Youth Unified Sports®:Young people with and without intellectual disability in school-based sports teams Martha Jo Braycich Director, Organizational Development, Foundations & Public Institutions
Special Olympics Aims Create positive public attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities and Integrate people with intellectual disabilities in society … through sports.
Special Olympics Youth Unified Sports®: Definition An internationally tested program that combines an equal numbers of youths with intellectual disability (athletes) and youths without intellectual disability (partners), aged 12-25, on teams for regular training and competition
Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Youth Unified Sports: Goals • Sports as a platform for the integration and personal development of young people with intellectual disability in local communities, • While giving educators and coaches cost-effective and easy to implement tools to facilitate inclusion, • And building alliances of various community partners to link special and mainstream environments.
Youth Unified Sports: Framework • Mainstream and special schools; local clubs • Classroom-based educational component (SO Get Into It) • Ability and age grouping • Consistent training and competition plan • Meaningful exchanges to reflect on experience
Impact Study on Youth Unified Football Pilot Project 2005/2006 • In cooperation with University of Massachusetts Boston/Special Olympics Global Collaborating Center • Interviews with 735 athletes and partners, aged 15-17, five countries* • Assess impact on promoting greater understanding and acceptance and facilitating social relationships, as well as sports experience *Austria, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia
Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia Youth Unified Sports today • 26,000 participants in 1200 schools in 40 countries in Europe/Eurasia (2010) including: • CEE/CIS: 11,000 participants in 500 schools in 11countries • Mainly Football and Basketball • Main partners: EU, Vodafone Foundation, UEFA, FIBA Europe; Mattel Children’s Foundation
Youth Unified Impact Study 2010 conducted by the University Of Ulster/Belfast • Evaluate the strengths of Unified Sports as a model for the community integration of young people with intellectual disability • Document the barriers and facilitators to community integration generally and within particular cultural and social contexts
Youth Unified Impact Study 2010 conducted by the University Of Ulster/Belfast Five countries: Serbia, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and Hungary Football and Basketball Interviews with 275 participants Five universities as partners in the participating countries
Main findings • Postive personal development in terms of communication and socialization skills, confidence and self esteem. • For athletes the development of social networks and connections in the community are largely attributable to participation in Unified Sports. • Athletes experience how it feels to be valued for their abilities rather than devalued through perceptions of disability. • Athlete participation has led to employment and educational opportunities.
Youth Unified: challenges and tasks Break through traditional ways of thinking Gender imbalance among particpants Participant retention and transition Program expansion Attract more institutional partners
One athlete summed up his experience on a Unified team, saying: “We all can play in the same schoolyard and live together in the same world.”
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