Document Type

Student Research Paper


Spring 2018

Academic Department

Occupational Therapy

Faculty Advisor(s)

Nancy Carlson-Steadman


For all children, being a participant in a recreational sports program is important for the well-being and quality of life. Children with disabilities may not always have the same opportunities to engage in sports programs. Unified Sports®, a branch of Special Olympics®, is an inclusive team sports program that aims to break down stereotypes about children with disabilities; however, it lacks documented outcomes. Previous research failed to explore outcomes of co-curricular non-education-based inclusion programs from the perspectives of the two main stakeholders: children with disabilities and their parents. These perspectives are key to analyzing success of current inclusion programs and developing future ones. This study explored perspectives and experiences regarding outcomes of Unified Sports®. The specific aim was to answer the research question: “What are the perspectives of children with disabilities and their parents on inclusion in Unified Sports®?” In order to answer this question, selected participants from a convenience sample completed online surveys. Participants included two athletes with disabilities and three parents. The surveys had seven questions about their feelings and experiences with the Unified Sports® Program. Study results demonstrated that Unified Sports® may help children with disabilities build relationships, grow personally, and integrate into positive environments. Creating more recreation-based inclusion sports opportunities for children with disabilities is encouraged. Additional research is needed.


Senior thesis.