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SHAPE America and Special Olympics Partner to Impact School Communities Through Unified Physical Education

Two boys in a gym with their arms around each other smiling.

Washington, D.C. — January 25, 2022 – For more than 50 years, SHAPE America—Society of Health and Physical Educators and Special Olympics have joined forces to provide inclusive physical education (PE) programs nationwide. Through their renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the organizations will continue to help educators emphasize the implementation of inclusive sports and fitness through Unified PE, a component of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program.

In addition to physical activity, the Unified Champion Schools program strategically provides leadership and whole school engagement opportunities for students with and without intellectual disabilities (ID). The result is a school environment that promotes inclusion and respect for all.

Schools that have implemented the Unified PE concepts have indicated that their student body has become more accepting of all students, and more likely to celebrate individual differences. The life-enriching friendships developed as a result of the program positively influence students of all abilities. Aquila Elementary School, located in Minnesota’s St. Louis Park Public School District, currently offers Unified PE classes. “This class has taught our students to be more empathetic, kind, and aware of our students with disabilities,” said Tom Roberts, physical education specialist and past president of MNSHAPE. “Something as simple as everyone learning each other’s names has helped foster new friendships and authentic relationships. We will continue to pursue school-wide initiatives that promote inclusion, equity, awareness, and kindness.”

The MOU will also allow the organizations to work together to provide training and supporting resources for educators and grow the number of state partnerships to increase year-round physical activity, physical education, and health promotion.

“We are eager to build on our existing partnership with SHAPE America and expand upon current inclusive wellness programming. Our collaboration will undoubtedly support students on their journey toward lifelong health and physical literacy, and we look forward to the impact this will have on future generations.”
Andrea Cahn, vice president of Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools

Interested educators are encouraged to contact their state Special Olympics staffto determine how Unified PE could be part of their school’s curriculum. Learn more at

For more information about Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, visit

About SHAPE America

SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators is the nation’s largest nonprofit membership organization of health and physical education professionals. Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and the National Standards for K-12 Physical Education serve as the foundation for well-designed physical education programs across the country. SHAPE America provides programs, resources and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs. For more information, visit

About Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools®

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® is a program in nearly 7,500 schools Pre-K through university across the U.S. that intentionally promotes social inclusion by bringing together students with and without intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership opportunities, and whole school engagement. The three-component model offers a unique combination of effective activities that equip young people with the knowledge, skills, tools and training to create classrooms and school climates of acceptance, respect, and meaningful inclusion. These are school climates where students with disabilities feel welcome and are routinely included in—and feel a part of—all activities, opportunities, and functions. The Unified Champion Schools program is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Engage with us on: Instagram,Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, andYouTube. Learn more at

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedInand our blog on Medium. Learn more at

Media Contact

Joey Martelli

SHAPE America
Advocacy & Public Affairs Manager

Kendra Cummings

Special Olympics
UCS Media Relations Manager