Sport for people with

intellectual disabilities 

Visit Special Olympics Australia

Who are Special Olympics?

Soar & Roar Festival supports Special Olympics Australia to provide sporting opportunities to people with disabilities.

Special Olympics Australia is part of a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Special Olympics provides accessible sporting opportunities for people with ID on a week-in, week-out basis along with training, coaching and competition opportunities in local communities throughout Australia. Special Olympics is distinctly different from Paralympics. Paralympics are elite athletes with a physical disability. Special Olympics Australia athletes are athletes with an ID who participate in grass roots, weekly sporting opportunities.

Sport and movement opportunities

Research indicates that people with ID experience more chronic illness than the general population. This applies to physical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, osteoporosis and arthritis, as well as mental illness.

Studies into these health issues indicates that the prevalence of physical and mental illness in people with ID is exacerbated by the fact they are less physically active and engage in less active recreation than the general recreation.

On average, participants of the Special Olympics program engage in an additional 4.5 hours of physical activity each week. This has an associated reduction in costs connected with health service use, medical fees and pain treatment, commonly experienced by people with an ID.

Choose to Include

People with ID can also experience exclusion from many things that those without ID regularly take for granted. Studies have shown that the friendship group of people with ID is almost exclusively restricted to immediate family with an average of 1-2 friends. 

Grassroots, weekly sport with Special Olympics can help build networks and friendship groups of people with ID and allows families and carers to also connect and share experiences and support. Special Olympics provide a reduction in required carer time due to participant engagement in supervised sporting, social activities, employment and independence.

There are also a number of perceived and actual barriers to participation in physical activity for people with an intellectual disability. These include:

  • Lack of suitable instructor skills in community organisations
  • A perceived unwillingness to be inclusive
  • Negative societal attitudes towards disability
  • Lack of local opportunities for people with an intellectual disability to participate.

Additional engagement barriers to people with intellectual disabilities participating in sport and movement identified include:

  • Inaccessible facilities
  • Non-inclusive providers
  • Lack of accessible transport
  • Financial barrier to entry.

Programs and partnerships with Special Olympics create greater exposure and connections between people with and without an intellectual disability. This is critical to positively changing attitudes, encouraging sustained increases in activity levels and having people with ID feel and be accepted within modern Australia society.