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Home»Districts»River Trails»Special Needs

Special Needs Scouting

Building Self-Esteem Through Scouting

​Disabilities can sometimes result in experiences of repeated failure and frustration. This cycle of unsuccessful effort can erode self-confidence and result in low self-esteem. Scouting can help raise self-esteem by providing experiences that foster feelings of success and accomplishment. Scout leaders can assist by creating a positive outlook, providing tools and strategies for success, and promoting a caring and supportive environment. These are good principles of communication for all people with disabilities, not just Scouts.

  1. Help set realistic goals.
    • Scout leaders and Scouts should share a common set of expectations.
  2. Give the Scouts frequent, specific and positive feedback.
    • Do not confuse the Scout (“you are good”) with the behavior (“you did that very well”). 
    • Feedback should acknowledge good effort and should address areas of suggested improvement.
  3. Accentuate the positive.
    • Focus on strengths to help keep motivation levels high. 
    • Boost enthusiasm and pride by capitalizing on special talents and interests; nothing builds self-esteem like success.
  4. Remember that frustration is not all bad.
    • Allowing Scouts to experience some frustration can be critical to the learning process. Don’t come to the rescue with a “quick fix,” but rather provide support and offer to help explore options. 
    • It may be hard for a Scout to think of alternative ways to approach a task once frustration has set in. Whenever possible, identify possible repair strategies before beginning a task as a way to decrease anxiety and to promote perseverance.
  5. Recognize that the group matters.
    • Acknowledge a Scout’s important status within the Scouting unit.
  6. Expect that mistakes will happen.
    • Help Scouts to appreciate that everyone makes mistakes. It may help to offer examples to decrease feelings of disappointment.
    • Talk about errors and mishaps openly. Try to be objective and to consider the context and setting.
    • Explain that trial and error is a valuable part of the learning process.
  7. Help Scouts strive toward independence.
    • Try to encourage independence, particularly with regard to self-help skills and activities for daily living.
    • Encourage careful planning, risk taking, and evaluation of consequences. Start with small decisions and provide feedback as an “interested observer.”

For more information on Special Needs Scouting in the Greater St. Louis Area Council, please contact Mary April at 314-256-3098 or You can also visit the Special Needs Program page.