Provider: Special Olympics, Inc.
Type: Online Course
Online Content
Online Quiz
Recorded Video
CEC Credits: ACE 0.1 CECs

Promote Inclusion and Support People with Intellectual Disabilities on Their Fitness Journey

People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are two times more likely to be obese, have heart disease,1 and die 16 years earlier than their age related peers.2  While physical activity can decrease these risks, only about 10% of people with ID meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines for physical activity.3,4  Barriers such as lack of inclusive fitness opportunities within their community, and inadequate knowledge and confidence of health and exercise professionals create such health disparities.5 

The good news is that cardiovascular and metabolic health can be improved for people with ID. In fact, results of the Special Olympics inclusive fitness programming show that participants who were at high-risk for chronic disease experienced significant reductions in body mass index and blood pressure.6  Despite having extensive fitness and health-related knowledge and skills, exercise professionals may be less familiar with the principles of inclusion and adaptation necessary to meet the needs of individuals with ID.

In this interactive course, you’ll be provided with the knowledge and guidance to successfully include individuals with ID in fitness opportunities. You’ll explore the unmet health needs, health disparities, and access barriers they experience. Then learn principles and strategies for effectively communicating, instructing, and motivating individuals with ID. You’ll also review methods for inclusion, activity modification, program design, and fitness assessment. Additional Special Olympics resources will also be provided.

Career Outlook

Join experts with significant clinical and scientific experience as they discuss how to better equip yourself for supporting a person with ID, improving their physical activity levels and ultimately, their overall health and fitness. This insightful course is led by Monica Forquer, MS, Senior Manager of Fitness for Special Olympics and ACE Certified Personal Trainer; Heidi Stanish, PhD, Fitness Advisor for Special Olympics and Associate Professor of Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Jamie Valis, PhD, Director of Health Training at Special Olympics who has over 10 years of experience reducing health disparities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and Judy Palmore, an adult learning specialist with more than 25 years of experience designing and delivering training materials on public health, leadership, communication, and youth development.

Special Olympics is a widely known and trusted organization with expertise in offering Sport and Health programming for people with intellectual disabilities.

Upon completion, you will be able to:

  • Deliver fitness sessions that appropriately address the needs of people with intellectual disabilities
  • Adapt communication, motivation and program design for people with ID, which can also apply to other clients
  • Support fitness improvements and enhanced behavior change with this underserved population
  • Create career opportunities to work with clients with ID and promote inclusion across the fitness industry

The Inclusive Fitness Online Training is reproduced with the kind permission of Special Olympics, Inc., Washington, DC, whose mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing.

  1. Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Data (2019). Washington, DC: Special Olympics, Inc.
  2. Heslop, P., Blair, P.S., Fleming, P., Hoghton, M., Marriott, A., & Russ, L. (2013). The Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with intellectual disabilities in the UK: a population-based study. Lancet. 383 (9920), 889-95.
  3. Dairo, Y.M., Collett, J., Dawes, H, Oskrochi, G.R. (2016). Physical activity levels in adults with intellectual disabilities: A systematic review. Prev Med Rep. 8(4), 209-19. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.06.008.
  4. Oviedo G.R., Travier N., Guerra-Balic M. (2017). Sedentary andphysical activity patterns in adults with intellectual disability. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 7;14(9), 1027. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14091027.
  5. Krahn G.L., Hammond L., Turner A. (2006). A cascade of disparities: health and health care access for people with intellectual disabilities. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 12(1),70-82. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.20098.
  6. Rubenstein, E., DuBois, L., Sadowsky, M., Washburn, K., Forquer, M., Stanish, H., Shriver,T. (2020). Evaluating the potential of Special Olympics fitness models as a health intervention for adults with intellectual disabilities, Disability and Health Journal, 13(2), 100850, ISSN 1936-6574,


Great inclusion training and important for everyone, including fitness professionals

Excellent course that all fitness professionals should take as it provides the foundations to effectively work with ID participants and set them for success. It is also a transferable skill to many other settings of engagement in our social lives. Thank you for such an excellent course.

I learned a lot- Thanks!~