Welcome to the Special Olympics Protective Behaviors Online Training

Thank you for being a part of the Special Olympics family. It is through the caring, concern and talents of all our athletes, families and volunteers that Special Olympics has become one of the most respected sports programs in the world. Your participation in the Protective Behaviors Training Program is just one way you demonstrate your dedication.

The goals of this presentation is prevention of sexual abuse of Special Olympics athletes. It also addresses physical and emotional abuse.


Once you complete the quiz at the bottom of the page, both you and the Special Olympics program in your state will receive a confirmation email.

Protective Behaviors
  • Corporal punishment is never allowed no matter who says it is OK.
  • Withholding food or water is maltreatment and strictly prohibited.
  • Only give prescribed medications in accordance with state regulations (consult your Special Olympics Program office for those regulations).
  • Be aware of athlete sensitivity to temperature, sound and touch.
  • Profanity is never allowed.
  • Treat athletes with respect and provide encouragement.
  • Do not allow demeaning nicknames even among teammates.
  • Discipline should be part of a meaningful behavior modification strategy and never acted on in anger.
  • Be sure to separate sleeping rooms by gender.
  • Try to assign roommates based on similar age, maturity and size.
  • Establish a plan for checking on each room/athlete.
  • Clearly explain rules and behavior expectations of both chaperones and athletes before each trip.

Inappropriate gifts, trips, outings, or other gestures of affection from a volunteer include:

  • Invitations for sleepovers at a volunteer’s house.
  • Invitations to parities at a volunteer’s house where parents or care providers are not included.
  • Excessive displays of interest in a particular athlete or group of athletes (such as all male athletes or only athletes under the age of 13).
  • For athletes requiring assistance with changing, toileting, or showering, it is a best practice if two volunteers are present.
  • Private conversations with athletes should be within sight of others who are aware of the conversation.
  • Hugs should respect both athlete and volunteer limits and never be secretive.
  • Touching should avoid areas of traditional swimsuit would cover.
  • Be aware of unusual or inappropriate gifts, trips, affection or attention from a volunteer.
  • Be aware of relationships between volunteers and athletes that become private or secretive.
  • Be clear and direct about pointing out inappropriate behavior.

A sexual predator could be anyone. There is no “look” or behavior pattern that sets them apart. Sexual Predators:

  • Target vulnerable populations (such as children and individuals with intellectual disabilities).
  • Come from all backgrounds.
  • Can be male or female.
  • Are generally very likeable and have warm personalities.
  • May have limited relationships with other adults.

Remind athletes and families that not everyone who comes to a Special Olympics event is a volunteer who has been screened and is assumed to be “safe”.

Codes of conduct are in effect and enforced for athletes, coaches and volunteers.

  • Volunteer screening is a tool Special Olympics Uses to help protect atheltes, but it is not fool-proof.
  • Many predators do not have criminal records.
  • Your job as a volunteer is to be vigilant & Report any behavior or activity that does not appear appropriate based on
    • Your personal experience or
    • Warning signs identified in this presentation
  • Nearly all states have laws that require some individuals to report suspected abuse (such as teachers, healthcare providers, etc.)
  • In some states, everyone is a mandatory reporter.

Utilise the Child Welfare Information Gateway below to fmailiarize yourself with your state’s reporting requirments. On the site, choose the state that you wish to check under the “Child Abuse & Neglect” heading, check “Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse & Neglect” and then click “Go”.

  • Suspicious activity should be reported to Special Olympics staff.
  • Reports will be reviewed and reported as appropriate.
  • Suspensions may be utilized during investigations.
  • Special Olympics reserves the right to expel athletes or volunteers as a result of suspected or confirmed physical, sexual or emotional abuse of a Special Olympics athlete.

Be ready to say:

  • What makes you think this activity is suspicious.
  • When you witnessed the activity-or first suspected it.

Who to tell:

  • If the activity is during Special Olympics functions, tell local SO leadership (preferably staff).
  • If you suspect that an athlete is in immediate danger, notify the police, and then SO staff.
  • If you are a mandatory reporter under your state’s laws, report as required by statute in addition to the report you file with Special Olympics.
  • Reporting is NOT the same as accusing. It just alerts professionals to investigate.
  • Statements by the athlete concerning inappropriate touching or physical harm.


  • Physical indicators of abuse:
    • Questionable injuries such as bruising or lacerations in the soft tissue areas of an athlete’s body. Bruises change color during the healing process and bruises of different colors indicate different stages of healing, thereby indicating that the injuries happened on more than one occasion.
    • Injuries to genital areas may indicate sexual abuse; for example, cigarette burns on the inside of the upper leg or on the buttocks.
    • Tether marks or rope burns and abrasions caused by tying wrists, ankles or the neck are also indicators of probable abuse.
  • Some athletes are prone to injuries as a consequence of athletic competition. The location of the injury may indicate whether the injury was due to abuse or competition. Injuries that happen due to athletic competition are most likely to be on the shins, knees, elbows, ect. They are less likely to be on the abdomen, across the back, on the backs of the legs, or on the facial cheeks.


  • Possible Signs of neglect include:
    • Unattended medical needs.
    • Inappropriate clothing for the climate and weather conditions.
    • Chronic hunger and poor personal hygiene.


  • Changes in behavior may offer the only visible clue that an athlete is the victim of abuse. Abuse causes stress and victims often exhibit stress related behavior.
    • Depression.
    • Withdrawal (including loss of interest in participation in Special Olympics).
    • Thoughts of or attempts of suicide.
    • Aggression.
    • Immature acts.
    • Sleep Disturbances.


  • Uncharacteristic changes in behavior that last for more than a few days indicate a possible need for intervention, but are not a certain indicator of abuse as there are other causes of stress. The absence of behavioral indicators does not indicate a lack of abuse.

Who is a Class A Volunteer?

  • Definition:
    • Volunteers who have regular, close, physical contact with athletes.
    • Volunteers in a position of authority or supervision with athletes.
    • Volunteers in a position of trust of athletes.
    • Volunteers who handle substantial amounts of cash or other assets of the Program.
  • Examples:
    • Coaches, Unified Partners, Chaperones, Overnight Hosts, ALP mentors, drivers of athletes.
    • May also include Fundraising Event Committee members, board members and Games Management team members.

Special Olympics US Volunteer Screening Policy

  • The foremost goal of the volunteer screening policy is to protect the safety and well-being of athletes.
  • Special Olympics screens prospective Class A volunteers.
  • Class A Volunteers are re-screened ever 3yrs.
  • If screening reveals criminal history involving certain offenses, the volunteer is prohibited from participation.

Actions Special Olympics has taken to protect athletes:

  • This protective behavior training.
  • Volunteer Screening requirements in the US.
  • Codes of conduct for athletes and coaches.
  • Policy prohibiting volunteers or staff in authority positions from dating athletes.