Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boards of Review - Tips for Scouting Success

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I started this particular blog posting in early spring and then so many other things came up, I never went back and completed it. Recently, there were a second round of posts on Facebook regarding how to support scouts when going into Boards of Review so I thought this would be a great chance to do both a Blog and a Radio Show on the topic.

The first round of questions came from parents who were moving from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts and wanted to know more about the Board of Review Process. The second round of comments came from a mom who had a son doing a Board of Review in the next couple of days.

At the time of the first post, Autism and Scouting had given some suggestions with others giving suggestions as well. This is an important part of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) advancement process in the Boy Scouts program and can produce anxiety for any scouts. For scouts on the autism spectrum, the fear of the unknown can be a major stressor and want to help your scout be prepared and confident.

As such, I’m including information about the Board of Review process. Knowledge is power! 

Be sure to also listen to our Autism and Scouting Radio show on Boards of Review. Karen and I co-hosted this together and covered quite a bit of content.

To understand how we can help the scouts, we first need to know the Why and How of a Board of Review, then we can explore how a unit can be more sensitive to a scouts needs.  

How to Advance to a Board of Review

After the scout has completed all of the requirements of the particular rank they are trying to obtain with the exception of “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life”, the scout should request a Scoutmaster Conference. At the Scoutmaster Conference the scout will sit down with the Scoutmaster and they will talk about a variety of subjects in the scout’s life.

A Scoutmaster may ask about how he likes his patrol and what is going well in the patrol and unit. The Scoutmaster may also ask what the scout would like to change or if there is something that the unit could do better. Having the scout be prepared for this conference can help the scout be more comfortable with the process. The conferences often get longer and longer as the scout progresses up the ladder toward Eagle. I personally did some of the lower level ones at Summer Camp a few years ago and in my experience and in talking with other leaders, these conferences really help the Assistant Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster get to know the scouts.

During this time the Scoutmaster will determine if the scout has lived by the Scout Oath and Law and has demonstrated Scout spirit. With a positive outcome, the next step is generally for the scout to call the person who has been designated to set up the unit’s Board of Review. The scout is usually the one who makes the contact and sets up the Board of Review (BOR) however the specifics of this process is up to each unit and the process can vary.  Once contact is made, this person will tell the scout when and where the Board of Review will be. 

A Board of Review

After a Scout has completed the requirement for any rank or Eagle Palm, he appears before a board of Review. Its Purpose is to determine the quality of his experience, decide whether he is qualified to advance and, if so, encourage him to continue the quest for Eagle or the next palm (Guide to Advancement 2011 - Section

What a Board of Review is and what it is Not

What happens at a Board of Review for Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle Palms is different that what happens at a Board of Review for the scout rank of Eagle.

A Board of Review is :

An evaluation of the scout and his progress.

An attempt to determine the Scout's attitude.

A look to see how the scout is living by the Oath and Law.

A communication tool where it is reviewed that the candidate recognizes and understands the value of Scouting in his home, unit, school, and community.

A judge regarding  how well the Scout being reviewed is benefiting from the program

It should also be a celebration of accomplishment. Remember, scouting should be more about the journey than just “rank advancement”. A badge recognizes what a young man is able to do and how he has grown. It is not so much, a reward for what he has done.” (Guide to Advancement 2011 - Section

A Board of Review is NOT:

“Though one reason for a board of review is to ensure the Scout did what he was supposed to do to meet the requirements, it shall become neither a retest or ‘examination’, nor a challenge of his knowledge.” (Guide to Advancement 2011 - Section

How Long is a Board of Review

When the Scout is first starting out, the first Board of Review for Tenderfoot or Second Class should take about 10 - 15 minutes (again this depends on your unit). As the scout advances, the Boards of Review should get longer and longer which will allow the board to really to get to know the scout and what they are taking away from the scouting experience.  Once they get to an Eagle Board of Review the process could take between 30 - 45 minutes (the Eagle Board of Review is a special Board of Review and has different parts to it).

What Typically happens at a Board of Review

As each unit can run boards of review differently, each unit will have a typical way in which the board is run. In my experience, typically the scout will enter the room and there will be between three and six members. Unit leaders, Assistant Scoutmasters and any person related to the scout or guardian may not be part of the Board of Review or in the room to assist the scout. As such, this can be a very stress-filled time for any scout (not to mention one that is on the Autism Spectrum) so the board should make the meeting room a sensory friendly, accommodating and relaxed atmosphere to help put the scout at ease.

