Special Needs & Disabilities Committee

Ensuring Scouts with All Abilities Can Meaningfully Participate

Register for BSA’s National SND Unit-Level 
Inclusion and Communication in Scouting Workshop

October 27/28  2023 – Hosted by GGAC!

Mission Statement

Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has sought to fully include Scouts of All Abilities, from those who have learning differences, are neuro-divergent, or who have physical, intellectual, or developmental disAbilities.

Scouts BSA’s efforts to create meaningful experiences for Scouts have included adapting the environment, broadening ways to learn skills so that they are achievable to all Scouts , developing reference material for supporting different Abilities – to ensure Scouts with disAbilities can be successful.

Golden Gate Area Council’s Special Needs and disAbilities Committee strives to connect with Scouters at the Unit and District levels for guidance, resources, and support.

The basic premise of Scouting for youth is full participation. Youth with disAbilities are to be treated and respected like every other member of their unit. Scouting provides opportunity not only to participate by joining a unit, but for growth – offering accessible challenges, belonging, and leadership.

GGAC SNDC Champions

Serving Scouts with Special Needs and disAbilities

National BSA Resources

Official BSA resources applying to special needs scouting.

Alternatives for Advancement

When accommodating different learning styles are not enough, or if a Scout needs more time, there is a process for Scouts to apply to their Council for consideration of alternatives. 

The Scout and their parents, Scout leaders, and qualified health professionals can complete information in the forms listed below and submit to the local council for approval. 

This team should have a good understanding of the Scout’s strengths and challenges, and how their disability affects access to advancement. The information submitted will help the council make a proper assessment, so preparers need to be sure to include all pertinent information.

It is suggested that any Scout who may qualify should apply as soon as possible so that they have enough time to prepare. The advancement program is challenging, and many Scouts with disabilities have enjoyed success.



Articles on Scouting with special needs and disabilities

Abilities Digest

A quarterly publication of the National Special Needs and Disabilities Committee of the Boy Scouts of America. The articles are written by Scouting volunteers and are intended to share practices and procedures that seem to work. The materials are offered as suggestions. They are not professionally-vetted, medical or psychological recommendations.

Inclusion Toolbox

Inclusion Toolbox for Special Needs and Disabilities is a series of printable webpages (divided by “modules”) that keeps special needs and disability information accessible 24/7/365 to the BSA community.  The Inclusion Toolbox does not read like a novel or textbook.  It is designed to allow you to jump to topics of greatest interest and then read other sections later.  Use the Table of Contents and search feature to jump to the module that you need.

You can also download the entire toolbox as PDF document

Special Needs Scouting Awards

Special Needs Scouting Service Award

This award was established to provide clear and visible recognition to adults, volunteer and professional, who serve the community of members with disabilities/special needs of the Scouting movement. This award is earned by direct action on behalf of members with disabilities/special needs and by spreading the ideals of inclusiveness, diversity, and disability awareness in Scouting. The award is intended to create enhanced visibility of the resources available to serve these members and to ensure their success in Scouting.

Click for more information and nomination form

Torch of Gold Award

The Torch of Gold is a council award given annually to an adult Scouter for dedicated work for youth, particularly Scouts, with disabilities. It is not an award that is earned by simply fulfilling specific requirements. It is given in recognition for service in multiple areas for many years. The nominee should show a level of dedication and service comparable to a Scouter receiving the Silver Beaver Award, but for service specifically in the area of working with Scouts with disabilities.

A Scouter must be recommended to his or her council by another individual. Although there are specific criteria for this award, each council should have its own selection procedure. See nomination form.

Woods Service Award

Each year, the national Woods Services Award is given to one or two BSA volunteers for exceptional service and leadership in the field of Special Needs Scouting.

The Woods Services and Residential Treatment Center, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, presents the award every year. The Center is a leading advocacy and service organization that provides educational, residential, and vocational services to children and adults with special needs. The award was established in 1978 in memory of Luther Wellington Lord, a residential supervisor for more than 23 years at the Center. An active Scouter, the award was established in recognition of his service to youth through Scouting at the local and national levels.

Each council may nominate one Scouter for the award each year. Use the official nomination form, which must be signed by the council’s Scout Executive. Send the signed form to [email protected]. Woods Services nominations must arrive by January 31.

GGAC SND Champions by District

How to verify an out of Council Merit Badge Counselor.

First, try to connect the Scout and counselor in Scoutbook. If that is successful, the counselor is registered and qualified. If unsuccessful, go to the counselor’s home council and search for their Advancement Administrators. Most will have an email address for either the Council Advancement Committee or Professional Advisor. Send an email asking if the counselor has been registered and qualified for the merit badge(s) in question and the status of their Youth Protection Training. Ask California councils if the counselor has completed AB506 training and LiveScan. The unit leader’s “blue card” signature verifies their counselor credentials verification.


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