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Home » SPYID: Sport Participation in Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

SPYID: Sport Participation in Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

What’s this project about?

Participation in sport is an important activity for Canadian youth with and without disabilities, linked to numerous benefits. Youth with intellectual disabilities, who represent approximately 2% of the Canadian population, continue to struggle to access typical recreational, leisure, and social activities. These youth are less likely to get involved in community sports or be physically active, and if they do participate, they may withdraw because of high levels of social rejection and experiences of failure. The SPY-ID Project aims to identify factors that lead to involvement and retention in sport for youth with intellectual disabilities. Doing so could lead to improvements in sports initiatives that would impact them as youth and also guide their interests and activities into adulthood.

How did we go about doing this project?

We partnered with Special Olympics Ontario and Special Olympics Canada to conduct this research. Our project began in January 2013. We aimed to recruit 150 youth with intellectual disabilities who currently participate in sport, and 150 youth who do not currently participate in sport. Youth were between 11 and 21 years of age. We asked parents questions about their children, family, social and sport experiences. We also travelled to different parts of Ontario to meet with youth and interview them to understand how they feel about themselves, about others, and about doing different types of activities.


Mosher, A., Fraser-Thomas, J., MacDonald, D. J., & Weiss, J. (2017, July). Exploring the factor structure of the Youth Experience Survey for Sport adapted to Special Olympics athletes. Symposium presentation at the International Society of Sport Psychology (ISSP) Conference, Seville, Spain.

Ryan, S. L., MacMullin, J., & Weiss, J. A. (2015, May). Adaptive behaviour and age as predictors of sport experiences in youth with ASD. Poster presented at the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) Americas Regional Congress, Honolulu, HI.

Want to know more about this project?

For more information, please feel free to contact Dr. Jonathan Weiss, Principal Investigator on the study, at

This research is supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage (Sport Canada) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.