ICI researchers (Abery, Ticha, and Houseworth) have received funding from Special Olympics International, North America, and Minnesota (SOI, SONA, and SOMN) to collaborate on initiatives to develop a holistic pediatric screener of Young Athletes, and to investigate the structure and implementation of the Unified Champion School Program. This partnership provides a meaningful synergy between ICI's expertise in measure and curriculum development and evaluation and a long-standing and well-recognized Special Olympics movement in supporting the health and wellbeing of individuals with intellectual and/or developmental (IDD) locally, nationally, and internationally. Current and recent projects include:

  • A Longitudinal Approach To Understanding Proximal & Distal Outcomes Associated with Participation in the Unified Champion Schools Program on the part of Secondary Students with and without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Abery, Ticha, Roberts, Houseworth, Nyce, and Farrington; 2023-2027): This project tracks the within-school and post-school outcomes of high school students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities taking part in the Special Olympics Unified Champion School Program. The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program promotes social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change. The within-school outcomes that this project tracks include social and emotional learning, self-determination competencies, degree of inclusion, and educational outcomes such as engagement, attendance, grades, and progress toward graduation. Post-school outcomes include employment, involvement in post-secondary education, and chosen field of study. For three to four years, the project will track over 1,200 students and alumni from a national, multiple cohort sample. The project aims to gather evidence and help determine the efficacy of the program across a wide range of schools, and to provide feedback that Special Olympics can use to improve program fidelity and quality. Funded by Special Olympics.
  • Interprofessional Core Curriculum for the IDD Workforce Pilot (Abery, Siska, Ticha; 2022-2023): This project develops and pilots a five-module curriculum designed to enhance the understanding of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) among undergraduate and graduate students in the healthcare fields. Funded by Special Olympics through St. John Fisher University.
  • Special Olympics Pediatric Screening and Assessment (Ticha and Abery): Funded by Special Olympics, and in collaboration with Special Olympics International and the Pediatric Screening Task Force, this project develops and pilots a health and development screener for Young Athletes (children ages 2-7 with or at risk for IDD) to help close the gap to ensure all children get the right level of services and supports, regardless of their disability, race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, or access to a primary care provider.
  • Evaluation of the Fidelity of MN Special Olympics Unified School Program (Abery, Ticha, and Houseworth; 2019-2020). This evaluation project determined the extent to which the Special Olympics Minnesota Unified Champion School Program (SOMN-USC) is implemented in schools with high fidelity and in a manner consistent with the overall mission and vision of the program and organization. The project assessed five aspects of program fidelity at three different levels to determine the extent to which program curriculum, training, and implementation support intended outcomes. The project led to recommendations to SOMN about implementing the USC program to improve outcomes for students with and without disabilities.
  • Determining the Critical Components of the Minnesota Special Olympics Unified Champion School Program (Abery, Ticha, and Khuu; 2021). This project builds on the previous collaboration that focused on fidelity of implementing the Minnesota Special Olympics Unified Champion School Program (SOMN-USC). This project investigates the critical components of the USC Program from the perspectives of different stakeholders, including teachers, parents, and students. The project will help identify the program's most important components to assure that the mission and vision of SO and UCS are reflected in program delivery and that students with and without disabilities, their teachers, and coaches experience USC as conceptualized.
Brian H Abery, Renata Ticha
Brian H Abery, Renata Ticha
Special Olympics Minnesota, Special Olympics North America, Special Olympics International
Special Olympics International


Brian H Abery :: Senior Research Associate


Mackenzie Farrington :: Graduate Research Assistant


James Houseworth :: Research Associate


Alec Nyce :: Research Fellow

Matthew A Roberts :: Research Coordinator

Renata Ticha :: Senior Research Associate


  • Community life
    • Friendships and social relationships
    • Recreation and leisure
    • Social inclusion
  • Specific life stage
    • Children
    • Adolescents and young adults
  • Health and safety
    • Health and wellness


  • Evaluation