Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a group made up of over 200 million people, representing every country, belief system, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, and ethnicity, continue to be excluded and isolated from their peers in schools, workplaces, and communities around the world. By taking the Pledge to Include and by acting for meaningful inclusion, you can combat the hurtful and dehumanizing effects of exclusion. This toolkit is for Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs, partners, and participants around the world working to promote inclusion in their communities. Below you will learn how to write and talk about Spread the Word >> Inclusion and the 2021 theme of connection. Utilize this messaging to educate others about Spread the Word, encourage those around you to take the pledge to include, and build a more inclusive world for all.


This past year, we have seen the effects that isolation and exclusion can have on us individually, as a community, as a country, and as a global community. A pandemic, physical distancing, powerful reminders of overdue action needed for justice and equity, disruptions to the building blocks of social interaction, and more have both energized and exhausted us. They have separated and divided us. They have disconnected us from each other. And when we are disconnected, we are robbed of the opportunity to learn and grow together.

The Spread the Word campaign was built on the idea that inclusion is a skill each of us can learn and practice, together. Inclusion is a skill that builds togetherness through difference and community through adversity. Having listened to and reflected on the experiences of the grassroots leaders of the Spread the Word campaign, we believe it is more important than ever to build connection through inclusion. Though the tools we use to connect may change, our shared need for connection does not.

At the very root of inclusion is the crucial need for connection. Connection is not only defined as a relationship built on an association, but a strength between individuals. A strength where two individuals can feel seen, heard, and valued. This upcoming year, Spread the Word >> Inclusion will explore the need for connection and how individuals with and without IDD need to be seen, heard, and valued in order to feel included. During this time, there is so much to do to end isolation and exclusion, so we are calling on all of you to see, hear, and value others by way of inclusion.

Take the pledge to include at www.spreadtheword.global/pledge. Share your pledge by tagging @PledgeToInclude on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and using #PledgeToInclude. Use social media to invite others to join you.


Disconnection persists in 2021 but we are committed to a world of inclusion and connection in schools, workplaces, and communities. In 2018, 22-50% of people in the United States were estimated to be socially disconnected (Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness) We want to create a new reality – one in which everyone with and without an intellectual disability feels connected to their peers in schools, workplaces, and communities around the world.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” -- Brené Brown

Social isolation can be harmful for physical and emotional well-being. Social Connectedness creates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being, improving our overall health, confidence, and more.


Founded by two youth leaders in 2009 as Spread the Word to End the Word, the campaign focused its first 10 years on addressing a particularly powerful form of exclusion: the word ‘retard(ed)’. Over 10 years, leaders and self-advocates collected millions of digital and physical pledges to end the R-word. Each was a personal commitment to acknowledge the hurt caused by the R-word and to be respectful in the words and actions taken towards people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With leadership from Special Olympics and Best Buddies, and support from hundreds of other advocacy organizations, the campaign grew from a handful events in 2009 to reach thousands of schools by 2018.

In 2019, Spread the Word to End the Word became Spread the Word, with a focus not just on the elimination of a word but on the creation of a new reality: inclusion for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The global engagement campaign remains committed to empowering grassroots leaders to change their communities, schools, and workplaces, now through a call to their peers to take action for inclusion. With this change, Spread the Word will give community leaders around the world the tools needed to create socially inclusive places to learn, work, and live.


A University of Pennsylvania experiment found that large-scale social change occurs when 25% of the population supports or shares an idea. Join us in spreading inclusion and creating meaningful change for a more inclusive future.