by adiba nelson, inclusivity expert and author of meet clarabelle blue
Since its inception, Girl Scouts has been an organization for girls of all ages, races, religious beliefs, and abilities. Every girl who wanted to join could, and for the last 106 years, has! Girl Scouts' founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was herself deaf from an early age, and a fierce advocate for the inclusion of girls with disabilities or special needs. Where once children with special needs were sent away, or hidden in the home, today we see more and more families living active, public lifestyles, including their children with special needs. And that means we’re also seeing more and more girls with various special needs joining Girl Scouts, which is fantastic! But not all Girl Scout volunteers have experience working with children of different abilities, which sometimes results in Girl Scouts with special needs being unable to participate in all of their troops' activities or programs, due to unintentionally exclusive practices.
You can't know what you don't know, of course! But giving every girl a chance to be a Girl Scout is so important - not only for those girls with special needs who want to participate, but for every girl in the troop to grow alongside a group of Girl Scout sisters who can share all kinds of different perspectives and life experiences. As the mom of a Girl Scout with special needs, and the author of an award-winning children's book on inclusivity, here are some things I recommend that all volunteers consider when creating programs and activities, to ensure inclusivity across the board.
Would you be able to fully participate in this activity/program if you had mobility issues? What about if you had sensory issues, or a seizure disorder? If the answer is "no," you may need to either rethink the program or activity, or think of alternatives or adaptations that would still allow girls that need accommodations to participate and have a great time.
Talk To the parents
No one expects you to be an expert in inclusion, accessibility, or adaptations. But often times, the parents are. If you have a girl in your troop with special needs (visible or invisible) feel free to let the parents know that you want to make sure their child is getting the most out of her Girl Scout experience. Let them know that you would really appreciate any guidance or input from them in regards to what works best for their child. It’s not considered rude, and I’m willing to bet they’ll appreciate your commitment to an excellent experience for ALL the girls in your troop.
Facilitate and lead
You may need to be more hands-on when facilitating some activities, to help the other girls understand how they can all work together, taking everyone’s needs into account. Remember that YOU set the tone for how your girls will interact with each other, special needs or not.
Read Meet Clarabelle Blue!
No really. I know it seems funny to say “read my book” to understand the concept of inclusion and special needs, but I’ve had countless families tell me that it not only helped them understand inclusion, but also started a kid-friendly conversation around special needs, inclusion, and being a friend. So if you know you have a girl with some special needs joining your troop, maybe give it a quick read!
I hope you find this information helpful in building inclusive troops. And for those of you who want to give your girls the opportunity to discover inclusivity for themselves, be sure to register them for the Girl Scouts for ALL patch program coming up on April 14th! I can't wait to meet you and your Girl Scouts.
It's that special time of year when Girl Scouts of all ages celebrate and show the world what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader). March 11th - 18th is National Girl Scout Week!
Girl Scout Week always includes March 12th, to commemorate the day Juliette Gordon Low officially registered the first 18 girl members in Savannah, Georgia. And since one day just isn’t enough time to honor such a momentous occasion, we’ve dedicated a whole week to celebrating the greatness of Girl Scouts! Girl Scout Week begins on Girl Scout Sunday and ends on Girl Scout Sabbath--two opportunities to reflect on what it means to be a Girl Scout within the context of your faith.
Traditionally, Girl Scouts also marked Girl Scout Week with seven days of service. Use this modernized activity list to celebrate the week. Each day, choose at least one activity to complete from that day. (If you want to push yourself – do more than 1 each day!)
When Girl Scout Week is complete, come pick up your Girl Scout Week fun patch at the Girl Scout Shop! (This patch and additional fun patches to mark each day will be available in all council shops.)
Sunday, March 11 and Saturday March 18th
Girl Scout Sunday is the perfect time to honor your faith, and even be recognized as a Girl Scout in your place of worship. Maybe you will attend a religious service; earn your My Promise, My Faith pin; or sing/say grace at a meal. You can also...
Monday, March 12
Happy Birthday, Girl Scouts USA! We’re 106 years old today! Celebrate National Girl Scout Day by reconnecting with the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and the history of our Movement. You can...
Tuesday, March 13
Be a Go-Getter! Here’s your chance to show the world what it means to dream big and achieve your goals #likeaGirlScout.
Wednesday, March 14
Time to be an Innovator! Think outside of the box, explore unfamiliar territory, and experiment. You might especially want to dive into STEM today--that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, four fields where girls and women are breaking barriers and innovating every day.
Thursday, March 15
Seeking challenges, learning from setbacks, and getting up to try again are all part of the Girl Scout D.N.A.! Be a smart Risk-taker today, and step outside your comfort zone. You can...
Friday, March 16
Be a Leader. Practicing everyday leadership, from stepping up when the going gets tough to taking action on causes you care about, is at the core of the Girl Scout experience. Today, you might...
Saturday, March 17
As a Girl Scout Volunteer you’re not only a role model who gets to show her something new, but you also get to share all those memorable moments together. You make a difference at Girl Scouts and your impact is so special! Today is a day to celebrate you.