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Special Olympics and Other Recreation Programs

The Special Olympics, founded by the Kennedy family in 1968, is the largest organization officially recognized by the IOC as a sports movement for mentally and physically disabled people in the United States. The philosophy of the Special Olympics is to improve our overall society through the awareness and acceptance of those with intellectual and physical disabilities.

History of the Special Olympics

In 1968, the Kennedy Foundation teamed up with the Chicago Park District and organized the first International Special Olympics Games. The Games were held on Chicago's Soldier Field, with around 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada who were classified as having intellectual disabilities. Sports included various athletics like floor hockey and swimming. In 1977, the first Special Olympics Winter Games were held in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. More than 500 athletes competed in skiing and skating disciplines. Several U.S. television stations reported about the event.

The first official Special Olympics Rule Book was published in 1984 and in 1986, the International Special Olympics was held in New York City, gaining the famous motto "Special Olympics - Uniting the World." In 1992, the organization came back to the Big Apple, celebrating its 25th birthday.

The Special Olympics Today

The 2013 Special Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea were the largest in the Olympics brief history. It saw competition from every continent as thousands of competitors took their chance at snowboarding, speed-skating, figure skating, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and several other sports.

The world class event showcased plenty of talent, as it always does, and a wide range of supporters, media and sponsors. The Special Games alternate between winter and summer games.

Similar Opportunities for Children with Disabilities

Paralympics- The idea to let people with physical disabilities participate in sports came from England. After World War II, many people had come back wounded. Many people, soldiers and civilians, had lost an arm, a leg or both. In some cases, they were paralyzed and could not walk. These war veterans decided to organize sports competitions for people with physical disabilities. In 1948, the English town of Aylesbury held the "Stoke Mandeville Games." Archery was the only sport in the beginning but the founders wanted to further the competition to an international stage. In 1960, the idea became a reality.

After the Olympic Games in Rome, the first Paralympics Games were held. 400 wheelchair athletes from 21 nations took part. Later on athletes with an amputation or a sensory disability, like the hearing or visually impaired were allowed to participate. At the 2008 Beijing games, 4,127 athletes from 148 countries competed.

Wheelchair Sports

Using a wheelchair as a means of enabling someone to play sports has been gaining momentum for the last few decades. People with physical disabilities are now able to participate in everyday sporting events just like they would if they had no physical disabilities. Here is a short list of wheelchair sports and their description:

Wheelchair curling- This sport is perfect for athletes that have disabilities affecting their lower limbs. This game is played just like regular curling is, meaning the same rocks and the same ice are used. The only difference is that the rocks are thrown from the wheelchair and sweeping is not allowed.

Wheelchair racing- Racers with spinal cord injuries, partially sighted vision or those who have cerebral palsy or amputated limbs are perfect for this type of game. Athletes will race on road and tracks to win the race.

Wheelchair rugby- Rugby rules do not apply here. In fact, all it shares with the actual game is the name. You must have some loss of function in at least three limbs to be able to play the sport. Most people that play this sport are quadriplegics.

Wheelchair tennis- Athletes who have disabilities in their lower limbs usually play this sport. Same rules apply as in regular tennis accept with some minor exceptions.

Other sports that fit into this category are wheelchair basketball, wheelchair hockey, wheelchair soccer and wheelchair football (American).

Wheelchair Safety

Some tips to remain safe while in a wheelchair include when sitting in your wheelchair, make sure you maintain a good center-of-gravity. It is also important that before practicing everyday activities, you familiarize yourself with the wheelchair in the presence of someone else before doing it alone. Always practice going up and down a ramp or slope with someone else before doing it alone. The same goes for curbs. If you have to bend, lean or reach forward, make sure you lock the wheel brakes first while maintaining a firm position. If you own a power wheelchair, never go faster than you can handle. When traveling, make sure your wheelchair is safe for travel. It should have a "transport safe" label on it. When transporting, make sure the wheelchair is tied down.

The Adaptive Sport of Hunting

What is it?
All forms of hunting.

