Who can participate in Special Olympics?
Anyone! Athletes (people with intellectual disabilities) can start participating at age 2 with the Young Athletes Program; Sports & Competition begins at age 8 and there is no upper age limit. Unified Partners(people without intellectual disabilities) can participate in Unified Sports. Students can participate through Project UNIFY. Family Members can participate in Family Programs. All community members can volunteer or Coach at local, area or state level events and fundraisers.
How much does it cost?
There is no cost to the athlete to participate in Special Olympics. Click here to see how much Special Olympics Louisiana must raise for each athlete.
In order to participate in Special Olympics, an athlete must:
- Step 1: Check below for specific qualifying information
- Step 2: Register with us by completing an athlete registration form and an athlete consent form
- Step 3: Contact your Area Team Leader by clicking your parish name under Your Area
There is no maximum age limitation for participation in Special Olympics. The Young Athletes™ includes ages 2-7 and the minimum age requirement for participation in Special Olympics competition is 8 years of age. However, no child may participate in a Special Olympics competition (or be awarded medals or ribbons associated with competition) before his or her 8th birthday.
If you have questions about athlete qualification we will be happy to talk with you about specifics. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A person is considered to have an intellectual disability for purposes of determining his or her eligibility to participate in Special Olympics if that person satisfies any one of the following requirements:
- The person has been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability as determined by their localities; or
- The person has a cognitive delay, as determined by standardized measures such as intelligent quotient or "IQ" testing or other measures that are generally accepted within the professional community in that Accredited Program's nation as being a reliable measurement of the existence of a cognitive delay; or
- The person has a closely related developmental disability. A "closely related developmental disability" means having functional limitations in both general learning (such as IQ) and in adaptive skills (such as in recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care).
However, persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical, behavioral, or emotional disability, or a specific learning or sensory disability, are not eligible to participate as Special Olympics athletes, but may be eligible to volunteer for Special Olympics as partners in Unified Sports®, if they otherwise meet the separate eligibility requirements for participation in Unified Sports®, set forth in the Sports Rules.
Identifying Persons with Intellectual Disabilities:
In the context of Special Olympics, the term "intellectual disabilities” is a synonym for mentally challenged. Therefore, Special Olympics uses the definition of intellectual disabilities/mentally challenged provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency for health. According to the WHO, intellectual disability is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of the mind characterized by impairment of skills and overall intelligence in areas such as cognition, language, and motor and social abilities. Intellectual disability can occur with or without any other physical or mental disorders. Although reduced level of intellectual functioning is the characteristic feature of this disorder, the diagnosis is made only if it is associated with a diminished ability to adapt to the daily demands of the normal social environment. (Visit www.who.int for more information.)
Degree of Disability:
Participation in Special Olympics training and competition is open to all persons with intellectual disabilities who meet the age requirements, regardless of the level or degree of that person's disability, and whether or not that person also has other mental or physical disabilities, so long as that person registers to participate in Special Olympics as required.
Persons who have multiple handicaps may participate in Special Olympics provided they are eligible as noted above.
Individuals with profound disabilities can participate through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP), developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather than competition.