Special Olympics Texas not only provides year-round sports training and competition, but also health and inclusion programs for individuals of all ages with intellectual disabilities.
Athlete Leadership Programs (ALPs) allow athletes to explore opportunities for participation in roles previously considered “non-traditional.” Through ALPs, athletes serve on the Board of Directors or local organizing committees. Athletes excel as spokespersons, team captains, volunteers, coaches and officials.
Young Athletes is for athletes ages two to seven. It focuses on developing fundamental motor tracking and eye-hand coordination through physical play. This participation-based program also introduces the child to the world of sports and begins to prepare them for competition, which can start at age eight. Families are invited to attend a Future Stars Sports Day where the athletes demonstrate the skills they have learned.
The Motor Activities Training Program is designed specifically for athletes who are unable to participate in traditional Special Olympics sports. It was created to enhance individuals’ motor skills, sport skills and physical fitness. After the eight-week training program is completed, a Challenge Day is offered that meets the needs of every participant and lets the athlete share his/her developed skills with family and friends.
Healthy Athletes provides free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist. Healthy Athletes currently offers health screenings in seven areas: Fit Feet (podiatry), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), MedFest (sports physical exam), Opening Eyes (vision) and Special Smiles (dentistry).
Unified Champion Schools (formerly Meet in the Middle) is a unique program that promotes acceptance and inclusion between students with and without intellectual disabilities in schools. Participants team up to promote advocacy, acceptance, friendship, fitness and sports opportunities. In an effort to support current school initiatives, fun activities are designed to align with state school standards, focusing on FitnessGram, school morale and attendance, and TAKS/TAKS Alt. Benefits of participation include: character development, moral intelligence, leadership, fitness and positive impact on school culture, including bullying prevention.
Unified Sports® teams allow athletes to participate in sports activities with peers without disabilities.Unified Sports® teams are comprised of equal numbers of Special Olympics athletes, friends, family members, staff, or other partners. These teams practice and compete together against other teams of the same composition, or can compete in city or intramural leagues. It is truly an opportunity for everyone to get involved.
In the largest study to date of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, researchers found that Special Olympics Texas leads the nation in the employment of athletes with intellectual disabilities in competitive environments. The study also showed that children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities experience a significant improvement in self-esteem through participating in Special Olympics in the Lone Star State.