Special Olympics New Jersey

Mission & Philosophy

Our Mission

To provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

Our Philosophy

Special Olympics is founded on the belief that people with intellectual disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, adapted as necessary to meet the needs of those with special intellectual and physical limitations.

Special Olympics believes that consistent training is indispensable to the development of sports skills, and that competition among those of equal abilities is the most appropriate means of testing these skills, measuring progress and providing incentives for personal growth.

Special Olympics believes that through sports training and competition, people with intellectual disabilities are benefited physically, mentally, socially and spiritually; families are strengthened, and the community at large, both through participation and observation, is united in understanding with intellectual disabilities in an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.

Genuine Jersey Pride

Genuine Jersey Pride defines Special Olympics New Jersey and celebrates the impact we have on all who participate as well as those privileged to witness the magic every time an athlete with an intellectual disability takes the field, scores a goal, achieves a personal best time, or simply experiences the joy of participation. Learn More.

What is an intellectual disability?

Special Olympics uses the definition of intellectual disabilities/mental retardation provided by the World Health Organization (WHO); the United Nations’ specialized agency for health. According to the WHO, intellectual disability is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of the mind characterized by impairment of skills and overall intelligence in areas such as cognition, language, and motor and social abilities. Intellectual disability can occur with or without any other physical or mental disorders. Although reduced level of intellectual functioning is the characteristic feature of this disorder, the diagnosis is made only if it is associated with a diminished ability to adapt to the daily demands of the normal social environment.

A person is considered to have an intellectual disability for purposes of determining his or her eligibility to participate in Special Olympics if that person satisfies any one of the following requirements:

  • The person has been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability as determined by their localities; or
  • The person has a cognitive delay, as determined by standardized measures such as intelligent quotient or “IQ” testing or other measures that are generally accepted within the professional community in that Accredited Program’s nation as being a reliable measurement of the existence of a cognitive delay; or
  • The person has a closely related developmental disability. A “closely related developmental disability” means having functional limitations in both general learning (such as IQ) and in adaptive skills (such as in recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care). However, persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical, behavioral, or emotional disability, or a specific learning or sensory disability, are not eligible to participate as Special Olympics athletes, but may be eligible to volunteer for Special Olympics as partners in Unified SportsĀ®, if they otherwise meet the separate eligibility requirements for participation in Unified Sports set forth in the Sports Rules.