Special Olympics continues to bring inclusive sports, on a global level, to athletes of every age and ability. In 2018, our movement included more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners. That breaks down to roughly 5.5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities and over 920,000 Unified Sports partners without intellectual disabilities.
For the very young and for athletes with profound disabilities, Young Athletes and the Motor Activity Training Program both demonstrate that fun and development through athletics is for everyone!
2018 proved to be a big year for Special Olympics Youth Athletes, a program at brings inclusive sport play to children with and without intellectual disabilities, ages 2 to 7 years old. There were almost 441,000 participants – a 43% increase since 2017! India saw the largest growth with roughly 80,000 new Young Athletes, thanks to support from the IKEA Foundation.
- 2018 was the second year of the partnership with the IKEA Foundation and activations in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand. Over the first two years of the partnership, more than 235,000 children with and without intellectual disabilities and 180,000 family members participated in Young Athletes programming across the four countries.
- In September 2018, Special Olympics signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Head Start Association to bring Young Athletes activities to Head Start centers across the United States.
- At the 2018 USA Games, over 200 children with and without intellectual disabilities participated in the Young Athletes Festival. Volunteers for the event were comprised of youth leaders with and without intellectual disabilities from the Youth Leadership Experience.
The Motor Activity Training Program (MATP) is designed to prepare athletes with profound or multiple intellectual disabilities unable to participate in Official Special Olympics Sports for activities appropriate for their skill/functional abilities. A unique, sport-based program, MATP provides meaningful opportunities for people with profound or multiple intellectual disabilities to participate in Special Olympics.
- As of 2018, there were more than 52,000 MATP athletes in 91 Programs worldwide
- In the same year, Special Olympics Asia Pacific hosted an MATP Train-the-Trainer course with representatives from 10 countries in the Region who returned to their countries fully able to train MATP coaches and recruit more athletes.