Frequently Asked Questions

What is Special Olympics?
Special Olympics is a global organization that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, everyday around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics is providing opportunities for more than 4.4 million athletes, 1.3 million volunteers and millions more people worldwide through 226 Accredited Special Olympics Programs in more than 170 countries.

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How many people does Special Olympics Iowa serve?
Special Olympics Iowa serves more than 14,500 Iowans with intellectual disabilities and their Unified partners.

How many Iowans have intellectual disabilities?
The World Health Organization estimates between 2-3 percent of the population has intellectual disabilities. In Iowa, this means 64,000-96,000 people.

What is the Special Olympics Athlete Oath?
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

What impact does Special Olympics have on athletes?
Children and adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics develop improved physical fitness and motor skills, greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image. They grow mentally, socially and spiritually. Through Special Olympics, athletes exhibit boundless courage and enthusiasm, enjoying the rewards of friendship. Ultimately, athletes discover not only their abilities and talents, but “their voices” as well.

Who is eligible to participate in Special Olympics?
To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, you must be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays as measured by formal assessment, or significant learning or vocational problems due to cognitive delay that require or have required specifically designed instruction.

Can individuals with profound intellectual disabilities participate in Special Olympics?
Yes, through Special Olympics Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) and events such as Challenge Days, developed by physical educators, physical therapists and recreation therapists. MATP emphasizes training and participation rather than competition.