Special Needs & Disabilities -
Serving Scouts with Disabilities

Special Needs Scouting


Special Needs and Disabilities – Serving Scouts with Disabilities 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 the Special Needs and Disabilities Committee is to be a committed resource for Scouts, Scouting families, volunteers and staff to support reaching maximum potential.


The Special Needs and Disabilities 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. The committee 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. The committee strives towards building self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment to enable successful outcomes for everyone in Scouting.

More Information

Learn more about Occoneechee Council’s Special Needs and Disabilities program on Facebook.

For additional help, please contact:

Kenna McIntire, Program Director
[email protected]

Debra Hall, Special Needs and Disabilities Chair
[email protected]

** Note: These links take you to external websites that are not hosted by or under the control of the Occoneechee Council. Content may or may not continue to be appropriate for this subject matter. Sites not operated by an official BSA entity may not accurately reflect current policy.

Newly Published/Updated

General Resources

Disabilities Awareness Merit Badge

Special Need Resources

Autism Resources


Support Resources

The Special Needs and Disabilities Committee is always in need of volunteers! We are looking for people in the following areas:

  • District Representatives
  • Disability Awareness Merit Badge Counselors
  • Professional Advisors


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 Special Needs and Disabilities 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 Special Needs and Disabilities Committee at 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.

Special Needs and Disabilities Advocate Application

As a Special Needs and Disabilities 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:

  1. Have committee chair/unit leaders with a commitment to welcoming and working with Scouts of all abilities.
  2. Conduct an annual facilities checklist and discuss results at the unit leader meeting.
  3. Have a safe area for Scouts with sensory challenges to go to when they feel overwhelmed.
  4. Conduct an annual Abilities Awareness Night for youth in the unit.
  5. Fill out and update the annual special needs survey.
  6. Commit to at least one Abilities Awareness Presentation for leaders and parents per year.


Is there more information about the Special Needs and Disabilities committee?

Occoneechee Council Special Needs and Disabilities Committee 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 the Special Needs and Disabilities Committee 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 our Special Needs and Disabilities 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.

The Zia Experience, a customized, highly supported adaptive Philmont Adventure for Scouts with Special Needs and Disabilities is held each summer at the same time as their Adaptive Special Needs Training Conference.

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.

Registering Qualified Members Beyond Age of Eligibility

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.”

Application for Alternative Eagle Scout Rank Merit Badges

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).

Individual Scout Advancement Plan

The approval of alternative requirements or merit badges should be discussed with the Scout, parent or guardian, and unit leader. An agreement is reached and forwarded to the council advancement committee for approval before starting to work on the specific task. The Individual Scout Advancement Plan (ISAP) is the basic plan that can be used for all Scouts to document proposed and approved alternative advancement requirements. The ISAP is modified by addendum. Additional information can be found in the Guide to Advancement, section 10.