Some kids need extra challenge and advanced learning to stay engaged. Others may need a little extra help as they aren’t quite ready for work at their grade level. Every kid is differently abled, some more than others. But they all need the chance to be successful and feel included.
Types of Differently Abled Kids
Volunteering with any group can be challenging. Leading kids is not always easy but is a great way to influence them in a positive way and is very rewarding. But having differently abled kids in the group can be an obstacle. Each one of them is valuable. But not everyone is trained in how to handle different learning abilities.
In a group, there might be kids with Autism, AD/HD, physical limitations, and even high ability learners. An autistic or AD/HD child may have sensory sensitivities, restlessness, and difficulty communicating. Then there are kids that are high ability learners. Those kids have a tendency to learn quick, get bored easily, and take charge. And finally, there are all the kids in the middle of these two extremes.
Kids with physical limitations may be missing an arm or a leg. Others may be blind or deaf. Kids can also have physical limitations due to medical reasons. Those kids might have asthma, diabetes, severe allergies, and others. In a group setting, it can make it difficult to go do physically demanding activities when kids have physical limitations.
Youth Squad is Not Age Dependent
Unlike scouting programs, Youth Squad doesn’t have specific age levels for completing the badges. Girl Scouts* is built on levels corresponding with a girls grade in a school: Daisies* are Kindergarten and 1st Graders, Brownies* are 2nd and 3rd, Juniors* 4th and 5th, etc. When girls move from 1st to 2nd grade they automatically move to the next level and can no longer earn badges at the level before. In the Youth Squad program, girls can never age out.
Girls and boys completing Youth Squad Patch Program®s can do what fits best with their group’s needs. There are recommended ages and prerequisites to help kids be successful, learn, and give back to the community, but they aren’t requirements. If a girl is a high ability learner and strong leader she could work on the “Advocate” or “Delegate” level patches or pins even if she is only a 4th or 5th grader to give her the challenge and growth she needs. On the other hand, maybe there is a 3rd grade girl struggling to relate and complete work at her level. She could work on the “Helping Hands” or “Friend” level patches so she has success and is learning at a level more appropriate for her abilities. Youth Squad has something for every level of learning.
Leading a Group with Differently Abled Kids
Having a variety of kids in a group is great. They each bring their own personality and spin on things which keeps balance. Yet leading a group with kids that have a variety of abilities can be challenging. If the group is a mix of highly mature kids with one or two that is a few grade levels below their age, it can be difficult to plan activities for everyone. That is where Youth Squad comes in. This Youth Squad Program can bridge that gap without the headache of planning several different activities.
For instance, a troop leader working with a group of 4th and 5th grade Girl Scouts*. They would be working on the Junior* level activities. The leader plans an activity with a guest speaker relating to the badge being earned. The high ability girls are bored because they have a good grasp on the topic already and the girl that is below grade level has checked out because she wants to be moving about the room. It’s a loss all the way around even though they were “earning” a level appropriate badge.
As discussed previously, the Youth Squad program isn’t tied into ages. So, if this same group of girls decides they love animals. They want to work on the Pet Welfare Program. The girls needing a bit more challenge could earn the Pet Advocate Patch and take on an issue. At the same time, the girl not quite ready for that scope of project could put together a drive for shelter supplies to earn the Shelter Drive Patch. The girls are all the same age but able to work towards patches they can be successful at while learning about and helping pets.
Setting Kids Up for Success
Youth Squad allows kids at all maturity and ability levels to earn patches and pins. Kids don’t come prepackaged all to one spec. They are each a unique individual. So a one-size-fits-all program doesn’t always work. Giving kids the opportunity to truly feel included as they earn a reward like a patch sets them up to grow and become successful adults.
*youthsquad.makingfriends.com and MakingFriends®.com are not affiliated with, endorsed by or a licensee of Girl Scouts of the USA.