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The first Special Olympics were held in Chicago in 1968 by its founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver the sister of former American president John F Kennedy. Today there are over 3.1 million athletes worldwide benefiting from this life changing charity.


Some people think that Special Olympics involves just a few days of games once or twice a year. In reality, the training never stops and is as important as the competition itself. Special Olympics Isle of Man  offers a lifetime of learning through sport and benefits individuals of all ages and ability levels, from those with low motor abilities to highly skilled athletes.

Who We Are


Founded in 1985 Special Olympics Isle of Man is part of the Special Olympics family with over 170 countries helping men, women and children with intellectual disabilities through sport, making Special Olympics the largest sporting organisation in the world.


Special Olympics Isle of Man provides year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with an intellectual disability.

Through sport, we give athletes the opportunity to get fit, develop skills, make friends and be part of a community.

People with an intellectual disability are often misunderstood or ignored, yet when they are given a fair chance they can, and do, participate as valuable members of the community.


Special Olympics provides sport for all people with an intellectual disability, regardless of their skill level. We cater for athletes who just want to participate right up to elite athletes who want to compete on a world stage. And with local, national and international competition we give them plenty of opportunities to do their best.


Special Olympics is not the same as the Paralympics

Many people confuse Special Olympics with the Paralympics, but we are in fact very different.


Special Olympics is only for people with an intellectual disability. The Paralympics is mainly for athletes with physical disabilities.

Special Olympics welcomes all participants regardless of their skill level. The Paralympics is for elite athletes only.

Special Olympics provides year-round training and competition and we give athletes the chance to compete at local, regional, state, national and international competition. The Paralympics holds one international competition every four years.

Special Olympics is the only organisation allowed by the International Olympic Committee to use the word "Olympics".


We're also different from other Sports Organisations

Special Olympics differs from many sports organisations in a few ways:


Special Olympics offers a variety of sports.

During competition athletes are grouped by ability to provide fair  competition.

This is called divisioning.

During competition all athletes receive an award to recognise their achievement.

Athletes advance to higher levels of competition based on participation and achievement, not the fastest times or best results.


What is Intellectual Disability?

Someone with an intellectual disability can find it hard to do things that other people do everyday, like reading or handling money. It doesn't mean that they can't do them, it just means it might take a little longer for them to learn.


How common is it?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), three percent of the world's population have an intellectual disability. That's as many as 190 million people - making this the largest disability group in the world.


Are people with an intellectual disability all the same?
No! Intellectual disability can occur in any family despite their race, level of education and economic background.

Intellectual disability also ranges from mild to profound.

A person with a profound disability may be unable to learn basic skills, like speaking and walking, and probably needs a lot of care.

A person with a mild disability can probably do most things but they may just take longer to master them..and they may look similar to you. More than three quarters of people with an intellectual disability fall into this category.


Why should I care about people with an intellectual disability?

They work, have kids, vote, drive, play sport and have friends. They are valuable members of your community and they have dreams and goals just like you. But they need some support to be able to achieve these things.