Guidelines for reporting about SOMI

Although society has made great strides, there still are many myths and misconceptions about intellectual disabilities. As a media professional, you are in a unique position to shape public knowledge. We need your help! The guidelines presented here offer suggestions for appropriate descriptions and preferred terminology when reporting about Special Olympics.

Special Olympics is for people with intellectual disabilities.

Some Special Olympics athletes also may have physical handicaps, but the criterion for participation is intellectual disabilities. We prefer 'people first' language. Therefore, instead of saying "Special Olympics is for mentally and physically handicapped persons" we say "Special Olympics is for children and adults with intellectual disabilities."

Emphasize the person and not the disability.

Please say "persons with intellectual disabilities, rather than intellectually disabled people".

Special Olympics athletes are children and adults.

Please do not refer to Special Olympics athletes as "kids". This perpetuates the myth that all persons with intellectual disabilities are child-like. The average age of Special Olympics Michigan's athletes is 27. Special Olympics is for children and adults.

Special Olympics Michigan is a year-round program, not an annual event.

We offer more than 440 local competitions and eight State level competitions each year. Please refer to a specific event as "the Special Olympics Michigan State Winter Games". When referring to the overall program, say "Special Olympics Michigan".

Special Olympics athletes are quite capable and participate in "real" sports competition.

Many Special Olympics Michigan tournaments and competitions include recreational events, which are not official competition. Activities like broomball, canoeing, tug-of-war, etc., are special events offered to athletes to utilize their time when they are not busy competing.

Special Olympics athletes, not "Special Olympians."

We prefer that you use the term "Special Olympics athletes." This terminology has changed to follow the Olympics.

Emphasize the challenges each and every Special Olympics athlete meets.

There is no need to pity Special Olympics athletes. They are quite capable and Special Olympics is a vehicle for helping them discover their potential.

Thank you for portraying Special Olympics athletes and Special Olympics in a straightforward and positive manner!