Athlete Eligibility


General Statement of Eligibility

Persons with an intellectual disability are eligible to participate in Special Olympics.

Generally accepted criteria for identifying persons with intellectual disabilities in Canada

A person is considered to have an intellectual disability if that person satisfies all of the following requirements:

  1. Typically an IQ score of approximately 70 or below;
  2. Deficits in the general mental abilities which limit and restrict participation and performance in one or more aspects of daily life such as communication, social participation, functioning at school or work, or personal independence, and;
  3. Onset during the developmental period (before the age of 18 years).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 2000) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and the manual is typically used by professionals in Canada who make development diagnoses.

General Practices

  1. Do coaches/ staff require proof that a person has an intellectual disability?

    Special Olympics in Canada has an inclusive approach and does not ask for medical documentation to be eligible for participation in a program. If the person has an intellectual disability then he/she is eligible to participate in Special Olympics.

  2. What happens when a caregiver/adult does not know if their child has an intellectual disability?

    It is recommended that parents/caregivers be invited to observe a program to see if the child/adult fits in. If parents feel that their child/adult can participate in the program and has an intellectual disability, then he/she can participate until the assessment has been completed.

  3. If there are athletes in the programs who may not have an IQ below 70, what should a coach/staff do?

    Those athletes who are enrolled in Special Olympics programs in Canada who have an IQ above 70 are eligible to continue participating in Special Olympics.

  4. What diagnoses are associated with intellectual disabilities?

    Down Syndrome and Fragile X Syndrome are the most common forms of intellectual disabilities. Only some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome will also have an intellectual disability. Typically, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without hyperactivity), a mental illness, Tourette Syndrome and Conduct Disorder are not assoicated with intellectual disabilities.