Who can play?

Participants include individuals ages 8 to 80, with a variety of permanent physical disability impairments including: Spinal Cord Injury, Amputation, Complications from Cancer, Neuromuscular Diseases, Blindness, Stroke and other Disabling Diseases

Buckmasters American Deer Foundation (BADF) Disabled Services was established in 1993 after realizing the need for hunting opportunities among people with disabilities. An estimated 1.7 million people with severe physical handicaps enjoy hunting and shooting sports in the U.S. Some of the things that can be taken for granted by the able bodied sportsman are life-changing events for this segment of the population: learning to shoot again, being deep in the wilderness, or just witnessing animals in the wild. BADF Disabled Services knows the importance of outdoor recreation and how it can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for people with disabilities. We have developed a wide range of programs and resources for helping challenged citizens in the U.S. and Canada with their outdoor adventures

BADF Disabled Services' interest in activities extends beyond the hunting sports into; skeet shooting, sporting clay shoots, and competitive archery tournaments. Some of these activities can be inclusive, giving the disabled and able bodied a chance to participate equally in a competitive environment. When these events are established, we let our followers know through our email network.

Rules: State Regulations


The Adaptive Sport of Powerlifting

What is it?
Powerlifting is the ultimate test of upper body strength. Competitors must lower the bar to the chest, hold it motionless on the chest and then press it upwards to arms length with locked elbows. The bench press is the only discipline with 10 different categories based on body weight. The athletes are given three attempts and the winner is the athlete who lifts the highest number of kilograms.

Who can play?
Paralympic powerlifting competition is open to male and female athletes in the categories for dwarfs, amputees, spinal cord injured/wheelchair and cerebral palsy/brain injury/stroke.

Powerlifting for athletes with a disability made its first appearance in 1964 at the second Paralympic Games in Tokyo as ‘Weightlifting’. Only men with spinal injuries participated with slightly different rules than are used today. Later it changed from ‘Weightlifting’ to ‘Powerlifting’ and now the competition is open to all athletes with cerebral palsy, spinal injuries, amputees (lower limb amputees only) and les autres who meet minimal disability criteria. Women competed in this sport for the first time in Sydney in 2000.

A Class 1 athlete has severe quadriplegia (tetraplegia). Spasticity Grade 4 to 3+, with or without athetosis, or with poor functional range of movement and poor functional strength in all extremities and trunk OR the with severe athetoid with or without spasticity with poor functional strength and control. Dependent on electric wheelchair or assistance for mobility. Unable to functionally propel a wheelchair.

A Class 2 athlete has severe to moderate quadripleia (tetraplegia). Spasticity Grade 3+ to 3, with or without athetosis. Severe athetoid or tetraplegic with fair function in less affected side. Poor functional strength in all extremities and trunk but able to propel a wheelchair.

A Class 3 athlete has moderate (asymmetric or symmetric) quadriplegia or severe hemiplegia. Use of wheelchair with almost full functional strength in dominant upper extremity. Can propel a wheelchair independently.

A Class 4 athlete has moderate to severe Diplegia. Good functional strength, with minimal limitation or control problems in upper limbs and trunk.

A Class 5 athlete has symmetric or asymmetric moderate diplegia. The individual may require the use of assistive devices in walking but not necessarily when standing or throwing. A slight shift of centre of gravity leads to loss of balance.

Not available at the moment.

The Class 7 athlete is ambulatory with hemiplegia. The individual has Spasticity Grade 2 to 3 in one half of the body. They walk without assistive devices but often with a limp due to spasticity in the lower limb. Good functional ability in dominant side of the body.

The Class 8 athlete has minimally affected diplegia/hemiplegia and/or minimally affected athetosis. Spasticity Grade is 1 to 2. They are able to run and jump freely without a limp, without modifications of footwear or orthoses. They may have minimal loss of function caused by in coordination, usually seen in the hands, perhaps a slight loss of coordination in one leg or minimal shortening of the Achilles tendon.



Double or single above knee amputations.

