Special Olympics Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is Special Olympics?
A: Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with permanent physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities. It began in 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver organized the First International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. The concept was born inn the early 1960s when Shriver started a daycamp for people with mental retardation. She saw that they were far more capable in sports and physical activities than many experts thought. There are now accredited Special Olympics programs in more than 130 countries, and more are continually being developed. In the United States, there are about 25,000 communities with Special Olympics programs. For more information, contact your local program.

Q: What is the meaning/significance of the Special Olympics logo?
A: The Special Olympics logo has gone through several changes in its lifetime. The original "stick figure" (now the official symbol) is an abstract but humanistic form designed to convey the impression of movement and activity. The logo is a symbol of growth, confidence and joy among children and adults with mental handicaps who are learning coordination, mastering skills, participating in competitions and preparing themselves for richer, more productive lives. The spherical appearance of the logo is a representation of Special Olympics' global outreach. The official logo is a visual representation of the theme: "Special Olympics-Uniting the World through skill, courage, sharing and joy."

Q: What are unified sports?
A: Begun in 1989, Special Olympics Unified Sports are Special Olympics training and competition programs in which approximately equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes and peer athletes without mental retardation (Partners) participate together on teams. All participants (Special Olympics athletes and Partners) on a team are to be of similar age and ability. Unified sports is an important program because it expands sports opportunities for Special Olympics athletes and partners seeking new challenges. In addition, unified sports dramatically increases inclusion in the community by helping to break down barriers that have historically kept people with and without mental retardation apart. At the same time, Unified Sports furthers the overall mission of Special Olympics by providing a valuable sports opportunity to individuals who are not presently involved with Special Olympics.

Q: How do I find out about Special Olympics organizations in my area?
A: Contact the chapter office in your state.

Q: How do I start a Special Olympics skating program?
A: Click here to learn more about starting a program in your area.

Q: Where can I get training materials for my Special Olympics skating program?
A: U.S. Figure Skating has order forms for the some of the materials. Check out the section titled "Manuals and Forms" on the Special Olympics Committee home page. With the exception of the badges and the skills assessment cards, training materials can also be ordered from your state's chapter office. Special Olympics figure skating badges and skills assessment cards can be ordered through info@learntoskateusa.com.