Autism, Aspergers, Rob Gorski,Special Needs Parenting, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fibromyalgia,



Apr 07 2013

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Do special needs kids deserve special consideration?


Right now, in the My Autism Help Forums, we have a discussion going on about a child with Aspergers, trying to pass the swim test for the Boy Scouts of America.

This child is having a really rough time passing this test and his mother is afraid that he’s going to give up. 

It seems that the Boy Scouts are reluctant to make accommodations for him.  I don’t believe that it’s mean spirited.  I think it’s more a concern over setting a precedent.  I honestly can’t blame them because I could imagine the complaints from other parents about fairness.


They are currently working together to try and come up with a solution.

This has got me wondering if this type of thing is preventable. I mean, should we have some type of IEP for outside of school?

I can imagine there would be both positives and negatives to that idea.  I’m not suggesting that we give a special needs child an advantage. Instead, I’m asking whether we should level the playing field?

Do you think that special needs kids deserve special consideration?

I would love to get your thoughts on  this and also your help in the My Autism Help Forums. 

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MBee 1 Like

Can you clarify if you are talking about the swim test to use the pool, the swim test for 1st Class Scout or the requirement for the swimming merit badge? 

Because, as a (former) Scout leader, I have a different answer for each.

lostandtired moderator

@MBee you can speak directly to the mother at this link


My understanding is that her son has been stuck at tenderfoot for a few years because he can't handle the water for the swim test. This would likely be a direct result of Aspergers and sensory issues. This kids keeps trying and trying but can't make it through. He's become discouraged and she afraid that he's going to give up.

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Chefaimee 1 Like

Having been on Boy Scout outings with my sons, I can say that I see the swimming test as a safety issue. Even I had to pass it to be in a certain part of the pool. I think it's more about safety than fairness. Where the safety of the scouts is concerned, no. I don't think they should make accommodations. That's not being mean or exclusionary ; it's making certain everyone is as proficient as everyone else who has the badge, passes the test, etc.

lostandtired moderator

@Chefaimee that's actually a really good point. I hadn't looked at it from that perspective. Very good point. If it is indeed a safety issue than I would have to agree with you.

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billNH 1 Like

I'd love to be a pro basketball player, but I'm 2 feet too short. Should the NBA lower all the hoops for me?

Life is inherently unfair. Some scouts can't earn every single badge they'd like to. Hard work is part of the process, and it's also serves as great life lesson.

lostandtired moderator

@billNH I'm curious, do you have a special needs child? What you're saying has nothing to do with what we are talking about. Everyone has limitations. Having said that, some situations require that we make accommodations due to a disability. No one is talking trying to make this kid an Olympic swimmer. He just needs help to make it through the swim test.

It's not about hard work, because if it was, this kid would already have advanced.


What I'm saying is that the boy scouts swim test is designed to test proficiency in swimming. If you can't swim, you shouldn't pass the test. No one is saying the child has to leave the scouts if he can't pass the swim test.

What I think you may be falling to see is the bigger social component. The boy scouts troops are a tightly knit group where the kids work collaboratively toward various goals. If you lower the standard for this child, you're going to change the way his peers see him. I would think with the " bigger picture" goal of helping our kids integrate, this may not be the issue we look to lower the bar on.

Lukesmama 1 Like

I find it very interesting that you brought up the point of fairness. Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same thing. It means everyone gets what they need. Couldn't the Boy Scouts have special swim badges in the same way the Olympics have special Olympics? Another relavent point is that the universe is not fair. Barriers have been put up for our SN kids that typical children just don't have. I watch my typical daughter achieve milestones with such ease that it highlightes our sons struggles so much more....

lostandtired moderator

@Lukesmama just so we're clear, I'm 100% for leveling the playing field. I totally agree with what you are saying. I'm just pointing out where they might be coming from. I don't agree with it but identifying what we're up against is important

lukesmama 1 Like


My argument is against the scouts concept of "fairness" not against you at all. I am glad you are bringing our kids struggles to light. I am so impressed that you have been sharing your families struggles for as long as you have and giving such depth to autism awareness.

lostandtired moderator

@lukesmama @lostandtired you're fine. I just wanted to make sure everyone knew where I was coming from. Someone else brought up a possible safety issue and I hadn't thought about that.

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