Although society has made great strides, there still are many myths and misconceptions about intellectual disabilities. As a media professional, you are in a unique position to shape public knowledge. We need your help! The guidelines presented here offer suggestions for appropriate descriptions and preferred terminology when reporting about Special Olympics.
Special Olympics is for people with intellectual disabilities. Some Special Olympics athletes also may have physical handicaps, but the criterion for participation is intellectual disabilities. We prefer “people first” language. Therefore, instead of saying “Special Olympics is for mentally and physically handicapped persons” we say “Special Olympics is for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.”
- Emphasize the person and not the disability. Please say “persons with intellectual disabilities”, rather than “intellectually disabled people”.
- Special Olympics athletes are children and adults. Please do not refer to Special Olympics athletes as “kids”. This perpetuates the myth that all persons with intellectual disabilities are child-like. Special Olympics is for children and adults. Special Olympics Montana athletes range from ages 8-86.
- Special Olympics Montana is a year-round program, not an annual event. We offer local, area and State-level competitions each year. Please refer to a specific event as “the Special Olympics Montana State Winter Games”. When referring to the overall program, say “Special Olympics Montana”.
- Special Olympics athletes, not “Special Olympians”. We prefer that you use the term “Special Olympics athletes.”
- Special Olympics Montana Games are “real” sports competition. Special Olympics Montana adheres to National Governing Body Rules for all competitions. Athletes and teams train for a minimum of 8 weeks before participating in local, area or State-level competition.