Families

Special Olympics was created to help people with intellectual disabilities through sports, but we also want to be a resource for their families as well. Here you will find a list of Frequently Asked Questions, resources compiled by your fellow SOMO families, a list of our Family Ambassadors across the state and much more. If you have questions about anything on this page, reach out to us!

"As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us."

- Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics

A common misconception of Special Olympics programming is that we just offer sports for people with intellectual disabilities; we're here to show you that we're so much more than just sports and for people of all ages.

0-2 years old

Resources for families at the Training for Life Campus and here online.

2-7 years old

Young Athletes opportunities at the Training for Life Campus and in each area throughout the year.

8+ years old

Additional opportunities for 16+ years old

 

Q: How do I sign up my child/adult for Special Olympics?
A: All athletes are required to complete a physical (signed by doctor), a release form and a COVID Risk Acknowledgement Form before they begin any Special Olympics activity. It is important that all paperwork be complete and legible before submitting. If paperwork is not complete or legible, it could delay your athlete’s involvement. Physicals are valid for three years from the date of the physician’s signature. Parents/adult athletes must sign the Application form and the release so be sure to look for those signature lines.

Q: What are the ages to participate in Special Olympics?
A: Special Olympics begins at the age of eight. You never age out of Special Olympics! Children ages 2-7 can participate in the Young Athletes program. Once they turn 8 years of age, they can compete.

Q: What are the qualifications/requirements to participate as an athlete in Special Olympics?
A: A person must be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following:
• Intellectual disability
• Closely related development disability, which means having functional limitations in both general learning and in adaptive skills such as recreation, work, independent living, self-direction or self-care.

Q: Are there any opportunities for my child to be involved if they are under the age of eight?
A: Yes, children ages 2-7 can participate in the Young Athletes program

Q: What is the cost?
A: There is no cost to sign up for Special Olympics. Teams do fundraise to cover the cost of their uniforms, travel, sports equipment and to attend state games.

Q: As a family member/sibling of an athlete, how can I get involved?
A: Families are the heart of our organization. Family members can volunteer in many ways. You can become a coach, unified partner, fundraiser, team chaperone, help at practices or as a day of event volunteer at a competition. The opportunities are endless. We suggest you visit with your local coach and/or your area program staff to find the right fit for your talents and time. You may be required to complete additional forms/training for your volunteer role. Be sure to ask what forms you will need to complete.

Q: Am I required to attend practices?
A: You should visit with your team coach to understand the roles and responsibilities family members and athletes have within your local team. It is important to understand that athletes are required to attend practices/trainings or they may not be allowed to attend competitions.

Q: Does Special Olympics have other opportunities besides sports?
A: Special Olympics is more than just sports. We offer health and wellness programs and Athlete Leadership Programs.
(this may also be a good place to link the Total Athlete Programming Map?)

Q: What sports does SOMO offer?
A: Special Olympics Missouri offers 16 sports for individuals to practice and compete in, each of which are grouped in competition divisions according to ability level, age and gender. (link to sports page)

Q: How do I know what area I am located or local SOMO staff?
A: You can locate your area/local SOMO staff by looking at this page.

Q: What events do you have coming up and how can I stay informed?
A: Events are posted in on our calendar page. We recommend you join our statewide eNews mailing list.

Q: Do you offer free health screenings?
A: Free health screenings are offered through our Healthy Athletes Program. Screenings are offered at State Events and at some area events. Screenings are offered for Special Smiles, Opening Eyes, Fun Fitness, Healthy Hearing, Fit Feet, Health Promotion, and MedFest. 

Family Ambassadors are volunteer families who have agreed to represent families from their areas and serve on a committee to make Special Olympics Missouri better for all. You can meet the Family Ambassadors below! Interested in becoming a Family Ambassador? Let us know!

Central Area -- The Wallace Family
Central Area -- The Hudlow Family
KC Metro Area -- The Raines Family

What have YOU learned most from your Special Olympics experience?
No matter what your expertise is, there is a place for you in Special Olympics - lol - yes, even for parents/caregivers. You just have to get involved.

What is your favorite SOMO memory?
There have been so many, I don't think I could pick just one!

Why is it important to you to be a Family Ambassador?
When we started in Special Olympics, many on our team didn't have any family members close by. We became a family doing things like babysitting (when needed), picking up other athletes when parents are able to, even watching pets so families could take a weekend trip. Now that our athletes are older, we get together for social time for them. I would like to see that happen with all our teams.

What advice would you give other SOMO families?
Get involved with your athlete's team. Special Olympics isn't just for the athlete. It is a great networking group for parents/caregivers. If you run into problems with your athlete whether be in school, medical or transitioning out of school, someone has probably been through the same or similar situation and can give advice.

Contact the Raines family

North Area -- The Niemeyer Family

What have YOU learned most from SO experience?
We have learned most from our experience is that Special Olympics promotes learning, inclusion, awareness and personal development for every person who engages in it; not only the athlete, but also families, siblings, coaches, fans, volunteers, unified partners, etc. It is an amazing experience is every way!

What is your favorite SOMO memory?
We have so many amazing memories, this is a really difficult question! One of Jared’s very first Special Olympics experiences occurred when he was 9 years old. When he was placed on the riser for his medal, he threw his arms in the air in pure delight! The look of joy on his face was priceless – he was so proud of what he’d learned, worked for and accomplished!

