions must be taken for a safe swim.
Demonstrate your ability to jump feetfirst into water over your head in depth, level off and swim 25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming, then return to your starting place.
Demonstrate water rescue methods by reaching with your arm or leg, by reaching with a suitable object, and by throwing lines and objects. Explain why swimming rescues should not be attempted when a reaching or throwing rescue is possible, and explain why and how a rescue swimmer should avoid contact with the victim.
Participate in a school, community, or troop program on the dangers of using drugs, alcohol, and tobacco and other practices that could be harmful to your health. Discuss your participation in the program with your family, and explain the dangers of substance addictions.
Explain the three R’s of personal safety and protection.
Earn an amount of money agreed upon by you and your parent, then save at least 50 percent of that money.
Demonstrate  Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life. Discuss four specific examples (different from those used for Tenderfoot requirement 13) of how you have lived the points of the Scout Law in your daily life.
Participate in a Scoutmaster conference.
Complete your board of review.


Having been on Boy Scout outings with my sons, I can say that I see the swimming test as a safety issue. Even I had to pass it to be in a certain part of the pool. I think it’s more about safety than fairness. Where the safety of the scouts is concerned, no. I don’t think they should make accommodations. That’s not being mean or exclusionary ; it’s making certain everyone is as proficient as everyone else who has the badge, passes the test, etc.


@Chefaimee that’s actually a really good point. I hadn’t looked at it from that perspective. Very good point. If it is indeed a safety issue than I would have to agree with you.


I’d love to be a pro basketball player, but I’m 2 feet too short. Should the NBA lower all the hoops for me?
Life is inherently unfair. Some scouts can’t earn every single badge they’d like to. Hard work is part of the process, and it’s also serves as great life lesson.


@billNH I’m curious, do you have a special needs child? What you’re saying has nothing to do with what we are talking about. Everyone has limitations. Having said that, some situations require that we make accommodations due to a disability. No one is talking trying to make this kid an Olympic swimmer. He just needs help to make it through the swim test.
It’s not about hard work, because if it was, this kid would already have advanced.


What I’m saying is that the boy scouts swim test is designed to test proficiency in swimming. If you can’t swim, you shouldn’t pass the test. No one is saying the child has to leave the scouts if he can’t pass the swim test.
What I think you may be falling to see is the bigger social component. The boy scouts troops are a tightly knit group where the kids work collaboratively toward various goals. If you lower the standard for this child, you’re going to change the way his peers see him. I would think with the ” bigger picture” goal of helping our kids integrate, this may not be the issue we look to lower the bar on.


@billNH What is being asked is not for a “free pass” with the swimming test. What is being requested is for an alternative requirement in place of swimming for the rank. There is no alternative for the Swim merit badge, which is an Eagle requirement, BUT, there is alternative badges for a scout, with a disabling condition,  to do as an alternative  toward that rank. Would you expect a person that can’t see to read out of a “typical” book that isn’t braille in a test to show they can read?  Of course not.   That is because they can’t see it and that requirement is “impossible” for that person to do with out accommodations. Would you say that just because they need  alternative or accommodations, that they just aren’t working hard enough at it? IF they put enough effort in it, then they will be able to do it?  I don’t think so. Same goes for a person with Autism, or any other  condition that makes a certain task impossible.


I find it very interesting that you brought up the point of fairness. Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same thing. It means everyone gets what they need. Couldn’t the Boy Scouts have special swim badges in the same way the Olympics have special Olympics? Another relavent point is that the universe is not fair. Barriers have been put up for our SN kids that typical children just don’t have. I watch my typical daughter achieve milestones with such ease that it highlightes our sons struggles so much more….


@Lukesmama just so we’re clear, I’m 100% for leveling the playing field. I totally agree with what you are saying. I’m just pointing out where they might be coming from. I don’t agree with it but identifying what we’re up against is important


My argument is against the scouts concept of “fairness” not against you at all. I am glad you are bringing our kids struggles to light. I am so impressed that you have been sharing your families struggles for as long as you have and giving such depth to autism awareness.


lukesmama lostandtired you’re fine. I just wanted to make sure everyone knew where I was coming from. Someone else brought up a possible safety issue and I hadn’t thought about that.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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