Special Olympics for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

Women pose after Special Olympics swimming competitionThe Special Olympics is a well-established and growing organization that recognizes the need for inclusion. The Special Olympics focuses on adults and children with intellectual disabilities. There are over 200 million people with intellectual disabilities and they are capable of so much more than what society expects of them.

The Special Olympics began in 1968 and has provided training, exercise, and competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. They advocate for the acceptance of all people and work to eliminate the stereotypes of intellectual disabilities. Sports bring people together. It brings individuals and families together to showcase the talents, hard work, and dedication of people with intellectual disabilities.

Building communities is among the biggest goals of the Special Olympics. They host over 50,000 competitions each year. They spread awareness and understanding. When society begins to focus on the capabilities of individuals with disabilities, they will begin to see that they are like everyone else.

Among the communities the Special Olympics builds, there is the Healthy Athletes program. The program works to provide free health screenings and products to athletes. They educate athletes on healthy lifestyles and how they can maintain them before, during, and after the competitions.

People with disabilities are underestimated throughout the world. Individuals with mental disabilities are often viewed with pity and treated as helpless children. Research shows however, that the majority of people with intellectual disabilities are only mildly impaired. This illustrates that most are able to function on a day-to-day basis on their own. The world needs to understand that people with disabilities want to be included in society like everyone else. For too long they have experienced life on the sidelines. The Special Olympics seeks to change that standard by having athletes compete. It gives them control over their lives and allows them to show the world that they deserve so much more credit than what they are getting.

As one athlete puts it: “This is where I met new friends and learned to cycle. One night my brother asked me if I would ever try Cyclocross. I said yes. He asked his coach if I could compete in a race. I not only competed in a race last weekend but was presented with a jersey kit from his team! This made me excited AND accepted because his team viewed me as a cyclist, not as someone with a disability. I now have a new community of friends that see me for who I am, not my label.”

Special Olympics looks to remove the negative labels associated with intellectual disabilities. It is about understanding and acceptance. It is about our humanity.

If you are interested in hearing more athlete testimonials, be sure to follow this link.

If you are interested in getting involved, there are several ways you can contribute as an athlete or a volunteer. The best way is to find an office near you. To look for locations ( and learn more about opportunities), follow this link.

Sources: Special Olympics Official Website

Photo Courtesy: Kristin “Shoe” Shoemaker via Creative Commons