Adapting Advancement: The ISAP and the IEP

Many of us believe if our Scout with special abilities needs an ISAP (Individual Scout Advancement Plan), then why can’t we just use the Scout’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) when developing an alternative plan needed for a Scout’s success? Well, we can, but we should only use parts of an IEP. Let’s look at this idea a little more closely.

An IEP is exactly what its name states: an individualized education plan, or program developed as a specific plan for a specific student who has been diagnosed with a specific disability. The IEP is a legal contract between the school district and the parent/guardian/student. The IEP is fairly complex, having many required parts, but foremost it must provide a free and appropriate education to the student who is eligible for services. The IEP includes educational goals and objectives from each state’s various learning requirements for every grade level. The IEP is specific to the student and the student’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, every student has a right to be educated. It is important here to repeat that the IEP is a LEGAL DOCUMENT under United States law. It is developed by a team of school personnel familiar with the student and his/her parent/guardian, and as applicable, the student her/himself. There are legal consequences if any part of the contract is not followed. However, know that there are many students out there who have reached educational success because of this tool that paves the way for learning.

Those who work with Scouts who have different abilities and knowing about such tools as IEPs are happy to work up ISAPs for them. They know that the IEP helps at school so it should naturally help the Scout working on rank requirements. However, an ISAP is not an IEP. It is NOT a legal document and has no legal ramifications. It is developed by volunteers within Scouts BSA to encourage success in rank advancement, and like the IEP, includes suggestions as to how the Scout could achieve a rank in a way suitable for his/her cognitive and/or physical abilities. It is a plan designed with the Scout in mind without the legalities. The IEP goals or accommodations can be used within the ISAP, but it is not legally binding, and should not be viewed as such.

An ISAP is developed by the leadership familiar with the Scout, his/her parent/guardian, and as applicable, the Scout her/himself. In sum, an ISAP can utilize parts of the IEP in order to help the Scout achieve rank in a way that is suitable. With that being said, as parents of a Scout with different abilities, we should not go off and hand a Scout leader an IEP and say use this to help develop the ISAP. A parent should select the pertinent parts of the Scout’s IEP, which often contains many pages. It is not a good idea to expect a leader to understand what he/she should look for. IEPs are chock full of legal jargon, testing results with percentiles and other confusing data, and long paragraphs of family history which are not anyone’s business except the family’s. An ISAP should only be about 4 pages in length, and it should highlight the specific items that are listed on the ISAP form posted on Keep in mind the ISAP is a road map to success. Knowing your Scout, her/his strengths and weakness and how to encourage growth is very important to advancement and success in the Scouting program. Utilizing the ISAP as a tool toward a specific end and use pertinent information from the IEP, if available, to help the process. With careful and considerate planning, our Scouts have a better chance of achieving success!


The Northern Star Scouting Special Needs and Disabilities Committee provides training, resources, and support to educate and engage leaders, volunteers, and staff to ensure understanding and inclusion for youth of all abilities in all units of the council. If your unit has questions or concerns regarding a Scout with a disability or special need, our committee is here to help! We have several resources and are happy to act as a guide to you and your unit or family.