One of the largest groups of persons with disabilities is that of persons with mental retardation. More than 1,000,000 athletes with mental retardation, for example, participate in Special Olympics each year. Sport psychology can help with performance enhancement as well as enhancing the quality of the sport experience for persons with mental retardation. Additionally, participation in exercise and sport can result in increased benefits such as enhanced self-esteem, self-reliance, and willingness to take risks. The literature in this area is reviewed, and extensive suggestions on working with athletes with mental retardation are offered. Due to the cognitive limitations that are one characteristic of persons with mental retardation, the sport psychologist faces particular challenges in providing sport psychology services for this population. A case study is provided to illustrate some of the challenges and rewards in working with athletes with mental retardation.
The authors are with the Dept. of Physical Education at Temple University, Broad & Montgomery Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19122.