Quality of Participation Experiences in Special Olympics Sports Programs

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
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  • 1 University of Toronto
  • | 2 Queen’s University
  • | 3 Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
  • | 4 Special Olympics Ontario
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This cross-sectional study examined experiential elements facilitating quality sport experiences for youth (ages 12–24 years) in Special Olympics, and the associated influences of sport program and sociodemographic characteristics. A total of 451 athletes involved in the 2019 Special Olympics Youth Games completed a survey assessing elements of quality participation (autonomy, belongingness, challenge, engagement, mastery, and meaning). The t tests investigated whether athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities rated elements differently across Traditional and Unified Sport programs. Regression analyses explored whether sport program and sociodemographic characteristics were predictors of these elements. Youth reported high mean scores across the elements, with no significant differences between athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Traditional or Unified Sport. Athletes with no reported disability rated higher autonomy than those who reported disability (p = .01). Women tended to report greater engagement in sport than men (p = .07). Findings provide theoretical and practical insights into quality sport participation among youth in Special Olympics.

Arbour-Nicitopoulos, Orr, and O’Rourke are with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Bruno is with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada. Wright is with the Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada; and the Department of Physical Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Renwick is with the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Bobbie and Noronha are with the Special Olympics Ontario, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Arbour-Nicitopoulos (kelly.arbour@utoronto.ca) is corresponding author.

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