The present study examined how a multicomponent intervention embedded in a high school's extracurricular framework impacts students' acceptance of peers with intellectual disability (ID). Data were collected from eight high schools, three of which implemented the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (UCS) program involving inclusive sports, clubs, and schoolwide events, and five of which did not. A pretest-posttest survey design was used to measure students' attitudes, perceptions, and interactions ( n = 1,230). Lagged dependent variable modeling revealed that UCS participation significantly predicted improved attitudes toward peers with ID and perceptions of school social inclusion, as well as increased social interactions with peers with ID. Unified extracurricular activities may be the next step forward in promoting an inclusive school culture.
This study examines the impact of the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program in high schools across the country. Data were analyzed from 2,774 students from 11 high schools implementing the program concerning their perceptions and attitudes toward including students with intellectual disability (ID). Students participating in 1 or more program activities reported increased visibility of and social interactions with students with ID in school. This, in turn, promoted more positive perceptions and attitudes regarding school and classroom inclusion. Participation in different activities had unique effects on students' perceptions of their school's inclusive environment and on their attitudes toward classroom inclusion. These findings support an ecological approach to social inclusion and for structured, schoolwide interventions embedded within normative school contexts.