Double or single below knee amputations.

Minimum disability is noted to included only those amputations which are through or above the ankle joint, not through the foot or toes.


Les Autres:

A motor paresis of the lower extremity.

At least a decrease in muscle strength of 20 points to include both lower limbs extremities when testing on the 0-5 scale grade system (not counting grade 1 and 2). A normal person obstains 50 points in each lower limb (total 100 points for both lower limbs). The following muscle functions shall be tested in the lower limb:

Total sum each lower limb = 50
Total sum both lower limbs = 100

Athletes who have arthrodesis of the foot in which there is either/or no inversion or eversion possible will be measured as grade 5 in muscle testing under the appropriate category of either/or inversion or eversion.

Joint mobility:
The testing to be performed with the help of goniometer (passive movements).
HIP Decrease in flexion-extension of 60 degrees or ankylosis.
KNEE Extension defect or 30 degrees or ankylosis in any position.
ANKLE Ankylosis.

Shortening of one lower limb:
At least 7 cm difference.
(Measurements to be taken from anterior superior iliac spine to medial malleolus on same side).

Back and Torso:
Severely reduced mobility of a permanent nature and/or as in scoliosis measuring over 60 degrees curve as measured by the Cobb method. X-ray proof is necessary.

The maximum height for a dwarf to meet minimum disability is 4 feet 9 inches or 145 cms. The athlete must exhibit other disabilities besides being of small stature therefore excluding a pituitary dwarf.

Note: Example of conditions not eligible for Les Autres:
Down syndrome or mongolism or persons with severely reduced mental capacity. Further persons with heart, chest, abdominal, skin, ear and eye diseases without locomotor disability.

Les Autres athletes, who despite their permanent disability, have the potential to change the degree of disability, e.g.,, MS, will be reclassified prior each competition.


Cerebral Palsy:
Cerebral Palsy is a brain lesion which is non-progressive and causes variable impairment of the co-ordination, tone and strength of muscle action with resulting inability of the person to maintain normal postures and perform normal movements.

This central motor disturbance may be associated with:
Perceptual deficits.
Visual and hearing problem.
Speech difficulties.

Eligible participants must have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy or other non-progressive brain damage with locomotor dysfunction either congenital or acquired.

If an abnormality can only be detected by a detailed neurological examination of the athlete and there is no obvious impairment of function the person is not eligible.

National Governing Body: US Paralympics

International Governing Body: - Powerlifting is governed by the IPC and co-ordinated by the IPC Powerlifting Technical Committee, founded in 1989, and in 2006, is practiced in 115 countries.



The Adaptive Sport of Fishing

What is it?
fishing 1One source estimates that there are fifty-six million people with disabilities across the country and common sense tells us the many of those disabled people probably gave up one of their favorite hobbies when they acquired a wheelchair, thinking their fishing days were over. But it doesn't have to be that way. Two great non-profit organizations are working hard to re-introduce fishing back into the lives of disabled people and to teach fishing to physically challenged individuals who never tried the sport before. The Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Wheelin Sportsman NWTF.

fishing 2Who can play?

Open/Team Competition, each disabled fisherman is paired up with an able-bodied boating partner who acts as a coach, helps to find fishing locations and with selecting the baits to use. Disabled anglers taking part in the Bank Competitions are also paired up with volunteers who assist but who cannot fish themselves.

National Governing Body:
The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society


The Adaptive Sport of Team Handball

What is it?
Team Handball is played on a regulation size high school or college basketball court with a goal of 5' 6” wide and 5' high at either end. The game is a combination of basketball and soccer, whereas most athletes throw the volleyball-sized ball at the goal, rather than kick it.

Who can play?
For persons with disabilities who require the use of adaptive devices (walkers, crutches, wheelchairs), being in good physical condition enables them to use their modified extensive devices more effectively, with less fatigue after engaging in longer activity. It is a team sport that includes highly skilled amputees and paraplegics, many of whom play wheelchair basketball or quad rugby, along with severely disabled athletes in power wheelchairs.


