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In Chile, Special Olympics Empowers Teachers to Create Inclusion during Remote Learning

Over the past several months, school systems around the world have searched for virtual learning opportunities that are more accessible for students and teachers alike.

Educational communities are urgently seeking innovative solutions to engage students and empower teachers, all while maintaining a connected and inclusive school environment during a time of unprecedented separation. For students with intellectual disabilities, this poses additional challenges. In Chile, limits in access to technology, virtual tools, and guidance on relevant techniques presents new challenges that teachers never expected and must now urgently address.

To support teachers in creating inclusion amidst the new normal of remote learning, Special Olympics Chile has partnered with the Chilean Ministry of Education’s Instituto Superior de Artes y Ciencias de la Comunicación (IACC) Professional Institute, which supports professional development of educators through online courses to create a free online course: “Introduction to Special Olympics Unified Schools.” The Special Olympics Unified Schools program promotes meaningful social inclusion by offering inclusive sport programming, known as Special Olympics Unified Sports®. Unified Sports joins students with and without intellectual disabilities to play sports together, leading to friendship, social emotional growth, physical fitness, and a more inclusive school environment. Teachers play a critical role in implementing this program alongside student leaders. To empower educators in Chile, this course guides learners through a series of webinars focused on strengthening this inclusive programming for students with and without intellectual disabilities at all levels and in all subjects, all while navigating new virtual learning circumstances.

Since the course launched on July 20, Special Olympics Chile has reached over 200 education professionals, including the certification of 77 physical education teachers in two Santiago municipalities: La Florida and Quilicura. The course is expected to certify 150 additional educators in La Florida and Quilicura on the Unified School program throughout the coming months. Although the course is focused on two municipalities in Chile, the impact reaches far beyond. The partnership with IACC will allow Special Olympics Chile to reach new regions that were previously hard to reach and bring the impact of Unified Schools across the country. As a recognition of Unified Schools, the new partnership between the IACC Professional Institute and Special Olympics Chile will expand the reach of the program, bringing opportunities for inclusion to students in a time when it is needed most.

“We are very happy as an institution (IACC) and as a School for Social Development and Education, for the social and humanitarian commitment of Special Olympics which is fully aligned with our inclusive social seal. In addition to the above, it allows the School of Social Development to be able to enhance its social and inclusive spirit, making its resources and modality available 100% online, oriented towards the trainers of those who are part of this remarkable institution - Special Olympics. I hope with all my heart that we can continue to work as well as we have done so far,” said Pamela Andrea González Llanos, Director of the School of Social Development and Education at the IACC Professional Institute.

With the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and partnerships with local implementers and authorities such as IACC, Special Olympics is changing schools in Chile and around the world by empowering teachers and students to be leaders for inclusion.

Special Olympics Chile is one of fourteen Special Olympics country branches around the world that have received a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) to support the expansion of Special Olympics Unified Schools through the Play Unified : Learn Unified project. Through the inclusive sports programming in over a dozen countries around the world—including Chile, Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Indonesia, and Greece —Play Unified : Learn Unified promotes equal participation by all young people, with and without intellectual disabilities, both on and off the playing field.

By Special Olympics