Special Olympics: Caring for People with Mental Disabilities

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 by Angel in Labels: , ,

On March 11 and 12, 2010, a hundred athletes from all over the Philippines gathered at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City to participate in the National Athletic Games. But these are no ordinary athletes. They are members of the Special Olympics Philippines.

Omar is an 18 year old boy with Down syndrome from Davao City. He has been an athlete since he was 12 years old. This is his second time to participate in the National Athletic Games, where he competed in the shotput and running events. Aside from sports, he is also into the arts like painting and dancing.

Omar’s mother says he was teased and bullied as a child. Neighbors would keep their kids away from him. But in Special Olympics, Omar has found a place where he is loved and accepted by others.

In the Philippines, 3 to 7 per cent of the population are born with mental disabilities. Groups like Special Olympics Philippines believe that through sports, they can develop their talents and achieve their full potential.

Alex Babst, National Program Director of Special Olympics Philippines, says, "The Special Olympics is a worldwide organization. Right now we have 170 countries with 3 million registered athletes. Our mission is to uplift and work for the advocacy for the inclusion of intellectually disabled persons throughout the world. Special Olympics Philippines has about 10,500 members, all intellectually disabled. We’re really showcasing our athletes because we want to show our community that through sports they have the ability to succeed, to do their best, and to become winners."

Medals were given out during the event. Omar took home a bronze medal for running. His mother Joy says participating in sports improved his confidence and social skills.

In October, Omar will join the national games for rhythmic gymnastics. But for the meantime, he will celebrate his success with a victory dance.