We have to also admit that speaking at the United Nations (in 2014 and 2019) to represent Special Olympics and the power of inclusion was truly remarkable. These are the opportunities that Special Olympics creates for our children – sport, awareness, inclusion, leadership, empowerment and self advocacy so they become the leaders that bring awareness to the world of all they can accomplish in their homes, communities, states and nations! Special Olympics promotes growth so they can achieve their potential! Jared also had the incredible opportunity to be a guest at the White house, in 2014 during the Obama administration, as a Special Olympic Unified Generation representative to share how Special Olympics had promoted inclusion and empowerment for him!

Jared has had the privilege of also getting to compete in two National Games competitions. In Lincoln Nebraska on the Track and Field team in 2010. Then in New Jersey on the Flag Football team in 2014. These events are remarkable in every way. If your athlete has the privilege of competing, I hope you get the opportunity to attend to cheer on your athlete and his Missouri Magic teammates – it is a life changing experience!

I must add that in working with my high school students, I am a high school counselor, I have seen amazing personal growth and development among our Special Olympics athletes! They learn more about themselves, develop skills through experiences they perhaps would not have had without their engagement in Special Olympics. These opportunities allow SOMO athletes to expand their experience, personal perspective, understanding of what they are capable, self-concept, self-esteem and identity! This is exactly our goal for every young person – that their experiences shape who they are, sense of what they are capable of, grows identity, awareness of the world they live in and responsibility/meaning in how they live their life. They learn they have a voice and recognize the value of that voice in making their world a better place! I’ve seen many student’s life transformed by what they have learned through Special Olympics about themselves and their role/responsibility to the world they live in!

Why is it important to us to be Family Ambassadors?
We know how unsure we were about Special Olympics, especially after fighting so hard for inclusive education, youth engagement and community living opportunities. We were greatly concerned about losing sight of those gains made; therefore were reluctant to step into a disability focused arena – I was so very wrong! I want to encourage other families about the reality of Special Olympics rather than our perceptions of what Special Olympics is.

Our children need advocates and coaches in their life that encourage, promote growth, challenge them in skill building in every aspect of their life. This desire has lead us to become coaches because nurturing, encouraging, challenging, helping each athlete to recognize their abilities and all they can do and have to offer their communities – is what motivates us! Helping athletes build skills, growing personally, changing perspectives of possibility through opportunity and making change by promoting awareness among their families and community makes our world a better place! We make a powerful impact on the world we live in when we begin to realize the potential in ourselves!

Advice?
Allow your child OPPORTUNITY to grow to become the best they can be. YOU alone are not responsible for all they can become, Special Olympics can help!

For example, Special Olympics is …

FUN for building relationships – when it reality it can be difficult for any child to learn to navigate relationships; Special Olympics is a safe place for our children to experience and learn these skills. This simply fun promotes healthy self-concepts and understanding of interacting with others.

EXPLORATION is how they learn about what their capabilities, focusing on abilities and how to strengthen skills through opportunity and challenge is SOMO’s method for growth, I believe! Special Olympics promotes learning in individual skill, working with others, caring for others, team mentality, personal development, how to handle difficult issues, problem solving skills, leadership and challenging to be the best one can be! They lead by example in every way!

GROWTH can be inspiring and even feel overwhelming, but accomplishment is so very rewarding! Like the very young Jared that threw his arms in the air feeling such a sense of accomplishment!

IDENTITY is to truly learn who you are and solidify the values that are important to us. Special Olympics promotes that sense of self, focusing on ability while learning to come to terms with recognizing weaknesses and expanding strengths. Coaches assist athletes in recognizing their potential, challenging negative concepts while focusing on ABILITY and how to become the best person they can become individually, as an athlete, family member, employee, community member, and citizen!

EMPOWERMENT evolves due to a sense of identity, positive self-concept, and responsibility for making their world a better place.
SELF-ADVOCACY is when they value their voice and want to lead others in recognizing their full potential also. Advocacy promotes a desire to increase awareness – again impacting themselves, their family, employer and fellow employees and their community.

Simply put, OPPORTUNITY promotes understanding of ourselves and allows us to powerfully impact the world around us! Our hope is that every child with a disability will have the opportunity to experience the positive growth they can achieve as they accept the next challenge!

Contact the Niemeyer family

Southeast Area -- TBD

Interested in becoming a Family Ambassador for the Southeast Area? Let us know!

Southwest Area -- The Thompson Family

What have YOU learned most from your Special Olympics experience?
Really the most important thing we’ve learned is there are so many obstacles that you accomplish with hard work!

What is your favorite SOMO memory?
When Brianna won her first gold medal in swimming at MU! She was so excited and it was our first experience with Special Olympics!

Why is it important to you to be a Family Ambassador?
To get more children in the rural areas more involved.

What advice would you give other SOMO families?
I was that mom that always said I would never put Brianna in Special Olympics but when a friend finally talked me into swimming we were immediately hooked! So, it doesn’t hurt to try new things. The people you will meet will inspire you. I promise!

Contact the Thompson family

Southwest Area -- The Payton Family
St. Louis Metro Area -- The Roth Family
St. Louis Metro Area -- The Sears Family

What have YOU learned most from your Special Olympics experience?
Teams mean more than just athletes, we have teams of parents, teams of family, teams of friends, teams of coaches, teams of new people but we all have a great time with each other.

What is your favorite SOMO memory?
USA Games 2018 in Seattle watching Team Missouri enter the area carrying the Missouri Sign every athlete in awe wearing HUGE smiles representing MO. Each of them worked so hard to be there and showed the world what inclusion looks like.

Why is it important to you to be a Family Ambassador?
I believe being involved and helping others accomplish things that they may not of know they could.

What advice would you give other SOMO families?
Do not be afraid to ask anything and have fun

Contact the Sears family

Coming soon!