At its core, the Unified Schools strategy is not just about including students with disabilities, but unifying all students; moving from adult-led programming to student-led mobilization and action; and transitioning from sports as recreation to sports as a catalyst for social inclusion and change.
What is a Unified Champion School?
Unified Champion Schools promote a school climate that:
- is free from bullying and exclusion,
- combats stereotypes and negative attitudes,
- eliminates hurtful language,
- promotes healthy activity and interactions, and
- is welcoming and values the engagement of all students.
It is not intended for students to simply be recipients of programming, but rather be architects of lasting change and community building, where adults serve as allies to youth, rather than managers of youth. In fact, a central tenet of the Unified Champion Schools strategy is inclusive, intergenerational leadership, where shared goals and work are owned collectively by both youth and adults.
Unified Young Athletes
Special Olympics Young Athletes™ is a unique sport and play program for children with and without intellectual disabilities to learn and play together. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Children ages 2 to 7 enjoy games and activities that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
UHSAA Unified Sports
For high school students, offered in both soccer and track & field. Your school can participate in either or both of these sports. Athletes (with intellectual disabilities) and Unified Partners (without intellectual disabilities) train, practice, and compete together in a regular season of soccer or track. All schools then qualify to compete in the state championship and the opportunity to bring back the State Unified Championship trophy and honor to their school. Both sports are co-ed and occur in the spring.
PE classes that integrate students with and without intellectual disabilities participating in a meaningful way and training together. This gives them the opportunity to learn and practice together and unite through sports.
Unified Sports Recreation
These are inclusive recreational sports opportunities for Special Olympics athletes and partners without intellectual disabilities. This model promotes social inclusion and increases sport-specific skills and knowledge. However, the composition of Unified Sports Recreation teams is less structured thank Unified Sports and Unified Sports Player Development teams.
Inclusive Youth Leadership
These unified clubs foster one-to-one friendships between high school students with and without IDD. The program helps break through social barriers at an important time in a young person’s life and provide great opportunities for students to unite and build lasting friendships.
A Partner Club is a social organization for students. Partner Clubs are inclusive school-based clubs (Pre-School–Transition & College) that are youth-led and youth-driven.
Youth Activation Committee (State Level Youth Leadership)
A State YAC is a group of youth comprised of members with and without intellectual disabilities from across the state. This group works together throughout the year to educate, motivate, and activate youth to become agents of change in their communities and advocate for the respect, inclusion, and acceptance of all people, regardless of abilities. The State YAC uses a wide variety of tools to communicate effectively, such as e-mail, conference calls, Facebook, state summits, and state rallies. The goal of the State YAC is to reach out to other youth to help carry out social justice for all people.
"The Youth Activation Committee is youth empowering other youth to encourage the next generation to be inclusive of people with and without intellectual disabilities and not exclusive." —Danielle Liebl, Special Olympics Athlete and National Youth Activation Committee member
- Have students pair up and complete inclusion tiles exercises with one another.
- Inclusion Tiles Guide with discussion questions
- Inclusion Tiles Online Game
- Watch the below Generation Unified videos and facilitate a discussion using the video guides.
- Video screenings with accompanying video guides
Foundational Inclusive Youth Leadership Training
- Have students complete this four-part youth leadership training together and discuss key takeaways
- Foundational Inclusive Youth Leadership Training
Whole School Activities
“Get Into It” Curriculum
“Get Into It” Curriculum consists of online resources that include lessons, activities, videos, athlete stories and supplemental materials. At the core of Get Into It are age-appropriate lessons designed to be taught in the context of class periods. Activities with ties to service learning are completed in a classroom or community setting, as part of a club, an after school activity or a community based event and include involvement with local Special Olympics Programs whenever possible.
Fans in the Stands
No one likes playing or competing in front of empty bleachers! It’s easy to get Fans in the Stand started at your school – bring a group of friends, design big posters, gather at a local Special Olympics or Unified Sports® game or tournament, and cheer like crazy!
Cool Schools/Minutes that Matter
Get your school involved in our Polar Plunge or Minutes that matter fundraising events and help raise funds to support your school’s Unified Champion School programs!