Krystn Orr

Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Toronto
PhD Candidate
University of Toronto
YOUTH PERSPECTIVES OF THEIR UNIFIED SPORTS PROGRAMS. Sport enrollment is often lower among individuals with disabilities. Unified Sports, a global movement by Special Olympics to spread an ‘inclusive’ sporting opportunity, is meant to be recreational and fun for athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. In May 2019, 2500 Special Olympics athletes from Unified Sports and ‘traditional’ (disability only) teams participated in the inaugural Invitational Youth Games. The ‘Games’ afforded the opportunity to evaluate the experiences of youth in traditional and Unified Sports programs internationally: specifically, how may gender, age, disability status, and sport type impact the experiential components of participation (i.e., autonomy, belonging, engagement, challenge, mastery, and meaning). Using survey data from 498 athletes (155 women/girls; 342 men/boys; 1 unspecified) and 38 interviews, we present a cross-sectional perspective of quality participation experiences and the meaning of inclusion for those who participated in Unified Sports. Preliminarily, we note the differing roles athletes with and without disabilities perceive for themselves in Unified Sports; coaches’ perspectives of what constitutes an ‘inclusive’ experience; and, the similarity in perceived quality experiences across sports. This work highlights the positive quality experiences athletes express regardless of sport type and the need for further education around inclusivity – where inclusion means much more than mere presence.
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