Partners in Mind + Body: ICI Teams Up with the Special Olympics

Smiling young girl with a disability, holding a soccer ball stamped with the Special Olympics logo.

Deepening ICI’s partnerships with Special Olympics organizations, Renáta Tichá and Brian Abery recently began creating a screening tool for developmental milestones that will eventually be incorporated into Special Olympics sites around the world. Another project will evaluate social and educational inclusion programs for secondary school students in Minnesota.  

The current partnership with Special Olympics Minnesota began in 2018, with a small grant to evaluate how participating schools were implementing the Special Olympics Minnesota Unified Champion School Program. The program includes leadership and whole-school inclusion components, along with inclusive physical education and a unified sports program, all designed to bring students with and without disabilities together.

Now, the ICI team will interview teachers, administrators, parents, and others to determine what the various stakeholders want to achieve through the program and which components are most critical to achieving those outcomes, said Tichá, co-director, with Abery, of the Institute’s Global Disability Rights and Inclusion program and Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education. In addition to the surveys, the team will facilitate a participatory planning and decision-making process to foster a common understanding of program goals. “The work will help Special Olympics staff members improve the way they train teachers so the program is implemented consistently across schools,” Abery said.

In another partnership, the team is collaborating with Special Olympics International to create, pilot, and validate a developmental screening tool for children ages 2 to 7. The tool is intended to help parents better understand the strengths of their children as they develop and to pinpoint areas in which additional resources are needed. The tool will be used by Special Olympics volunteers at Special Olympics events, first in the United States and then in countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, and South Africa.

“The tool will be used to screen for developmental milestones, vision, hearing, and other health issues,” said Tichá. “We are pleased to be working with Special Olympics because it provides us with the opportunity to reach children and youth where they play, and to work with families and children with disabilities to foster social inclusion outside of the school setting.”