National Governing Body:
National Disability Sports Alliance (NDSA)
Indoor Wheelchair Soccer Management Committee (IWSMT).


The Adaptive Sport of Bowling

What is it?
bowling 1Bowling with adaptive equipment that fits an individual’s needs.

Who can play?
Anyone with a disability.

Wheelchair athletics has its roots in World War II. Before then, rehabilitation for any type of spinal cord injury was rare with fewer than one person in five surviving more than three years.

World War II, responsible for sending many thousands to veteran's hospitals as paraplegics, quadriplegics, or amputees produced an awareness that more than medicine was needed to return some semblance of normalcy to, and extend the lives of, these men.

A form of rehabilitative therapy was required that was more than just developing muscle tone from the exercise apparatus positioned above their bed. People whose body image and self-worth were devastated by their condition needed mental and physical therapy to restore a positive quality of life attitude. A difficult challenge, especially when it is realized there is no known cure for paralysis.

In this chasm, athletics for wheelchair users was born. Wheelchair racing and wheelchair basketball preceded wheelchair bowling as a form of rehabilitative therapy. All succeeded in providing physical and emotional exercise. Social contact was stimulated.

Physically, muscle tone was built, cardiovascular circulation improved, hand-eye coordination maintained, hypertension relieved and bladder and bowel functions improved. It was much more than therapy - it was competition - and it was fun!

Some wheelchair bowlers employ special equipment approved by the USBC.

  • Snap handle ball - For those who have difficulty gripping a ball, a spring-loaded, valise-like handle is installed into the ball. The handle retracts into the ball when the bowler releases his hand.
  • Bowling stick - Similar to a shuffleboard stick, it requires a volunteer to place the ball on the floor near the foul-line. The bowler then uses the stick to propel the ball down the lane.

For those severely disabled bowlers who are not able to hold a ball and propel it with their hands, a ramp like device can be used to propel the ball. After positioning the ramp, the bowler or their assistant places a ball at the top and the bowler pushes it. A very efficient device, it enables people to bowl games of 200 or better. The device was previously prohibited in AWBA tournament competition because of a rule requiring the bowler to use his/her own force or impetus for delivery of the ball. With the advent of the new Chute/Ramp Division, such bowlers are now able to compete against other Chute/Ramp bowlers on a national level.

National Governing Body:
America Wheelchair Bowling Association


Adaptive Flying

flying 1
What is it?
Soaring is the adventure into the world of silent flight. Sailplanes, or gliders, are special aircraft which have no engines. Sailplanes are towed into the sky by a regular airplane and then released for a quiet glide back to the airport or when conditions permit, sailplane pilots challenge gravity using natural currents in the air. An introductory flight generally lasts 20 minutes while an instructional flight, where pilot and student are working to gain altitude by riding rising thermal currents, may last for as long as two hours.

Who can play?
Membership is open to all applicants without regard to a person's race, age, color, religion, sex, sexual persuasion, national origin, handicap, or medical condition. Membership is renewable March 1st of each year.

National Governing Body:
Soaring Society of America


Freedom’s Wings


Motor Sports




Winter Skiing

 Posted By: Pete Benda on Jan 29, 2014 – http://www.daddiesboardshop.com/snowboards/adaptive-snowboarding-and-other-winter-sports

 Whether you were born with a disability or received it after an injury, it should never prevent you from enjoying life and the excitement of sports. Sports don't just benefit your health; those who participate on a team, or individual sports, experience better self-esteem, and when a survey was completed for those who participated in Disabled Sports USA programs, the results were astounding. Simply being a part of something may give you a better chance of staying physically active, feeling more fulfilled, socializing more, and create a more positive outlook on life. With the constant advances in technology and equipment, there are many opportunities for those with disabilities to get involved with sports, including snowboarding, skiing, sled hockey, and many more.

