Frequently Asked Questions: Special Olympics Gateshead

Special Olympics is a global organisation that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to over 4 million children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities in more than 170 countries. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late President John F Kennedy, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual (learning) disabilities opportunities to realise their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.

Is Special Olympics part of the Olympic movement?

In 1988, Special Olympics was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the third member of the Olympic family. It is the only sports organisation authorised by the IOC to use the word ‘Olympics’ in its title.


What is Special Olympics’ mission?

Our mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities, giving them continuing 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.


Who is eligible to participate in Special Olympics?

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be at least 6 years old (8 years old for competition) and identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: an intellectual (learning) disability, cognitive delay/s as measured by formal education assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specially designed instruction. All these conditions would mean that the person has an IQ of below 75.

Persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical, behavioural or emotional disability, or a specific learning or sensory disability, are not eligible to participate as Special Olympics athletes, but, they can enjoy the benefits of receiving weekly sports provision by qualified coaches and opportunities to take part in mainstream and disability sports competitions.


Can individuals with profound disabilities participate in Special Olympics?


Yes, through the Special Olympics’ Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasises training and participation rather than competition.


What impact does Special Olympics have on intellectual (learning) disabled athletes?


Children and adults with intellectual (learning) 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.

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Our sports programmes and competitions are designed to allow athletes of all ages to learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, gaining the benefits of weekly training and competitions. If you would like to get in contact, please click the Contact Us button.

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