Sports at the Core
Over the past several years, the population we serve has demanded that we more forcefully promote the issues facing people with intellectual disabilities as denial of their civil rights. There has historically been a view that what Special Olympics does is “nice,” but not critically important. That is changing. No longer just about sports, Special Olympics is transforming communities throughout the world by changing attitudes and misperceptions about people with intellectual disability. Education, public health, civic engagement and human rights have all evolved through the common vehicle of sports to become cornerstones of our global movement.
With sports at the core, Special Olympics has grown to be a movement that is not just about the largest disability population in the world, but about all of us. Sports are a universal language which unites people on and off the field of play, cutting across lines of race, ethnicity, education level, social status, and economic background.
Measurable Life Enhancement
A Yale University study released in June 1995 confirmed what everyone associated with Special Olympics has been saying all along: Special Olympics measurably enhances the lives of those who participate. The results of the study suggest that Special Olympics has a direct and positive effect on the self-image of participating athletes and their ability to function in a social setting.
According to the study, Special Olympics athletes perform better at school, at work, and at home the longer they participate in the program. The study measured such social competency skills as the ability to live independently, hold a job, participate in community activities, and develop close friendships.
Released on the eve of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games, the Yale study is the first scientific study to focus on the social and emotional goals of the Special Olympics program rather than physical fitness and sports achievement. The study compared athletes who actively competed in Special Olympics games against a control group of people with intellectual disabilities who were not involved in the program.