When modifying an activity or a program, it’s easy to become concerned about making it accessible to everyone, even those who aren’t participating. While we do need to ensure that every young person who wants to be part of Scouting can, don’t make any more modifications than are necessary to ensure everyone can be involved.
Adaptations to teaching styles, rules, environments, and equipment should only be made when they’re needed. They should be minimal – don’t do more than you need to in order to ensure access! Most importantly, they should not affect the integrity of an activity. For example:
No modification: A Cub who struggles showering without significant adult support has been told she cannot go to Cub camp because she ‘needs to be more independent.’
In this case, expecting a Cub to ‘do it the same way as everyone else’ means that a child has to miss out on camp even through she might be a very competent camper in other ways. Although it will require some planning and extra effort, assisting with showers might be the only help this Cub needs to enjoy a great weekend away.
Too much modification: A Scout who struggles with knots because of dyspraxia and poor sequencing skills is excused from having to tie any knots – their Leaders just sign it all off and let them sit out.
Worried that the expected standards might exceed a Scout’s capacity and in an effort to avoid making badgework impossible, these leaders have turned into ‘lawnmower leaders,’ mowing down any challenge that stands in a Scout’s way. In doing so, they’ve lowered their expectations of this Scout and removed an opportunity for them to participate in the same program as their peers. There are lots of ways these leaders could make a knot-tying requirement achievable for this Scout using different teaching techniques, or by allowing a different equipment (like thicker ropes, or visual instructions) to reach the same outcome.
‘Just right’ modification: Leaders have given three Scouts with ADHD a checklist of tasks they’ll need to complete in order to successfully plan the hike. They’ll still have to make the decisions themselves, but they have been given a packing list and a template for a menu so they don’t forget any meals or vital safety equipment. A leader has offered to pick up their groceries if they order online as the Scout responsible for food finds the busy supermarket overwhelming.
Here, the leaders and the Scouts have gotten it ‘just right’: There’s still room for error (like any Scouts, they might forget some equipment or get lost on the trail), but by giving them more of a framework through the checklists, they’ve helped to bring the challenge level from ‘almost impossible’ to being achievable if the Scouts apply themselves and use the tools available to them. They haven’t just catered for one Scout’s needs, either – by making a compromise on the groceries, they have focused on facilitating the most important learning objectives (preparing a menu and shopping list) while removing the barriers which aren’t as important (it’s not necessary for the Scout to actually go to the shop as long as they have made sure all the ingredients were purchased online).