Assisting Boys with Special Needs

The goal of the Royal Rangers program is to provide all boys with the opportunity to grow into full Christ like manhood. This goal applies to boys with special needs as well as all other boys. However, it some instances, boys with physical or developmental disabilities may require additional assistance in order to achieve periodic accomplishments. Royal Ranger leaders must therefore be prepared to provide additional assistance as needed. Parents likewise must realize the need in many cases to be directly involved in assisting their son to achieve success in the program.

It is important that leaders and parents working with special needs boys always keep in mind that the core objective of the Royal Rangers program is to provide boys with a fun, interactive program where he will be mentored into Christ like manhood. The completion of advancement requirements supplements and supports that objective, but does not represent the core objective itself. Care must always be taken to avoid placing unrealistic expectations on special needs boys through the pursuit of advancement awards.

Royal Ranger leaders are encouraged to provide special assistance as needed to assist boys with special needs in meeting the stated advancement requirements. The following material provides ideas concerning specific ways in which leaders may assist boys with special needs.

Auditory Disabilities

There are different levels of disabilities and the best methods for assisting boys with these needs may vary from boy to boys. Here are some suggestions for helping the boy with auditory disabilities:

  • Be descriptive. Use visual imagery and visual aids.
  • Be familiar with alternate methods of communication. A deaf person may have learned alternative methods of receptive and expressive communication, such as lip reading, sign language, electronic communication devices, and writing. If the boy uses sign language, learn some basic signs. If the boy reads lips, make sure he has an unobstructed view of you when you talk.

Visual Disabilities

A boy with a visual disability can be integrated into every phase of your outpost. With a basic understanding of his history and current abilities, you will be able to make adaptations necessary to involve him. Visit with the boy's parents to learn more about the conditions of his disabilities and ideas for ways to help him. Here are suggestions for helping boys with visual disabilities:

  • Make enlarged copies of reading material or provide proper equipment or access to equipment to enable him to read better.
  • Set up the meeting room the same way each week, so he can become accustomed to the layout.
  • Provide as much auditory, tactile, and other stimulation as possible when teaching new skills. Let the boy hear, touch, taste, and smell.
  • Pair him with another boy, especially when safety is an issue.

Motor-Skill Disabilities

The boy with fine or gross motor-skill disabilities does not usually have difficulty learning new skills, but he may have difficulty performing skills he already knows. A boy in a wheelchair or with a walker can achieve good mobility in some circumstances. Consider these questions:

  • Is our church building wheelchair accessible?
  • Are ramps or an elevator available wherever there are steps?
  • Are rest rooms accessible to people in wheelchairs?
  • Is our activity room arranged so a boy in a wheelchair can move about freely?

Cognitive Delays & Developmental Disabilities

Cognitive delays and developmental disabilities require more individualized and specialized solutions. When assessing those with these conditions consider mental ability, adaptive social behavior, and physical development. Here are some suggestions for helping a boy with cognitive delays or developmental disabilities:

  • Use sensory input. Let him see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.
  • Give whatever assistance is required for the boy to successfully complete the task, such as physical prompts and gestures, verbal prompts, visual prompts, etc.
  • Establish a goal for the boy. Get input from him and his parents when setting the goal. Break the goal into small steps. If the boy has difficulty learning a step, break it into even smaller steps.
  • Provide motivators. Give verbal praise for completing a step or achieving a goal. Give public recognition for his accomplishments. Use the patrol method to provide the enthusiasm to motivate a boy to keep trying.
  • Use the buddy system. A buddy can be helpful in integrating a boy with cognitive delays into Royal Rangers.

Intellectually Gifted

The boy with intellectual giftedness can feel unchallenged by what is being taught in Royal Rangers because he is able to grasp the information more quickly than most. Here are some suggestions for helping such a boy:

  • Use the boy to help others learn skills he has already mastered.
  • Provide opportunities for him to go beyond the normal level of achievement on a subject.
  • Encourage older boys to investigate new areas of interest through the advanced merits program. This includes merits typically used in the next highest group. For instance, encourage an Adventure Ranger to attempt a silver merit, like Advanced Backpacking or Sign Language.

Learning Disabilities & Behavior Disorders

Leaders can often struggle with children who push their limits of patience, tolerance, and endurance. You may have boys in your group with learning disabilities or behavior disorders and not be aware of it. Learning disabilities often result because of a perceptual problem. At times, what has been diagnosed as a learning disability is actually a different problem, such as a hearing or visual disability. Here are some tips for creating an atmosphere of learning for boys with learning disabilities and behavior disorders:

  • Talk with the boy's parents, schoolteacher, and Sunday school teacher. They can share teaching methods they have found useful.
  • Use sensory input. Let him see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and do as much as possible. This will reduce the potential for misunderstanding due to a perceptual problem in one area.
  • Let the boy practice and perform the skill you are trying to teach. Give assistance if necessary.
  • Keep teaching sessions brief, especially in the case of a boy who is hyperactive or who has an attention deficit disorder.
  • Maintain a calm environment, free from excessive activity, noise, etc.
  • Demonstrate patience and gentleness consistently.

Effective leaders see the value in all boys and are willing to do what it takes to help every boy succeed. Many teachers say that the most practical experience they gained to becoming a successful teacher was gained through learning how to make the learning process more accessible to boys with disabilities. Any work or effort expended while working with boys with special needs will also transfer into better instruction and help for every boy in the group.