"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
Special Olympics Oath.
Healthy Athletes Programs:

Opening Eyes
Special Smiles
Health Promotion

The key objectives of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes are:
To improve access and health care for Special Olympics athletes at event-based health screening clinics;
To train and educate health care professionals and students in the health professions about the special needs of, how to communicate with, and care for people with intellectual disabilities;
To collect and analyze data and communicate about the health conditions and needs of people with intellectual disabilities; and
To raise public and professional awareness of the health care problems that Special Olympics athletes face.

There are many different components that are offered as part of the Healthy Athletes program. They are the following:

Special Olympics – Lions Club International Opening Eyes Program – an extensive vision care program brought to the international arena by generous donation from the Lions Club International Foundation.

Not only has Opening Eyes provided direct clinical care to athletes, training for optometrists and ophthalmologists on the most effective evaluation and treatment procedures for people with intellectual disabilities, but it also has changed attitudes. A study has shown that many professionals do not provide quality vision care to people with intellectual disabilities out of fear, lack of information or from strong negative misconceptions about what people with intellectual disabilities can achieve. This study also demonstrated that health care professionals’ participation in the Healthy Athletes initiative changes attitudes and creates a more realistic and positive view of the capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

Opening Eyes will help people with intellectual disabilities to see and perform better whether at athletic competitions, at school, on the job or in their daily living activities.

The Special Olympics Opening Eyes program conducts comprehensive vision screenings, which includes 15 different vision and eye health tests, a refraction for those failing the screening, and free prescription eye glasses and protective sports eye wear as indicated.

Opening Eyes Clinical Director
Wes DeRosier
Northeastern State University College of Optometry
1001 N. Grand Ave.
Tahlequah, OK 74464
(918)456-5511 x 4000

Special Olympics Special Smiles – a dental screening designed to provide athletes with oral hygiene education, nutrition education and free protective mouth guards for those athletes who compete in sports that may require such protection.

There is an overwhelming occurrence of poor dental health among people with intellectual disabilities. According to data collected from 9,000 Special Olympics athletes in 2001, 30 percent of athletes had visible tooth decay, 30 percent were missing one or more permanent teeth, 44 percent showed obvious signs of gingival infection and 4 percent had no natural teeth left in their mouth. (Information from Special Olympics World Games research.)

Families and caregivers recognize the importance of maintaining good oral health; however, the reality is that many individuals with intellectual disabilities go without daily oral hygiene care simply because it is too difficult to get the necessary compliance. This makes the access to reliable dental care even more essential.

The Special Olympics Special Smiles program offers dental screenings, health education, preventative services and identifies potential sources of treatment and follow-up care from community based dentists and educational institutions.

Special Smiles Clinical Director
Kevin Haney
University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry
P.O. Box 26901
Oklahoma City, OK 73190

Special Olympics Health Promotion – an initiative designed to improve the overall image and health status of the Special Olympics athlete. Using interactive educational tools and distributing motivational information, the program encourages athletes to improve their nutrition, stay physically active and modify lifestyles to lower disease risk.

Health Promotion strives to heighten awareness and reinforce the health education athletes require to improve and maintain an enhanced level of wellness and self care. Athletes are offered body mass index (BMI) measurements, guides for healthy eating and lifestyle choices, fun ways to increase physical fitness, as well as information about tobacco avoidance, sun safety and skin care.

There have been data and increasing awareness of the decline in physical activity and the increase in obesity in America and many other countries. Health screenings conducted during the 1999 and 2001 World Special Olympics Games showed that many of the athletes were overweight or obese. These trends are directly linked with higher rates of diabetes and heart disease. Surveys of Special Olympics coaches (from all over the world) report a consensus that the athletes are in need of fitness training above and beyond what they receive during their sports practices.

Health Promotion Objectives:
To improve long-term health outcomes for Special Olympics athletes by giving them the information, encouragement, and facilities they need to sustain physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices.

To improve the quality of life and self-image of athletes.

To provide the athletes the means by which they can work to better their own health and wellbeing.

To allow more people with intellectual disabilities to participate in Special Olympics and to retain those athletes who are currently active.

Health Promotion Clinical Director
Dr. Chris Glendenning
Oklahoma State University
11513 S. Mulberry Ct.
Jenks Oklahoma 74037

If you would like more information on sponsoring this program, contact
at 918-481-1234.

Donate Now
Created by the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Authorized and Accredited by Special Olympics, Inc., for the Benefit of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.  © 2009 Special Olympics Oklahoma    Contact:  918-481-1234
Questions or Suggestions: email
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