Common Myths About Intellectual Disability

Help Our Athletes Break Barriers To Create a More Inclusive World

Special Olympics conducted a study in 10 countries around the world to better understand cultural attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities. Although perceptions varied from country to country, there were many commonly held misperceptions that continue to hurt and hold back as many as 200 million individuals around the world living with an intellectual disability.

Get to know a person with an intellectual disability. You have the power to help create more understanding and compassion!

Intellectual Impairment

Myth: Most people with ID have a severe intellectual disability.
Fact: 85% of people with intellectual disabilities are only mildly impaired. Most have minor disabilities that don’t get in the way of playing sports, being educated at inclusive schools, and being employed.

Healthcare Access

Myth: People with intellectual disabilities receive better healthcare.
Fact: Individuals with intellectual disabilities typically receive substandard healthcare, or virtually no care at all. Our research has shown that people with intellectual disabilities die 16 years sooner than the general population.

Physical Abilities

Myth: People with intellectual disabilities cannot play sports.
Fact: Having an intellectual disability does not impact your ability to play sports. In fact, there are more than 5 million Special Olympics athletes around the world!

Inclusion at School and Work

Myth: Including people with intellectual disabilities at school and the workplace can have negative effects.
Fact: Special Olympics programs like Unified Schools and Unified Sports, where people with and without intellectual disabilities learn and play side by side, have shown that an inclusive environment can help break down barriers, promote understanding, and teach compassion.

Starting a Family

Myth: People with intellectual disabilities cannot get married or have children.
Fact: Special Olympics athletes, and other people with intellectual disabilities, have gone on to marry, have children (and grandchildren), and continue to defy expectations, debunk stereotypes, and contribute to society.

Resources: Combating Misperceptions About People With Intellectual Disabilities

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