The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program is dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes, and changing the way health systems interact with people with intellectual disabilities. In addition to athlete care, Healthy Athletes also trains health care professionals who then go back to their practices with increased knowledge of and compassion for people with intellectual disabilities.
Healthy Athletes offers free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when faced with a visit to a doctor or dentist. Our impact on the health and well-being of Special Olympics athletes around the world is great, in some cases saving lives by discovering unknown health issues or providing health care that otherwise would not be available.
Special Smiles provides comprehensive oral health care information, including offering free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to Special Olympics athletes. This also includes issuing preventative supplies like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and fluoride varnish. Athletes who require follow up dental services are referred to local oral health professionals.
Healthy Hearing is an audiological screening, care, advice and referral program for our athletes. Led by volunteer professionals, Healthy Hearing provides adapted ear and hearing tests.
The Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program is a vision and eye health screening program. Led by volunteer vision care professionals, Opening Eyes offers prescription eye wear, sunglasses, and sports goggles to Special Olympics athletes.
In 2015, Special Olympics Vermont was the first Special Olympics program to pilot a Farm to Athlete initiative. As part of our ongoing commitment to improving the lives of our athletes, the Farm to Athlete program brings fresh, healthy meal options to all SOVT competition events. The goals of this program are:
To provide foods that are nutritionally rich
To decrease the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among the athlete population
To educate SOVT athletes, families, coaches, and volunteers about healthy eating habits
To support our community that so generously supports SOVT by purchasing food that is locally produced using sustainable and organic methods whenever possible
FUNFitness is the physical therapy component of Healthy Athletes designed to assess and improve an athlete’s flexibility, functional strength, aerobic capacity and balance. Athletes and their families receive a personal “fitness report card” illustrating techniques to improve flexibility, functional strength and balance, and aerobic condition for sports performance and daily activities.
Health Promotion focuses on healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition. In addition to health education activities, health Promotion offers screenings for bone density, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). Its goals include encouraging and enhancing healthy behaviors and improving self-efficacy and self-advocacy.
Are you a healthcare professional or student looking to gain experience working with people with intellectual disabilities while giving back to our community? Come volunteer for Special Olympics Healthy Athletes.
For more information about volunteer roles and training, please contact Rachel Hamm Vaughan.