Nadja, Adam, and Megan Smile at the Beginning of the 2019 Inclusive Health Grantees Workshop at Special Olympics Headquarters
Our Story
Special Olympics, founded in 1968, is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Health, launched in 1997, focuses on the health of our athletes and applying lessons learned from our work to help improve the health of all people with intellectual disabilities. Since its creation in 1997, the Special Olympics Health program has made life-changing and life-saving strides in health. Despite the success of the health program, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) remain one of the most medically under-served groups in the world.

They are frequently locked out of most aspects of health systems and face significant health disparities. To improve the health outcomes for all people with ID and not just their athletes, in 2016 Special Olympics introduced a strategy: Inclusive Health. Building on the foundation of its health programming, Special Olympics aims to ensure that the inclusion of people with ID in mainstream health systems becomes common practice.

What is ID?
Intellectual disability (or ID) is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills. These limitations can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly or differently than a typically developing child. ID can happen any time before a child turns 18 years old, even before birth.

Intellectual disability is the most common developmental disability.
Our Expert Panel
  • It is with great excitement that we announce the formation of our inaugural Expert Panel. This Panel was established to complement the expertise of the Special Olympics Health Team and is made up of a wide range of individuals who are respected leaders in their in their areas of expertise.

    Adriane Griffen, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, Senior Director, Public Health & Leadership, AUCD
    Alice Lenihan, MPH, RD, LDN, Global Clinical Advisor, Special Olympics
    Allison Hoit, MA, CHES, Senior Project Coordinator, Lakeshore Foundation
    Amy Rauworth, MS, Director, Policy and Public Affairs, Lakeshore Foundation
    Benjamin Swarts, Founder and Executive Director, Thrive Mighty
    Deirdra Murphy, PT, DPT, MHA, MS, Associate Dean, University of Massachusetts Lowell
    Dianne Cooney Miner, PhD, RN, FAAN, Founding Dean and Professor, Inaugural Director Golisano Institute for Developmental Disabilities Nursing, St. John Fisher College
    Elaine Eisenbaum, MSW, PhD, Senior Universal Design Consultant, Special Olympics
    Emily Lauer, MPH, Director, CDDER, E.K. Shriver Center, University of Massachusetts Medical School
    Gloria Krahn, PhD, MPH, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Oregon State University
    Heidi Simon, Deputy Director, America Walks
    Holly Tabor, PhD, Associate Director, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics
    Janet Shouse, Program Coordinator, IDD Toolkit, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
    Jeanne Blankenship, MS, RDN, Vice President, Policy Initiatives and Advocacy, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
    Joshua Pedersen, 211 Director, Network Operations & Performance, United Way
    Katie Williams, Athlete Health Messenger, Special Olympics Kentucky
    Kathy Chichester, National CATCH Coordinator, FlagHouse
    Laura Fasano, Vice President for Healthy Living, YMCA of Greater Rochester
    Laurence Taggart, PhD, Reader, Ulster University
    Lindsay Naeder, MSW, Director, Autism Speaks
    Lindsey Catherine Mullis, MS. Inclusive Health & Wellness Director, University of Kentucky Human Development Institute
    Mary Pittaway, MA, LD, RDN, Global Clinical Advisor, Special Olympics
    Marykate Bergen, Director of Health Innovation, Hockomock Area YMCA
    Morgan Turner, Athlete Health Messenger, Special Olympics Kentucky
    Nancy Mercer, LCSW, CEO, Inclusion Consultants
    Parthy Dinora, PhD, Associate Director, Virginia’s UCEDD-Partnership for People with Disabilities
    Priya Chandan, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville School of Medicine
    Rachel Patterson, MPA, Senior Director, Government Relations & Advocacy, Epilepsy Foundation
    Renee Manfredi, Sergeant Shriver International Global Health Messenger, Special Olympics Hawai’i
    Rick Rader, MD, Director, Morton J. Kent Habilitation Center
    Roy McConkey, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Developmental Disabilities, Ulster University
    Sara Lyons, MPH, CHES, Program Analyst, Health and Disability, National Association of County Health Officials
    Susan Havercamp, PhD, Associate Professor, The Ohio State University
    Terri Wiggins, MS, Vice President Patient Engagement, American Heart Association
    Tom Quade, MA, MPH, Health Commissioner, Geauga County Health Department