To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, an athlete must be at least eight years old and:
- have been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability; or
- have a cognitive delay (learn slower than their peers) as determined by standardized measures; or
- have significant learning or vocational problems** due to cognitive delays which require or have required specially-designed instruction***.
**Significant learning or vocational problems refer to those learning problems resulting from cognitive delays (intellectual impairment). These do not include physical disability, emotional or behavioral difficulties or specific disabilities such as dyslexia or speech or language impairment.
***Specially-designed instruction refers to time when a person is receiving supportive education or remedial instruction directed at the cognitive delay. In the case of adults, specially-designed instruction is usually replaced with specially-designed programs in the workplace, or in the support work place, or in supported work or at home.
To be eligible for participation in Special Olympics, a competitor must agree to observe and abide by the Official Special Olympics Sports Rules.
There is no maximum age limitation for participation in Special Olympics. The minimum age requirement for participation in Special Olympics competition is 8 years of age. For children with intellectual disabilities ages 2 through 7, the Young Athletes Program strengthens physical development and self-esteem by building skills for future sports participation and socialization.
Degree of Disability
Participation in Special Olympics training and competition is open to all persons with intellectual disabilities who meet the age requirements, regardless of the level or degree of that person's disability, and whether or not that person also has other mental or physical disabilities, so long as that person registers to participate in Special Olympics as required by the general rules.
Once eligibility is determined, an athlete must submit a Registration form and a medical form.
Questions and Answers on the Eligibility Statement
Does the statement of eligibility for participation in Special Olympics make eligible the following people?
1) All special education students in the schools?
No. It will include only those who have been identified as having an intellectual disability OR cognitive delays, whether they are in special education classes all OR part of the day or in regular classes receiving support services.
2) All developmentally disabled people living and working independently in the community?
It will include them only if they are identified as having an intellectual disability, OR cognitive delays as determined by standardized measure or which result in special assistance for employment or independent living.
3) Those students integrated into the regular classroom with support services?
Yes, if they are classified as intellectually disabled or if they have an identified cognitive delay as determined by standardized measure or which requires specialized instruction.
4) All children or adults classified as learning disabled?
No. Only those identified as having significant learning or vocational problems resulting from cognitive delays and requiring special instruction or assistance are eligible.
5) Those children or adults with learning problems because of emotional disturbance? No.
6) Those students or adults with physical or sensory disabilities who require specialized instruction, or special assistance for employment or independent living?
It will include them ONLY if they ALSO are identified as having an intellectual disability OR cognitive delays.
7) Adults in group homes but working independently in the community?
Yes, if they have an intellectual disability OR an identified cognitive delay.
8) Those adults in supported employment settings?
Yes, if they have an intellectual disability OR a cognitive delay.