Changing Expectations in Special Olympics

SOBC photo

By Jacques Thibault, Special Olympics BC Sport Consultant

Jacques Thibault, an internationally recognized training and speed skating expert with a Master’s degree in science, works with Special Olympics BC athletes and coaches to help empower them to be their very best.

Not long ago individuals with intellectual disabilities were put in institutions because few realized their potential and what they could contribute to society. Fifty years ago, programs such as those promoted by Special Olympics changed expectations of individuals with intellectual disabilities so they could participate in organized activities and experience life like never before.

After seven years with Special Olympics, I came to realize that a new change in expectations is necessary to integrate and increase contributions that SO athletes can make to society. This is why I decided to write a book about what I believe is the next step to develop further and take advantage of the potential for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Here is a brief description of my work:

“Individuals with an intellectual and/or developmental disability (ID) are happy with whatever they do. They expect little and appreciate every activity offered to them and, if they’re not so good at what they do, we assume it must be due to their disabilities.  After all, in the world of Special Olympics, the vast majority of athletes compete in sport events at a low skill level compared to their generic (normally abled) counterparts.”

Special Olympics BC photo

In my book Changing Expectations in Special Olympics I outline what I have learned in recent years: that their low skill levels may not be so much due to their disabilities after all, but in fact, may be more closely related to our own low expectations of them and associated sub-optimal SO programs.

Many SO athletes and coaches that I have worked with over the years are now part of generic clubs where they train in perfect harmony with generic athletes and coaches. Others can swim, ski, bowl or skate on their own during public sessions. They have acquired basic skills, developed self-confidence and independence to do so. Now is the time to change expectations for the vast majority of SO athletes to do the same. This is the aim of my book.

The book is available at SOBC and at

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to organized Special Olympics activities and purchase equipment.