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The purpose of this study was to examine the sport experience for athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID) who participate in Special Olympics (SO). This study included a nationally representative sample of 1,307 families and 579 athletes in the U.S., focusing on sport involvement over the lifespan and motives for participating and for leaving SO. Athletes with ID are similar to athletes without disabilities in that sport is a significant life experience. They participate in sport for fun (54%) and social interaction (21%). Like athletes without disabilities, SO athletes leave sport because of changes in interest (38%) but also because of program availability (33%). These findings suggest that we continue to document the involvement of people with ID in sports and work to expand the sport opportunities available.
The authors are with the Center for Social Development and Education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.