Young Athletes

Young Athletes is an innovative sports play program for children with intellectual disabilities designed to introduce them to the world of sports prior to Special Olympics eligibility at the age of eight.  Since its inception in 1968, Special Olympics has established itself as a preeminent global organization offering sports training and competition opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities ages eight and above. Over the year, families of children too young to compete looked for avenues to join the movement. Special Olympics can now welcome these future athletes and families through Young Athletes™-a developmentally appropriate play program for children with intellectual disabilities ages two through 7.

Young Athletes introduces children with intellectual disabilities and their families to the world of Special Olympics by pursuing the following goals:

  • Engage children with intellectual disabilities through developmentally appropriate play activities designed to foster physical, cognitive, and social development;
  • Welcome family members of children with intellectual disabilities to the Special Olympics network of support;
  • Raise awareness about the abilities of children with intellectual disabilities through inclusive peer participation, demonstrations, and other events.


Young Athletes is a versatile program that can work in various learning situations. The program is designed to be simple enough for families to play with their young athletes at home in a fun atmosphere. It is also appropriate for preschools, schools, and playgroups to use with small groups of young children with and without intellectual disabilities.  The flexibility of Young Athletes ensures the opportunity to welcome families and their young children into the Special Olympics family. 

For more information on upcoming events or how to get your child, pre-school or day care involved please contact Shanna at Be a Fan of Fun!

YAP Resources

YOUNG ATHLETES PROGRAM  Download Adobe Acrobat

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