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The Special Olympics Essay

2761 words - 12 pages

       Abstract: The Special Olympics not only give special athletes athletic skills, they offer more opportunity, encouragement, and dexterity to survive in society than the public school system alone. To understand the differences and similarities between handicapped athletes and their non-handicap peers is the first step in creating a program that best meets the child's needs. There were no community programs that catered to the mentally and physically challenged, so Eunice Kennedy-Shriver created "special games" in her back yard for her handicapped child. Shriver established the Special Olympics in 1968. Today there are more than one million special athletes competing in 140 ...view middle of the document...

Before 1968 there was no hope for the mentally and physically challenged to use their full potential to live a successful life, except within the boundaries of an institution. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of the late John F. Kennedy, was determined to not allow experts to cast out challenged children into institutions and warehouses. She told an audience at the White House that children with mental retardations could be exceptional athletes, and that sports could help them realize their potential for growth.


In 1963 Mrs. Kennedy Shriver organized a day camp in her back yard for the handicapped children in Rockville, Maryland. Five years later she brought the first Special Olympics to Soldier Field in Chicago. Around one thousand enthusiastic athletes participated in the event. There are now 143 countries involved, and 16,000 sports events every year with over one million athletes ("Anniversary"). Through the Special Olympics thousands of handicapped people have conquered their fears and struggles, learned communication skills and trades for employment. Because of the underlying lessons taught through sports they can lead active, exciting, and courageous lives within their own communities. After learning about these incredible athletes, the drawbacks of special education programs in public schools, Athletes for Outreach (AFO), true success stories, and the rewards for all involved, I am excited to pass the information and fascinating stories to you. The Special Olympics not only give special athletes athletic skills, they offer more opportunity, encouragement, and dexterity to survive in society than the public school system alone.


In order to design an effective program for any group of children, an analysis must be made of that group. Frank Hayden is a research associate at the University of Toronto who studies motor development in handicapped children. He stated that people assume the handicapped are weak, slow, and overweight, but that those characteristics are a result of not being encouraged or assisted in physical activity (Nemeth). Dr. Elkan Snyder presents an interesting comparison between handicapped and non-handicapped children; their likenesses. All children like to play, need food and shelter, cry over similar things, get disappointed, and express joy over the same things. They have fears and worries, suffer from the same shock, and are curious about their origin. They all develop from infants, into children, into teenagers, then adults. All children grow to learn and accept the duties of citizenship within the community in which they live. The major difference is in the way they learn. Snyder points out that mentally handicapped children have a weak ability to recall information and need a great deal of repetition and drill. Special needs children usually need objects, pictures, demonstrations, and other live activities for best possible results. These things allow the children to perceive the lesson directly....

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