Supporting Scouts with Special Needs

Providing support to Scouts and adults with special needs

Every Scout deserves an opportunity to participate, be respected, and treated as the rest of their friends in the unit. While special needs units do exist, youth are best served in their local unit along side their friends. Some Scouts may require extra time and attention to achieve skills, and greater patience may be necessary to guide these Scouts, but the reward of success can make it all worthwhile! Clear communication with parents, an understanding of the special needs, and additional training opportunities can all be helpful to unit leadership.


Scouts with special needs may be eligible for accommodations or some flexibility to advance. Every effort should be made to meet the requirements as written, but an Individual Scout Advancement Plan (ISAP) is a helpful tool for parents and unit leadership to develop a plan for success with the Scout. In addition, the ISAP should be used, along with the Guide to Advancement, to plan modifications or alternative requirements to propose to the council advancement committee.

The completed ISAP and other documentation can be submitted to your district advancement chair for consideration.

Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility

Youth with a permanent and severe disability that preclude typical advancement are welcome to continue in the Scouting program beyond the age of 18 (for Scouts BSA members) and 21 (for Venturers). To apply, fill out the Registration Beyond the Age of Eligiblity form found in related content, and submit it to the district advancement chair. Eligible conditions may include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Emotional, behavioral or mental disorders
  • Physical disabilities
  • Multiple coexisting disorders.

Training opportunities

There are multiple opportunities to help you work better with Scouts with special needs. One helpful document is the Guide to Working with Scouts with Special Needs produced by the Boy Scouts of America. Additionally, watch for special needs courses offered at both the spring and fall University of Scouting. 

Special Needs and Disabilities Volunteer Support

The Special Needs and Disabilities Committee has volunteers that are available to provide personal support, talk through complex situations, and generally offer assistance for any parents and/or unit leaders. Commissioners are available to present at district roundtables, provide information when working on the disabilities awareness merit badge, and assist with units with specific issues.

Polaris Day Camp

Polaris puts on a Spring and Fall Day Camp each year. These fully accessible events are open to any Scout who may have participation barriers or just wants to hang out with more Scouts like themselves. For more information, you can reach out to Suzannah Stulberg-Rudesill using the contact information below.

Contact us

Suzannah Stulberg-Rudesill

District Director (Special Programs)