Fulfilling a members wants and needs has become the cornerstone of our system of government and values in DeMolay. We have a diverse group of members, especially here in Pennsylvania. We have young men who have grown up in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Some of our members come from the farmlands of central Pennsylvania, near Lancaster and York; while even more come of the coal laden hills of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. Each of these areas has it own set of values and beliefs - and DeMolay embraces them all! That diversity is what drives our program to evolve for the next generation of members.
Recently, as a Jurisdiction, we've had to evolve in another way. Because of our ability to adapt, we've seen an influx of members with special needs. Those needs run the whole spectrum, from mobility and accommodation concerns, to young men with Aspbergers. These young men are no different and should be given the same opportunity to benefit from DeMolay as any other member. This can be a challenge for some, especially on the local Chapter level. Advisors are being asked to work with young men who have needs they may have never encountered before; and they are doing it with a grace and ease that amazes all. I can proudly say that in Pennsylvania, these young men are getting the same opportunities as everyone else. The key is providing a program that works for them.
Recently, I received a copy of an article from Scouting Magazine, dated March / April 2011. The article was entitled "Structure and Support - Ideas from the field: Helping "Aspies" succeed." In a previous issue of the publication, members and adults were asked how they had modified their local Scout program to better suit young men with special needs. Here are some of the suggestions, adapted to DeMolay:
- Provide Structure - DeMolay, by its very nature, is hierarchical and structured. These young men want to know their place in the structure, so take the time to explain that to them.
- Make a List - provide lists of activities and achievements that can be earned. Definitive goals are a great way to help young men excel.
- Show the Visuals - Don't just talk about awards or paperwork; have physical things on hand so that they can see the reality of what you're talking about.
- Use the Buddy System - find two members and pair them up. This kind of friendship only serves to strengthen local Chapters.
- Cut Some Slack - Remember, not every DeMolay is going to be a model member. Using teachable moments is why the program exists in the first place.
- Ask - If you're having trouble communicating, talk to the member's parents / teachers and find out how you can better meet his needs.
These are just some ideas from the real world of the Scouts. Every young man is different. Rather than try to fit him into the "DeMolay Mold," why not mold DeMolay to fit him?
Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony