“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” –Special Olympics Athlete Oath
It may seem that the Olympics only come every four years, but here in Greater Los Angeles there is a year-round Special Olympics program that has been in operation for 40 years. With the excitement of the Winter Olympics captivating our children, this a great time to get kids involved in such a program.
The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization. The goal of Special Olympics programs is to provide individuals with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to develop physical and social skills; to experience the joy of courage and friendship; and to learn the self-reliance and pride that underlie success in life.
The opportunity to participate in sports programs leads to development in many other areas. In addition to physical fitness and improved motor skills, sports participation can help young people develop social skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and most importantly, kids can learn to believe in themselves and develop an improved self-image.
Special Olympics Southern California provides sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Children must be 8 or older to participate and all ability levels are welcome. The program provides basic skill training and development for beginner athletes as well as competitive events for those at higher ability levels. Athletes compete in categories based on gender, age and ability. There are currently 12 sports available via the program: aquatics, track & field athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, floor hockey, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball.
The Greater LA region includes programs in communities from Malibu to Long Beach and most places in-between. A region map is available here. To find out what sports and programs are available in your area, visit the Program Locator. There are events several times per month throughout the Southern California area . Check the Events Calendar for more details.
All Special Olympics programs are offered at no charge to the athletes. In addition to the actual sports competitions, athletes are also eligible to receive free health screenings at certain events from local medical personnel who volunteer their time to support the Special Olympians. There are also opportunities to join the Athlete Leadership Programs, where athletes can train as coaches, officials or public speakers, spreading the message of hope, inclusion and tolerance exemplified by the Special Olympics.
Eligibility is determined by the following (taken from their website): “…athletes must be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disability; a cognitive delay as determined by standardized measures such as intelligence quotient or other generally accepted measures; or a closely related development disability, i.e., functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills.” There is an application form required for participation – available here – which must be signed by a physician and either the adult athlete, or guardian of a minor athlete.
Connect with Special Olympics SoCal:
Resources for athletes, coaches, volunteers and more
Special Olympics LA Region homepage
Dr. Kari Miller is a board certified educational therapist and director of Miller Educational Excellence, a Los Angeles based educational therapy facility whose mission is to bring about unlimited possibilities for underachieving students by guiding them to discover their true brilliance and use it to change their lives. Visit her website to receive a FREE monthly newsletter which provides information on a complete spectrum of leading edge educational approaches.
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