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An Evaluation of a Unified Sports Football Pilot Project

September 18, 2006

A preliminary report on the evaluation of the Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia Unified Football Pilot Project.There is growing support in European societies for the total inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of the community. Sport provides a means for supporting this integration process.Unified Sports is one mechanism for promoting social inclusion through sport. Unified Sports is a Special Olympics initiative that provides opportunities for sportsmen with and without intellectual disabilities to play on integrated sport teams. This experience allows athletes and partners to develop sport skills, have meaningful competition experiences, and create long lasting friendships.In 2005, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia developed a school-based pilot project that merged the Special Olympics school curriculum SO Get Into It with Special Olympics Unified Football. The goals of this pilot project were to improve the sport skills, social skills, and self-esteem of students with and without intellectual disabilities. In addition, the project aimed to improve the understanding and acceptance of students without disabilities towards people with intellectual disabilities.Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia and Special Olympics, Inc., commissioned the Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center (GCC) at the University of Massachusetts Boston to implement a comprehensive evaluation of this pilot project.The findings of this evaluation suggest that this model of Unified football has been successful in promoting social inclusion. Though separated by their educational settings, these students with and without intellectual disabilities have come together on the playing field to learn about sport and one another.

The Health and Health Care of People with Intellectual Disabilities

February 9, 2005

New research studies conducted by Special Olympics found disturbing evidence that individuals with intellectual disabilities face widespread health problems, while physicians, dentists and other health professionals are not receiving adequate training in order to treat them. The research reinforces previous studies that found that despite the widespread belief that individuals with intellectual disabilities receive better health care than the rest of the population, people with intellectual disabilities actually have poorer health, more specialized ealth care needs and greater difficulty accessing health care services and doctors compared to the general public.Research Methodology: Special Olympics recently commissioned two research studies related to the health and health care of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Changing Lives through Sport -- A Report Card on the Impact of Special Olympics

January 1, 2005

Special Olympics has published the results of a multi-legged study of the impact of Special Olympics programs on the lives of its athletes in the United States. According to Changing Lives through Sport -- A Report Card on the Impact of Special Olympics, the benefits of participation in Special Olympics are substantial.The research shows that there is an overwhelming consensus among Special Olympics athletes, coaches and family members that there is significant improvement in athletes' sense of self, social skills and social interactions due to their participation in Special Olympics.In addition, parents also see health benefits that are critical, given the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities.The evidence from these studies clearly illustrates that Special Olympics enables people with intellectual disabilities to demonstrate and experience sports competence and suggests that gains in self-confidence, self-esteem, employment and socialization can carry beyond Special Olympics.For example, more than half (52 percent) of adult Special Olympics athletes have jobs. While reliable data about the employment status of the general population of adults with intellectual disabilities are hard to come by, values as low as 10 percent have been cited. This suggests a strong relationship between Special Olympics participation and the ability to be employed.The new research also shows that Special Olympics athletes have much in common with other athletes. For example, Special Olympics athletes enjoy the social experiences that accompany participation in sports training and competition. Teammates provide an important and valuable source of friendship, with more than half of the athletes socializing with teammates outside of Special Olympics. As with other athletes, Special Olympics athletes are motivated to participate by their enjoyment of sports and by the competition Special Olympics provides. They are serious about their sports and are not seeking sympathy or even special treatment.Overall, the rationales for participation are similar to other athletes at various levels and in various programs. Even those who leave Special Olympics due to life changes overwhelmingly express their satisfaction with their Special Olympics experience and would be willing to reestablish their participation if circumstances permitted.The study is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impact of the Special Olympics experience on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. More than 2,000 interviews of a representative sampling of U.S. athletes, coaches and families members were conducted over a period of four months starting in October 2004. The study was carried out by the University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Utah with support from the Gallup Organization. Dr. Gary Siperstein and Coreen Harada from the University of Massachusetts Boston and Dr. Michael Hardman and Jayne Maguire from the University of Utah served as investigators.