Young people with disabilities don't often get a chance to play on their school sports teams, but more and more U.S. states are adopting the unified sports approach that Special Olympics pioneered. The governor of New Jersey just signed a bill into law that encourages schools to make opportunities for sports participation available to all students. Special Olympics New Jersey, which championed the new law, is cited in the new law as a consulting organization. For almost 20 years, Special Olympics has offered sport teams that blend people with and without intellectual disabilities, and that is a model that encourages sports and fun, and which also gets people together to learn more about each other.
In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability, which makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting for all. Having sport in common is just one more way that preconceptions and false ideas are swept away. Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
This is a program that combines an equal number of Special Olympics athletes and athletes without intellectual éficiences (called partners) in the same sports team, and both the workout at competitions .
Improving the Lives of Our Athletes and Their Families.
In addition to supporting our work with families, she has enabled us to build capacity and programming for Unified Sports and Young Athletes. Both programs have greatly impacted the lives of participants: Unified Sports has increased athletes' social skills and self-confidence as well as physical activity, contributing to a healthier weight and lifestyle, and Young Athletes has provided our youngest athletes' (ages 2-7) with the opportunity to improve their motor skill and related development such that they are positioned early on for a fulfilling life in the family and community. The inclusive nature of both these programs also improves athletes' and families' connections to the community and provides an opportunity to promote social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences. These inclusive experiences pave the way for improved understanding, acceptance and the development of friendships.