An Opportunity for Sport or an Opportunity for Development: Is Special Olympics Perceived as Contributing to Psychosocial Development and Social Inclusion?
Sport is a cultural phenomenon that has spread throughout the world (Harvey & Houle, 1994). For youth, sport is perceived as a context that can play a major role in person's psychosocial development across their life-span (Danish, Petitpas, & Hale, 2007). However, despite the increase in research in this field, very little work has examined how sport may play a role in the psychosocial development of youth with intellectual disabilities (ID). Moreover, an area of study that has also grown
... as also grown related to the lived experiences of individuals living with a disability including ID is social inclusion (SI). Similar to research related to psychosocial development, very little research has been conducted to examine whether the context of sport can foster social inclusion for youth with ID. Special Olympics Canada (SOC) is an organization "dedicated to enriching the lives of Canadians with an intellectual disability through sport" (SOC, 2010, "SOC Mission Statement", para.1) and may be an organization that has the potential to positively impact the lives of its youth participants. Thus, the purpose of this research was to examine whether stakeholders perceived SO as impacting the psychosocial development and social inclusion. The results indicated that SO, by all stakeholders, is perceived as an organization that is facilitating the psychosocial development of its athletes through the incorporation of strong social support networks and the development of life skills. In addition, SO was perceived as facilitating social inclusion for youth, particularly in the context of school and their surrounding community.