In the video, the athlete showed a feeling of empowerment through his involvement in sports? But what empowers you?.....I get the same great sense of empowerment from helping other people out.
I actually became interested in the topic of the Special Olympics because a couple years ago I went camping and while I was playing volleyball with my friends and family a girl named Debbie came up and asked to play. It was evident that she had some type of disability, but she did not let that stand in the way of playing with us. She asked questions about what to do and how to play. Her excitement about playing truly inspired me and sparked my interest in the Special Olympics.
Another instance that sparked my interest in athletics for special needs children was the swim lessons that I teach. One of my kids is involved in special education and he has behavioral problems in school. However, in the pool he was fairly well behaved and found it enjoyable. The pool, for him, was an escape. After each of these instances, I knew that the initiative that the Special Olympics had taken was one of great importance to our special population.
“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” This is the oath taken by each Special Olympics athlete prior to each competition. It encourages the athletes to compete to the best of their ability, but to keep their heads up even in the face of a loss. Encouragement, and even more so empowerment, is why the Special Olympics is such a great organization for special athletes to participate in.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver started the Special Olympics in 1962, and held its first Special Olympic Games in Chicago on July 20, 1968. Her goal was to help mentally disabled individuals “be the best that they could be.” Her older brother was President John F. Kennedy, which was a connection that helped her make the Special Olympics so big. Shriver herself had an older sister named Rosemary who was intellectually disabled and spent most of her life in an institution.
Today, the Special Olympics is the largest sports organization in the world, thanks to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Today, there are over 3 million athletes from all 50 states, and from 181 countries, and the organization is still growing. Today the Special Olympics have grown to include 26 different sports.
In the past, individuals with intellectual disabilities were often locked away in institutions and rejected by their families. However, Shriver’s initiative to bring mentally disabled individuals into mainstream society has changed things.
Today, it is estimated that about 3% of the world’s population is mentally challenged. Athletes range in disability levels from mild to moderate, and even to severe or profound.
Just as all athletes feel when they score that winning goal, finish the race at their best time, or even just compete to their fullest. Intellectually disabled athletes gain a sense of empowerment through sports that affects them socially, mentally, and physically.
The Special Olympics program gives athletes a chance to be in a place with others who are at the same place as they are mentally. Just as sports facilitate in creating friendships for normally developed individuals, they also play a role in helping those with special needs meet others and create lasting friendships.
Athletics encourage mentally disabled athletes to become more independent. After years of relying on parents, it is in the best interest of certain special needs individuals to become more independent. Granted, there are individuals whose disabilities are so profound they will likely never be at the point where they can live on their own. However, the individuals who gain a sense of the life skills necessary for being independent can grow up to eventually live on their own.
52% of adult Special Olympics athletes in the United States are employed, half of those in competitive jobs. Outside of the Special Olympics, only about 10% of intellectuallydisabled individuals have jobs. There is a strong relationship between being involved in the Special Olympics and the ability to be employed.
An initiative to integrate special needs students into activities with normally developed students started just a couple years ago. In response, the Special Olympics created the Unified Sports program, a program that allows all athletes, disabled and not, to compete together.
Intellectually disabled students involved in this program found the social aspect of it to be its main attraction. The Unified Sports program does not only benefit the intellectually disabled students involved, but also helps others involved change their perspective on the mentally disabled population. One of the main goals of the Special Olympics from the beginning was to change the world’s view on the intellectually disabled, and the Unified Sports program is playing a major role in this.
Socially, the Special Olympics fosters a sense of maturity among its athletes so when in public. Because of their involvement in sports, which is full of both victories and upsets, athletes are able to learn to respond to daily failures and frustrations in an emotionally sound and sociallyacceptable fashion.
This is a picture of Billy Quick, a Special Olympics athlete who specializes in running. His statement, “you may be able to out-read me, but I can out-run you” shows the confidence that the Special Olympics can give an athlete. Mentally, the Special Olympics can be very beneficial for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Athletes involved in the Special Olympics gain a sense of empowerment from success on the athletic field. While some people gain empowerment from success in school, mentally disabled individuals often do not gain empowerment through academics. The Special Olympics is an outlet for intellectually disabled athletes to gain success and confidence in themselves.
Finally, athletes also improve physically through their involvement in Special Olympics. 100% of coaches have reported improvement in the area of “sports skills” when it comes to Special Olympics athletes.
Pictured here is Kendall Bailey, a Special Olympics athlete who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, autism, and more. He is a great example of a mentally disabled athlete whose life has been vastly improved due to his involvement in athletics. Due to his disabilities, Bailey actually qualifies for both the Special Olympics and the Paralympics. He is likely the fastest disabled breaststroker in the world. Bailey, who is generally shy and uncomfortable unless in water, acted quite out of character when he found out he had been named to the United States Paralympics team in 2008 in Bejing. Athletics certainly have had a large impact on Kendall’s life mentally and socially.
Becky Smith is a 27-year old Special Olympics downhill skier. Her family has reported that since she got involved with the program, she has become more outgoing,more self confident, and more willing to get engaged with the world around her. Becky Smith is just one example of the positive impacts that the Special Olympics can have on athletes.
Loretta Claiborne is the most well known Special Olympics athlete. Claiborne was born partially blind and mildly mentally disabled; she could not even walk or talk until the age of four.
Here, Loretta Claiborne is picture with Eunice Kennedy Shriver.Prior to getting involved with the Special Olympics, Claiborne was often angry and involved in fights at school. She ended up finding running as her outlet and has since been training as a Special Olympics athlete. She is the world’s highest achieving mentally disabled individual in history.
She has completed 25 marathons and has finished in the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon twice.
In 1996 she was honored with ESPN’s ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Walt Disney has made a movie about her life called The Loretta Claiborne Story.
Claiborne can also proudly say that she holds a black belt in karate, can communicate in four languages including sign language, and holds honorary doctorate degrees from Quinnipiac College and Villanova University, making her the first person with mental disabilities known to receive such honors
Today, Claiborne is an inspirational speaker who encourages people to not let others bring them down.
Through my research, I learned that involvement in athletics, especially for intellectually disabled individuals, is empowering because they grown mentally, physically, and socially.