Inclusive Fitness: Providing Equitable Opportunities for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Parks play an important role in promoting health and adequate physical activity levels. Special Olympics delivers health and fitness programming for people with and without intellectual disabilities (ID) in a variety of settings including park and recreation facilities. Through intentionally planned and implemented activities, fitness promotes social inclusion and healthy behaviors among people of all abilities. Specifically, people with ID are capable of achieving adequate levels of fitness and improved health outcomes through inclusive programming opportunities, adapted instructions and education. Participate in this webinar to access resources; see successful, evidenced-based, inclusive fitness programs; learn adaptation strategies; and hear about online trainings that can make your fitness programming more inclusive for people with and without ID.

Teaching Objectives:

  1. Learn how to implement inclusive fitness and health opportunities that have demonstrated improved health outcomes for people with and without ID.
  2. Understand health disparities and apply adaptation strategies to increase inclusion and healthy habits for people with and without ID.
  3. Gain access to online courses and resources to learn about engaging and implementing programming for people with and without ID.

Gwendolyn Apgar (she/her)

Manager, Fitness for Sports Performance

Special Olympics, Inc.

Gwendolyn Apgar is the Manager of Fitness for Sports Performance at Special Olympics. She has been a member of the Fitness Team at Special Olympics since 2018. Her work focuses on the development of programming, resources, and training to encourage healthy habits to improve the health and performance of athletes. Such efforts target Special Olympics athletes, but also coaches, caregivers, Program staff and health professionals.

Gwendolyn holds a B.S.Ed. and M.Ed in Kinesiology for Individuals with Disabilities from the University of Virginia. During her studies, she worked as an adapted physical education teacher with a caseload of ages ranging from early adolescence to young adulthood. Prior to Special Olympics, Gwendolyn served as a case manager for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through this, she provided service coordination and worked collaboratively with individuals, families, provider agencies and community partners to ensure each individual had the supports and services needed for a healthy, safe, and fulfilling life in the community.

Melissa Otterbein (she/her)

Senior Manager, Fitness & Healthy Lifestyles

Special Olympics, Inc.

Melissa Otterbein is a Certified Health Educator Specialist and the Senior Manager, Fitness and Healthy Lifestyles with Special Olympics. She began her career in HIV/AIDS research at Johns Hopkins University, where she worked with people living with HIV/AIDS on health behavior change and linkage to care. She earned a fellowship with Global Health Corps as Program Manager for The Grassroot Project, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit which equips collegiate student athletes to lead sport based HIV/AIDS education to middle school students. She then earned her Master of Public Health in Physical Activity and a Graduate Assistantship at George Washington University, where her research focused on nutrition, sport based youth development, and sport’s ability to address all United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Prior to joining Special Olympics, she was the Education Manager at USA Triathlon, where she led coaching education, developed an elite athlete leadership and mental health program, and oversaw the Million Coaches Challenge social and emotional learning grant. A Certified USA Triathlon Level II and US Masters Swimming Certified Coach and competitive cyclist, she values sport’s ability to teach, unite, and provide strong psychosocial benefits for all. She’s the proud sister of a Special Olympian and participates as a Unified partner and former coach alongside her Dad.


Inclusive Fitness: Providing Equitable Opportunities for People with Intellectual Disabilities
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