The scout will be asked questions about the scouting program, his patrol and the unit. The Board should have the scout’s handbook to review and will likely ask questions about camping, service and how the learning process of the requirements could be done better or how well they worked.  Through these questions, the board will make a determination if the scout really is ready to advance. The Troop Committee Guidebook will have example questions that might be asked.

After the questioning, the scout will be asked to step outside the room or area and then the Board of Review members will discuss among themselves if the scout is ready in their estimation to advance. The board will vote and they have to come to an unanimous decision.

Approval or Denial by the Board of Review

It the board approves the rank advancement, then the scout is called back in and given the news and is congratulated. At that point the scout has advanced to the next rank.

Denial of advancement is possible as well. If the board decides that the Scout is not ready to advance, the candidate should be informed and told what he has not yet done satisfactorily. Most Scouts accept responsibility for not completing the requirements properly. The members of the board of review should specify what must be done to rework the candidate's weaknesses and schedule another board of review for him. A follow-up letter must be sent to a Scout who is turned down for rank advancement, confirming the agreements made and the actions necessary for advancement. Should the Scout disagree with the decision, the appeal procedures should be explained to him.

How can you help your Scout Prepare?

As already mentioned, it can be stressful for any scout to participate in this process, especially the first time, but for those on the Autism Spectrum, if they don’t know what to expect, it can be very hard to deal with and can cause extra unnecessary anxiety. So we have some suggestions regarding how to deal with stress and sensory issues associated with a Board of Review. As the Scouting program is to empower the scout to reach for new highs, most leaders will do their best to help the scouts be successful in the Board of Review process as well.

* Try to ask for a small Board of Review made up with only three members. At least in the beginning, this can be less intimidating.

* Try to ask for a friendly face on the Board of Review. The scout may know another parent that is not in a leadership role that might be willing to be that friendly face in the room. You are not stacking the deck, but you are trying to give some balance and a place the scout can focus if needed.

* Try to get the sample questions from the Committee handbook and practice the questions in advance one on one.

* Set up a “mock” Board of Review with three family friends. Start off with easy questions, them move on to more complex questions. Role playing is very helpful but it important to make sure the scout understands that actual questions may be different. Role playing on a couple different occasions is suggested.

* If the scout has sensory issues that might come into play, ask for a sensory friendly atmosphere. Know your scouts sensory triggers and ask for accommodations in advance. For example, lower lights or have one row of lights turned off if light-sensitive. Have a fan on to circulate the air to avoid any strong or perceived strong smells. Ask in advance for the board to speak softer to allow for scouts that have auditory issues.

* If you can, have the scout meet the people in advance that will be sitting on the board so he has seen their faces.

* Have the scout see the room or place of the Board of Review in advance. If this scout is comfortable with the room they may feel more comfortable.

* Prepare a social story or picture schedule in advance regarding what will happen during the review. Have this with the scout during the mock board of review and if useful, during the actual review process.

* If the scout has a small special interest item that brings him extra security and comfort, have him keep it in a pocket with him during the review.

Advantages of a Board of Review

A Board of Review can have benefits for those scouts on the autism spectrum in following ways:

The scout can practice interactions with adults.

The scout has a chance to review the progress being made in Scouting.

The scout has a chance to bring up any issues that they might be having and practice self-advocacy.

The scout can practice the management of anxiety in a controlled environment.

The scout can practice eye contact.

The Board of Review process is an important part of the Boy Scouting process in the USA and this potentially stressful situation can be turned into a positive.

Accept - The scout for who they are and if they are not ready for advancement that is okay. Scouting is not all about advancement. It is about learning life skills, gaining life experience and having fun along the way.

Enrich - The scout may be challenged to step outside of their comfort zone and expand their world.

Inspire - Make sure to inspire the scout with positive encouragement. A kind tone and positive words go a long way to increasing self-confidence. You will likely find yourself inspired by the scout as well.

Empower - By giving the scout the tools in advance to be successful, you are giving them the tools to do their best and to be empowered.

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