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Scout and Guide groups

Photo: Scout and Guide groups bring young people together to develop skills and try new activities.

Thousands of young people are involved with Scout and Guide groups when growing up. With a few helpful hints and tips about communication and access for all, your child should be able to join a group, learn new skills and make friends.

Alison’s daughter Adalaide (5), who is profoundly deaf, has thrived since joining a Beavers group.

“This is the sort of thing I worried Adalaide might have missed out on. We might have thought, ‘She can’t climb rocks; it’s too dangerous being deaf.’ Things like this show me Adalaide can do anything she wants. Climb up a load of rocks? She can do it. If she wants to go canoeing, she can go ahead.”

Discuss your child’s needs with their group leader

Meet with the leaders prior to your child joining so they understand your child’s needs and any issues that might crop up. It also gives them a chance to find out how they can make adjustments  so your child gets the most out of the activities.

“The leader needs to have acoustic awareness. If it’s a loud group, your child may struggle with background noise and regulating the volume of their voice. It might be helpful for the leader to move them to a quieter area or smaller group. It’s also a good idea to spend as much time outside as possible to improve acoustics.

Your child might also feel tired some weeks due to learning at school all day. Let the leader know when you drop your child off if they may struggle or need a quieter group.”

Sara is mum to Charlotte (7), who is profoundly deaf.

“We always take a relaxed approach and tell the leaders that Charlotte is deaf and wears cochlear implants. Other than that we don't make a fuss - we find that at social groups, deaf awareness is the most important thing, so that people know how to get Charlotte's attention, especially if that's needed to keep her safe.”

You can also ask the leader if there can be a basic deaf awareness session for all the children in your child’s group. For some groups, this can go towards earning their Disability Badge. Teaching the whole group about deaf awareness can help your child feel included and valued amongst their peers.

When your child transitions to the next group up, for example from Beavers to Cubs, bear in mind that there might be a new leader, volunteers and group members. It’s useful to meet with any new leaders again to discuss how they can support your child.

See if the leaders or any staff are interested in receiving our Deaf Awareness Training. For more information, contact us at [email protected].

Start off small

Selina agreed to take small steps with her son when trying a Scout group for the first time.

“Make a deal with your child that they try new groups or activities for four weeks and identify teething problems. Talk to other kids in each group and encourage deaf awareness.”

Talk about technology

Tell the leaders how your child’s equipment works and explain the signs of when batteries may be running out. Make sure your child has spare batteries and give some to the leaders too.

If your child has a radio aid, ask the leaders to wear it whilst they are leading the session.

Sara, mum to Charlotte (7), made sure leaders in her daughter’s group knew about her hearing devices and what the different signals meant.

“We do tell the leaders that once the devices start flashing the batteries are dead and Charlotte can no longer hear them.”

Get involved in the group

Mum Selina decided to take part in the Scout groups her son was in.

“Ask to go and see the room the session will be in and talk to leader. You could also get involved as Scout groups always need volunteers. We did and helped in lots of different groups for six years. Being around really helped raise deaf awareness.”

Even if you’re involved in the group, it’s also important that your child feels confident and independent. Encourage them to say when they don’t understand something and need something repeated.

Alison knew it was important for daughter Adalaide (5) to foster independence.

“I’d maybe stay with your child for a couple of meetings and when they’re happy, step back and let the child excel. That was my biggest challenge as a parent, having to step back and allow Adalaide to do things by herself but I’ve learnt she can do it.”

Activities and residentials

Most activities Scout and Guides groups do can be taught in a visual way. Speak to the group leaders and discuss how they can use actions, such as counting with fingers, using gestures or flags instead of a whistle or shouting to get your child’s attention.

If your child is taking part in off-site activities, such as canoeing or climbing, make sure the leader knows to explain what to do clearly and tells your child what cues they will use to keep them informed during the activity.

Your child might also take part in residentials or camping with their group. The leaders need to be aware of adjustments your child needs as part of their risk assessment for residentials too. They need to share this with you and your child before the residential. For example, they need to let your child know how they will be woken up during the night if there’s an emergency and who will do this.

Read our page on school trips for more tips about residentials.

Mum Selina recommends checking out any residential venues in advance.

“If your child is going on a residential, find out where it is and visit the venue beforehand if possible. Knowing the layout and area can be extra helpful when your child is on the trip and they need to go for night-time toilet runs."