Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives by promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion between people with and without intellectual disabilities.  Through year-round sports training and athletic competition and other related programming for more than 3 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in more than 180 countries.  Special Olympics has created a model community that celebrates people’s diverse gifts.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.

To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympics-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”.

Special Olympics training and competition is open to every person with intellectual disabilities who is at least eight years of age and who registers to participate in Special Olympics. There is no maximum age limitation for participation in Special Olympics Rhode Island so long as that person completes the registration process required by the Special Olympics General Rules. Any person wishing to participate must first have a medical exam, a signed Medical Release, a signed Parent/guardian/individual Release and a signed Athlete Code of Conduct.

Application for Participation (Medical Form) (PDF, 13KB) is similar to release forms required for any other local sports program. It provides for:

  • Necessary medical information, including a health history, health insurance information and emergency contacts,
    including physician, parents or guardians.
  • It makes the athlete eligible to be covered by Special Olympics, Inc. medical insurance as a secondary policy.

The Release Form (PDF, 2.26MB) provides for:

  • Emergency medical treatment to be provided in the event that a parent or guardian cannot be reached.
  • A media release.
  • Acknowledgement of any restrictions for athletes with Down syndrome.

There is no cost to any athlete to join Special Olympics Rhode Island or to compete in any of the competitions. Costs associated with Area and State competitions are covered by Special Olympics Rhode Island.

Athletes are never charged to participate in Special Olympics Rhode Island programs. We need the financial support of families, people, businesses and companies in our communities.

  • Print and complete the necessary forms listed in the Athlete section or Form section of the SORI website.
  • Return forms to the Special Olympics Rhode Island office.
  • The Director of Programs at Special Olympics Rhode Island will assist the new athlete in locating a local training program.

One of the most important segments of Special Olympics Rhode Island is the Local Training Program. A Local Training Program is defined as any group of Special Olympics athletes and coaches taking part in sports training leading up to participation in Special Olympics competition. Local Training Programs include school-based programs, parks & recreation agencies, group homes, residential facilities, activity centers, or an independent training program. There are over 50 local training programs in Special Olympics Rhode Island.

Special Olympics Rhode Island is governed by a State Board of Directors. Special Olympics Rhode Island is accredited by Special Olympics Inc. located in Washington.

Special Olympics Rhode Island is a not-for-profit organization that is funded primarily through individual and corporate contributions.

There are many ways to help. If you have an hour or two to spare, there are a variety  of volunteer opportunities that are available. Volunteering at a local competition is a great way to involve the entire family or helping at your local training program.  Another way to help is to support one of our many fundraising events. Special Olympics relies solely on the donations received from people, organizations and corporations in our community.

Special Olympics Rhode Island offers 25 Olympic-style sports on a year-round basis.

See our calendar to find out about upcoming competitions, fundraising and Torch Run events. Events

The key to a successful experience for Special Olympics athletes lies in providing each athlete with a reasonable chance to achieve their personal best.  This is done by “divisioning,” a feature which makes Special Olympics unique among sports organizations. Athletes are divided into competition division based on gender, ability and age.

A competition division will ideally consist of a minimum of three athletes and can have no more than eight athletes. Special Olympics suggests that the variance between the highest and lowest scores within the division should not differ by more than 15%.  This 15% statement is not a rule, but should be used as a guideline for establishing equitable divisions when the number of athletes competing is appropriate. Each division is considered a unique sport heat with awards being given based upon the results of each individual heat.

Knowing and learning to play by the rules is one of the greatest benefits Special Olympics offers its athletes because:

  • Impaired does not mean incapable. Special Olympics athletes are capable of learning and competing with sports rules.
  • Challenging athletes in this manner adds to the pride and sense of accomplishment they experience. It is unfair to athletes who are properly trained and who are following the rules to compete against others who are not.
  • Some Special Olympics athletes eventually move into other sports programs (school, parks & recreation,  community leagues, etc.). They will be better prepared for the transition if learning and competing by the rules is one of the skills they take with them from Special Olympics.

Special Olympics offers training and competition to athletes with varying ability levels. Some sports offer particular opportunities for athletes who function with low ability levels.  Each local training program selects the sports they will offer. Factors that determine which sports local training programs can offered include availability of facilities, trained coaches, funds and athlete interest.

Motor Activities Training Program (MATP) provides comprehensive motor activity and recreational training for people with severe mental disabilities or multiple disabilities.

MATP places an emphasis on training and participation rather than competition.  MATP enables a participant to take part in a program appropriate to his or her age and ability. After a minimum eight-week training program, athletes participate in a training exhibition that gives each participant a chance to demonstrate his or her ability. Athletes are recognized for their accomplishments with a challenge medal.

Participants in the MATP program currently train in mobility, dexterity, striking, kicking, wheelchair activities and aquatics.

Family members who are 18 years of age or older can volunteer as coaches. Special Olympics periodically provides coaches with the opportunity to attend certification training’s in different sports so that they can learn techniques and skills in order to work with Special Olympics athletes.

Unified Sports® is a Special Olympics program that brings together people with intellectual disabilities and other non-disabled members of the community on the same sports team. Non-disabled individuals training and competing on Unified Sports® teams are called Unified Sports® Partners. Its purpose is to break down barriers that exist between persons with intellectual and their non-disabled peers.

Non-disabled siblings cannot participate as a Special Olympics athlete. HOWEVER, depending on their age and the sport they are interested in, they could participate in our Unified Sports® Program and be a Unified Partner with their Special Olympics sibling. Unified Sports® brings disabled and non-disabled athletes together on the same playing field.  Click here for more information on Unified Sports®.