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J Exerc Rehabil > Volume 11(4);2015 > Article
Kim: Special Olympics in Korea and its application as a regular curriculum in the Korean special schools for social rehabilitation


The purpose of this study was to apply Special Olympics (SO) movement and its curricula events to the social rehabilitation of the students with intellectual disabilities in Korean special school. SO is the sport organization for the people with intellectual disabilities enjoyed by the athletes more than 4.4 million in 170 countries. The role of SO has been expanded and its value was increased in effecting social change and promoting social contact between the people with intellectual disabilities and the individuals without disabilities. Many researchers proved the effects of SO program for the individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically and mentally appropriately fit to the society, therefore, those programs could be the educational resources in Korean special school.


As the number of international mega-sports events was increased the athletes and spectators get together in larger numbers. Also, the business sports commerce benefiting host nations and local community has been growing (Smith et al., 2009). Focus toward the sports events tends to be on the top of the athletes or matches. However, the other values in the variable sports events should be notified, specially related to its contributions to social change. The people interactions between the athletes, spectators, or volunteers could be a big issue reflecting the increase of social relationships. This study searches the role of sporting event in understanding Special Olympic movement and her contributing to the educational effects on the social rehabilitation of the students with intellectual disabilities. The analysis of the Special Olympics (SO) was done mainly dealing with the sports experiences to the students with intellectual disabilities to find the collaborating efforts to their social rehabilitation by participating on the SO events. Volunteers and supporters are another characteristic as an integral part of SO and more than millions of people including sponsors or donors are committed to SO programs. Coaches, event volunteers, and spectators help the athletes be the best regardless of their disabilities such as the intellectually retarded. The mission of SO is to provide round sports training and athletic competition in the kind of Olympic style sport events for the people with intellectual disabilities mainly and including people with developmental disabilities. Since 1960’s, SO has provided training and sport opportunities for the people with developmental disability (Klein et al., 1993). The potentials of children could be leaded by socialization and proper communication in their social growth. The effective role in children and teenager socialization was found in the activities of sports (Afrooz, 2001). Therefore, the transition from SO to special school environment, based sport and recreational program could be the good alternatives in the special school educational curriculum. Rosegard et al. (2001) noted the possible transition from SO to community based program which suggest the availability of transition to special school as well.


The suggestions of possible application of SO were examined by Wilhite and Kleiber (1992) that those with mild developmental disabilities could be better served through community based sport and recreation program from SO. Most of events and programs in SO are appropriately challenged for the participants with moderate to severe activity abilities (Dattilo and Schleien, 1994). Jenkins et al. (2015) recently examined the prevalence of podiatric conditions SO athletes and indicated the dedication of SO to empowering people with intellectual disabilities to be changed as physically fit and the sports training for competition in SO provided an important resource. Parents who were looking for the balance in the experiences of their children with developmental disabilities knew the participation in both SO and community programs could be a good chance for their children. For example, the skillful performers’ play roles is dominated while less skillful players are met the limiting opportunities based on physical movements, activity contexts, and their position role. The gap of skills can be a prominent factor for the children who possess less physical skills to fall further behind their peers at same age group. The community based activity programs can provide the children with disabilities who continue to gain skill and expertise (Wall, 2004). If parents and other supporters were not active in the intervention the children and adolescents with developmental disabilities the children could be lead to uninteresting and empty existence (Levy-Schiff et al., 1990), and as adults who are prone to live in home based boundary with ultimate limited physical activity and passive solitary leisure participation, few friends out of his or her family are interacting with (Jobling, 2001). The active lifestyles may be created by the balanced physical activity for the people with developmental disabilities thereby to provide community based sport event programed in the daily schedule of the individual with disability could not be neglected as same work schedules such as medical appointments or educational needs (Freedman et al., 1995). SO has been put to the empirical exam dealing with purported physical and motor performance as well as social and psychological outcomes (Castagno, 2001; Farrell et al., 2004; Porretta et al., 1992). Wehmeyer et al. (2004) emphasized creating opportunities to participate in the activities administered by self-determined manner which could lead to the well-being of children with developmental disabilities. Because SO was illustrated by the family reports of how the social integration, goal setting, self-efficacy, and motivational enhancement including self-awareness of the children with intellectually disabilities were achieved. The activity programs based on community are sometimes contrasted to SO events in the contexts which could be difficult to the children with disabilities due to the high level of skill requirements. The interesting findings were reported by Farrell et al. (2004) that self-determination theory was reflected in SO participation. SO programs often provided the proper skill expectations and the repeated instructional methods which could be more applicable as an educational program in special school than other programs.


The momentum of the movement of Special Olympics Korea (SOK) was geared up by the last winter games held in Korea because the cognitions of the Koreans toward SOK were lot changed by the great works of the people served for the games, therefore, the role of SOK and its application for the social rehabilitation for the children with intellectual disabilities could be very assistive to set up the appropriate programs for the students in the special schools specified by the population with intellectual disabilities in Korea. SO competitions are open to athletes ages 8 and up and in case of young people with intellectual disabilities the category ages 2–7 is open. SO program mainly concentrated on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth for the children engage in games and activities. Also, motor skills and coordination function could be developed by SO activities. The better social behavior and skills were evident by the parent’s notes after participating in SO training and events. The confidence boost makes it easier for them to play and talk with other children on the playground and elsewhere. A study by the Center for Social Development and Education in Boston found that the activities also had the effect of helping children with intellectual disabilities learn routines and approaches to learning, along with how to follow rules and directions. Families can also get involved with the Special Olympics experience. Family members support their athletes to the best of their ability, which may involve attending or volunteering at the events. By being involved they can boost their athlete’s self-esteem and will be looked at as a constant source of encouragement. Coaches help the athletes be the best they can be regardless of disability. Special Olympics train coaches through the Coaching Excellence program, which includes partnering with sports organizations. Special Olympics volunteers are introduced to lifetime friendships and great rewards.


SO movement includes many events that families and volunteers can get involved with, but the biggest event is the Law Enforcement Torch Run which can be exampled as a case of curricular application for the students with intellectual disabilities. In the event, many police officers including chiefs, secret service, FBI agents, military police, sheriffs, state troopers, prison guards, and other law enforcement personnel who are wearing their own uniforms participate but those individuals, specially duty related with law enforcement, are felt very friendly for the children with intellectual disabilities. The friendly feeling is a good start to begin the social rehabilitation for the children with disabilities. The social rehabilitation of the children with intellectually disabilities could be well managed by the people in Law Enforcement Torch Run. They all get together to raise awareness of community. Ahead of a Special Olympics competition, law enforcement officers carry the torch in intervals along a planned route covering most of the state or country to the site of the opening ceremonies of the chapter or Special Olympics World Summer or Winter Games. Surely, this is only one case shown in the SO event. Many researchers expressed the effects of SO and its educational values wherever reviewing the variable factors related to the information about the social relations and the possibilities to improve the sociability of the children with intellectual disabilities. In conclusion, the role of SO and its application for the sociability of the children with intellectual disabilities would be meaningful in the curriculum and the teaching methods for the student in the special schools in Korea.



No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


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