Adaptive Sports for Those with Disabilities

From soccer and basketball to more extreme sports, like snowboarding, skiing, and dirt biking, there is something to fit everyone's style. You don't have to climb up the cliff of a steep mountain, although it is possible, in order to enjoy adaptive sports. Some like more calming low-risk sports, while others starve for the thrill of adventure. Whether it is a risky sport or not, competing will get your blood-pumping as you attain new goals, score points, and battle for the win. One of the most popular places to compete at is The Special Olympics. Having been around for more than 40 years, it has now grown to offer over 32 individual and team sports. The joy teens and adults experience from achieving goals while doing what they love is what the Olympics is all about.

·         Special Olympics

·         Adaptive Sports Teach People With Disabilities to be Para-Athletes

·         Promoting the Participation of Children With Disabilities in Sports, Recreation, and Physical Activities

·         United States Adaptive Recreation Center

·         Special Olympics History and Specific Available Sports


There are hundreds of people on snowy mountains around the world who enjoy snowboarding, despite having a disability. As the equipment and experience improve, it continues to grow in popularity and can be done on modified equipment, but the same elements of cruising down the hill remain. In many ways, it involves more technique and strength; and you better believe pipelines, jumps, and shredders are still a piece of the fun. Snowboarding is still in the beginning stages, but is a great way to put test your limits while enjoying the outdoors.

·         Jane Gaines, 16, Pursues Paralympic Dreams at Copper Mountain Ski Resort

·         Ostler and Signal's Adaptive Snowboard

·         About Para-Snowboard

·         Everything You Need to Know About Para-Snowboarding


Adaptive skiing reaches a range of disabilities, making it possible for thousands to experience the rush of swooshing gently down a hill. Skiing is great for those looking to try new things in a safe way. With many styles and equipment, you can easily balance yourself to safely get down the hill. The first method of skiing is called four-track skiing. It works great for people with Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, or double amputees. The four skis give support and balance, but also the ability to control, maneuver and turn. Three-track skiing is usually used for those with a single amputee. Their leg is in the ski with two side skis anchored down for balance. Mon-Skiing is a sled-like chair with a single ski underneath it. The skier uses their core strength to control turning. If you enjoy gliding and working your way across snow, but aren't a big fan of soaring down hills, cross-country skiing is a great fit. Using the type of ski system that works for you, you use poles and strength to cruise above the snow.

 Adaptive Skiing Resort Guide  https://www.vouchercloud.com/resources/adaptive-skiing-resource

·         Types of Adapted Skiing

·         Alpine Skiing Success Story

·         The Health Benefits of Cross Country Skiing

·         Special Olympics and Alpine Skiing

·         Adaptations Help Keep Disabled Ski Racers Going  


 Sled Hockey

If you have never heard of sled hockey before, it might sound a little strange; the game is just as fun and competitive as hockey, but instead of skies it is played on sleds. The sled is built to hold the legs in place while the body sits in a bucket seat. Those with double-amputees will have a shorter sled, giving them quicker-shorter turns. Another big difference is the sticks. Instead of one stick, everybody has two. Both sticks have a metal pick on the heel to help propel them across the ice.

·         Valley Children's Sled Hockey Success

·         After Being Injured in Afghanistan, Josh Sweeney Finds Solace on Ice

·         All About Sled Hockey

·         The Game of Sled Hockey

·         Sled Hockey for Veterans


Additional Sports and Information

There are many sports to keep you entertained and in shape every season of the year. Whether it is in an indoor gym or outside on the street, wheelchair basketball is a fun way to enjoy your favorite game while getting cardio exercise. In the summer, make a splash with adaptive water-skiing, wakeboarding, sailing, or jet skiing. If you enjoy extreme sports like snowboarding, then you might want to try your hand at dirt biking or four wheeling. With a little research, you can find organizations, classes, and teams in your area so you can get involved in the game you love.

·         Disabled Sailing

·         Powerchair Soccer

·         Hand Cycling- Learn to Race

·         Wounded Aiken Veteran Finds Peace in Bike Ride




Water Skiing



Mountain Biking


Table Tennis




Therapeutic Horsemanship 

GallopNYC uses therapeutic horsemanship to  help riders walk, talk, connect, focus, behave and learn, inspiring each one to live life as fully, productively and independently as possible. GallopNYC serves 250 riders every week at three NYC locations.  

