Rock Climbing and Unified Sports for the Social Inclusion of Athletes with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities




Wood, Cheyenne

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Social inclusion is described as the interaction of two major life domains: interpersonal relationships and community participation. Social inclusion's well-intentioned goal is to improve the quality of life for all persons, regardless of their circumstances or social standing. Social inclusion is an important element of well-being for people, more notably for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). However, individuals with IDD continue to experience high rates of social isolation. Special Olympics aims to promote social inclusion through sport with their program Unified Sports. The Youth Unified Sports program of Special Olympics combines players with IDD (called athletes) and those without IDD (called partners) of similar skill level in the same sports teams for training and competition. Alongside the development of sporting skills, the program offers athletes a platform to socialize with peers and to take part in the life of their community. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding. This capstone project aimed to construct a Unified Sports program within an inclusive rock climbing organization to enhance the social inclusion of athletes with IDD. It is anticipated that by implementing a Unified Sports program within the sport of rock climbing, athletes with IDD can achieve social inclusion and occupational justice within a sport that has evidence of social relationship strain among climbers.



Rock climbing, Special Olympics, Athletes, IDD, Social inclusion, Occupational justice