Special Needs Scouting
GAPS (Gifted And Physically disabled Scouts) is a program within Occoneechee Council that aims to improve the quality of Scouting experiences for all youth with disAbilities while staying true to the guiding principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
The vision of GAPS is to be a committed resource for Scouts, Scouting families, volunteers and staff to support reaching maximum potential.
The GAPS committee’s purpose is to provide resources, guidance and training as tools to help adult leaders support inclusion of all Scouting families AND to offer support to Occoneechee Council staff in identifying needs in order to prevent crises. GAPS recognizes that trained volunteer leaders are enthusiastic about supporting Scouts with disAbilities. They understand the demands put on their patience and time, yet remain compassionate in accommodations for rank advancement. GAPS strives towards building self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment to enable successful outcomes for everyone in Scouting.
GAPS is always in need of volunteers! We are looking for people in the following areas:
- District Representatives
- Disability Awareness Merit Badge Counselors
- Professional Advisors
GAPS DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE
At the district level, a leader, parent or adult mentor may volunteer to serve in a broader role as a coordinator of district-wide special needs activities. District Abilities Awareness Representatives serve a liaison role between the Occoneechee Council GAPS Committee and the units in their local district.
Roles and Responsibilities of the District Abilities Awareness Representative:
This role is key in supporting a network of Scouters with diverse experiences and common interests to support the Occoneechee Council GAPS events and outdoor activities inside and outside the district and Council. The person in this position:
- Promotes inclusion of Scouts within all units of your district
- Provides guidance and resources (to volunteers and professionals)
- Identifies, recruits and supports training of qualified volunteers
- Supports unit/district/Council events
- Promotes attendance of volunteers and staff at training opportunities (with specific special needs awareness training separately or as part of a position-specific training)
- Provides support for program activities, advancement, camping, training and roundtables
- Ensures that the needs of youth with special needs are considered in all aspects of Council actions.
As a GAPS designated accessible unit, we recognize that trained volunteer leaders are enthusiastic about supporting Scouts with disAbilities. We understand our unit may face unique challenges and demands, but we promise to remain compassionate in supporting accommodations for rank advancement and building self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment to enable successful outcomes for everyone involved in our program.
We welcome Scouts with all abilities and their families by:
- Providing an inclusive and understanding atmosphere together in Scouting
- Assisting each Scout family in reaching their goals in Scouting
- Providing an opportunity for the Scout to advance through the program
- Raising abilities awareness in all youth, adults and our community.
Roles and Responsibilities of Accessible Units:
- Have committee chair/unit leaders with a commitment to welcoming and working with Scouts of all abilities.
- Conduct an annual facilities checklist and discuss results at the unit leader meeting.
- Have a safe area for Scouts with sensory challenges to go to when they feel overwhelmed.
- Conduct an annual Abilities Awareness Night for youth in the unit.
- Fill out and update the annual special needs survey.
- Commit to at least one Abilities Awareness Presentation for leaders and parents per year.
Is there more information about the GAPS committee?
Occoneechee Council GAPS is one of only 60 BSA Council Disability Awareness Committees nationwide! We fall under programs and consist of a Council staff advisor, committee chair and vice chair, district representatives and professional advisors.
District representatives keep us present at roundtables and can step in for training and/or grassroots support. Lastly, a unique role we utilize is inviting Scouters to serve as professional advisors. Our professional advisors consist of doctors, nurses, special educators, early interventionists and therapists of all backgrounds to ensure we have a point of contact for unique needs we may encounter.
What services does GAPS provide?
Excellent question! Our committee is always growing and transitioning, so it depends on the talents of our committee members and advisors. We have been able to break down our efforts to four areas of greatest need:
- Awareness: Provide specialized training to support recognition of disabilities that impact youth as well as leadership.
- Connections: Develop relationships with youth, parents, leaders, units and Council staff to increase membership and support 100% retention of Scouts with disabilities.
- Mediation: Help resolve issues by providing guidance to effectively mediate solutions.
- Resources: Provide opportunities to build a network of resources for Scouts, families, unit leaders and Council staff.
Are we missing something? Let us know! We are always transitioning and improving our efforts to best serve YOU!
Do you have any events coming up?
Well, of course! We have four focus areas for GAPS events, including adult training, Scout Disability Awareness Clinics, Aware & Care Cub Program and community events throughout the year. Please let us know if you would like to participate in any of these.
I’ve always wanted to go to Philmont. Do they have any conferences for disability awareness?
YES! They sure do! You and the entire family (from two months old and up) should absolutely consider attending a Learning To Serve Scouts with Special Needs Conference. Let the kids go have a blast in the children’s program and hang out with Scouters wanting to improve their knowledge on how best to serve their units.
My Scout has a disability. Does that mean they get an extension to earn Eagle?
Great question! There are many resources available to your family. Let’s discuss the top three.
Youth and adults who are developmentally disabled or youth with severe physical challenges may be considered for registration beyond the age of eligibility for their program. A disability, in order to qualify an individual for registration beyond the age of eligibility, must be permanent and so severe that it precludes advancement even at a rate significantly slower than what is considered normal.
Note that registration beyond the age of eligibility is intended as a permanent arrangement to allow ongoing participation as a youth member in the Scouting program. This is different from a “time extension.”
Scouts who have a physical or mental disability may achieve the Eagle Scout rank by qualifying for alternative merit badges. This does not apply to individual requirements for merit badges. Merit badges are awarded only when all requirements are met as stated.
The physical or mental disability must be of a permanent rather than of a temporary nature (or a disability expected to last more than two years or beyond the 18th birthday).