Alicia Kershaw, ED
540 President St. 3rd Floor
Brooklyn NY 11215
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
917 602 1733

See GallopNYC On the Giving Library:


You Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Viskt3LRQ
             http://youtu.be/_MylckQ2UO4  (cablevision) 
Stay-Focused - Brief History

Stay-Focused is a nonprofit organization that enables teens with physical disabilities to become certified SCUBA divers, while focusing on leadership development.  Roger Muller, Founder/President, started the organization in 2003, inspired by his older brother, Bobby, a Marine Corps combat veteran with a condition known as paraplegia – the result of a spinal cord injury sustained in Vietnam.  Roger and Bobby went diving together in 2000 in Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), and when Roger witnessed how much his brother enjoyed being in the water and (out of his wheelchair), he decided he would create an organization that would provide teens with disabilities the opportunity to have the same experience. 

To date, Stay-Focused has certified in diving 86 teens and young adults with disabilities.  Increased confidence, the motivation to try new things, and a desire to set higher goals are among the most notable outcomes.

Stay-Focused Program/Adaptive Sports

“Water is the great equalizer,” and SCUBA diving enables our divers to feel like everyone else who is enjoying the sport. The warm water is beneficial for anyone with paralysis, and the full range of motion offers relaxation and circulatory benefits.

Participants in Stay-Focused programs need to be able to travel independently, and should be comfortable in the water.  All participants must have a medical doctor clear them to dive.  Stay-Focused divers have medical conditions including, but not limited to:  amputations, cerebral palsy, epiphyseal dysplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, polio, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, and transverse myelitis.

Participants for the programs, often recommended by medical doctors, coaches, and Stay-Focused alumni, are selected in the February/March time frame.  Academic preparation is completed online using the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) eLearning program, before traveling to Cayman.  First-time diver programs take place in Grand Cayman in the July/August time frame.  At the end of the week-long program, participants receive their SCUBA Diver certification card, which enables them to dive anywhere in the world with an Instructor or Divemaster.

First-time Diver Program

The first-time diver program is a seven-day program, which includes both academic and experiential components.  Typically, there are six, first-time divers, along with the Founder of Stay-Focused, the Program Director, a medical doctor, a coach, a Stay-Focused mentor, and an able-bodied Caymanian intern.

An important part of the Stay-Focused curriculum is leadership development, as exemplified by Stay-Focused mentors, who are actively involved in all Stay-Focused programs.  On the first day of the program, participants create a “Responsibility Code,” which is a code of conduct they all agree to adhere to throughout the week.

An academic review session and confined-water (pool) skills take place during the first two full days of the program.  Then, on Days 3 – 5, participants complete their open-water dives.  During the week, participants work on their “Legacy Logs,” which are visual depictions of what their Stay-Focused experience has meant to them.  Each participant presents his or her Legacy Log to the whole team on the last evening of the program.

Activities during the week include a classroom session about marine life and coral reefs by the Ambassadors of the Environment Program, parasailing, and a visit to the Cayman Turtle Farm.  At the end of the week, participants work on an exercise called “DIVER,” assigning words to each letter in the acronym, and set goals for themselves that are realistic, achievable, and measurable.

Reunion Program

All Stay-Focused divers are invited to return to Cayman the summer following their first program, to participate in their reunion program.  The six-day reunion program gives divers the opportunity to refresh their diving skills and revisit lessons learned from their first program.  Stay-Focused mentors continue to provide support both in and out of the water, and facilitate team-building activities.  Reunion programs are more relaxed than first-time diver programs, as participants are a year older and have gained confidence, not only as divers, but in themselves.  Again, at the end of the program, participants set goals for the coming year, and are encouraged to leverage their Stay-Focused experience in achieving them.

For information about Stay-Focused, please visit the Stay-Focused website (www.stay-focused.org).  Stay-Focused is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 17:11