What is Special Olympics?
Special Olympics is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. There is no charge to participate in Special Olympics.
Special Olympics currently serves more than 3 million person with intellectual disabilities in more than 200 programs in more than 150 countries. Those numbers are the result of an overwhelmingly successful Campaign for Growth that began in 2000. That year, Special Olympics made a bold commitment to reach 2 million athletes by the end of 2005, while simultaneously changing attitudes about people with intellectual disabilities around the world. Over the course of those five years, in addition to providing more than 1 million more athletes the opportunity to experience the joy of sport, Special Olympics transformed itself. Read The Heart of Growth, an article by Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver on the success of The Campaign for Special Olympics.
Today, Special Olympics stands as a leader in the field of intellectual disability. It is a truly global movement, with more than 500,000 athletes in China, more than 210,000 in India, almost 550,000 in the United States, more than 600 in Afghanistan and 4,400 athletes in Rwanda. Special Olympics World Games were held in Ireland in 2003 and Japan in 2005 and, in 2007 China hosted the World Summer Games. The 2009 World Winter Games were held in Boise, Idaho.
Most importantly, Special Olympics sharpened the focus on its mission as not just "nice," but critical, not just as a sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, but also as an effective catalyst for social change. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image. They grow mentally, socially and spiritually and, through their activities, exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoy the rewards of friendship and ultimately discover not only new abilities and talents but "their voices" as well.
How many people does Special Olympics Iowa serve?
Currently, Special Olympics Iowa serves nearly 11,000 Iowans with intellectual disabilities, participants and Unified Sports Partners.
How many Iowans have intellectual disabilities?
The World Health Organization estimates between 2-3% of the population has intellectual disabilities. In Iowa, this means between 64,000-96,000 people.
What is the Special Olympics Athlete Oath?
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
What is Special Olympics' mission?
To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. For more information, click here.
What impact does Special Olympics have on athletes?
Children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image. They grow mentally, socially and spiritually and, through their activities, exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoy the rewards of friendship and ultimately discover not only their abilities and talents but "their voices" as well.
Who is eligible to participate in Special Olympics?
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specifically designed instruction. It does not cost anything to participate. For more information, click here.
Can individuals with profound intellectual disabilities participate in Special Olympics?
Yes, through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) and events such as Challenge Days, developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather than competition.