Spread the Word: Inclusion activation kit

We think the world would be better if everyone were included. Around the world, exclusion and discrimination continue to divide people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are changing that with grassroots action for inclusion. That’s Spread the Word.









A New Direction



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 of these pledges 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.

Special Olympics and Best Buddies are teaming up together in this new direction to promote the message of inclusion. Whether that be on a team or in a one-on-one friendship, both of these organizations are taking on the belief that grassroots action could end the discrimination and exclusion faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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 campaign remains committed to empowering grassroots leaders to change their communities, schools, and workplaces, now through a call to their peers to commit to taking action for inclusion. With this change, Spread the Word will give community leaders for inclusion around the world the tools the needed to create change in their local circumstances.

Make your pledge and take your action for a more inclusive world. Join millions who have done the same. And spread the word.

Fact Sheet



  • For the past 10 years, Spread the Word to End the Word has started the conversation on respect.
  • Spread the Word Inclusion is continuing our success through an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our supporters to inspire respect and acceptance by advocating for inclusive words and actions so that we can end discrimination of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • The campaign, created and reimagined by youth, is intended to engage schools, organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support for the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


  • The annual day of awareness is held the first Wednesday of March.
  • While most activities are centered on or near that annual day in March, people everywhere can help spread the word throughout their communities and schools year-round through pledge drives, youth rallies and online activation.


  • Spread the Word to End the Word was founded in 2009 by college students Soeren Palumbo (Notre Dame 2011) and Tim Shriver (Yale 2011)
  • The campaign continues to be led by passionate young people, along with Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies participants across the United States and around the world.


  • Respectful and inclusive words and actions are essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.
  • However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the exclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Language affects attitudes. Attitudes impact actions. Make your pledge for inclusion today at https://www.spreadtheword.global/pledge


Visit https://www.spreadtheword.global/ to learn how you can Spread the Word: Inclusion.

Event and Activation Ideas


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. On a global scale, people with IDD continue to be excluded and isolated from their peers in schools, workplaces, and communities. Below you will find an example calendar of activations, along with a detailed list of activation opportunities throughout the calendar year:

September 2019- august 2020

Year Round

Week of Inclusion: Partner up with other organizations in your school to take part in a Week of Inclusion any time of year. Choose a week of the school year and make each day a unique celebration of inclusion.


All month: Back to School. Collaborate with local sports teams to host and participate in halftime event to promote Spread the Word: Inclusion at the first sports game of the season. This can be done year-round at basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and hockey games.

15th – October 15th National Hispanic Heritage Month (U.S.) starts in the middle of the month to correspond with the independence of many countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile.

  • Read, Review, and Recommend: Partner with a local library or your school library to create a display of Hispanic heritage-themed books and/or display an inclusion theme around individuals with IDD. Have each person select a book and write a short review to be displayed at the library.
  • Partner with your local Hispanic Association to host a local event that features traditional music, dance, and authentic foods.


All month: National Pizza Month. Hold events and activate around slices of pizza.

  • Hold a local pledge pizza party on your campus: Set up a laptop or tablet to encourage people to sign the pledge and/or create a banner for people to sign and pledge support.
  • Hold events (dances, parties) celebrating those with intellectual disabilities in your community

11th: International Day of the Girl. PLAN International, an organization that helped create Day of the Girl, is asking individuals to participate in a #GirlTakeover on social media.

Want to use this photo as part of your social post or on an event flyer? Visit our editable links on the bottom of each page.
  • Post a picture of how you hope to empower women with intellectual disabilities and use the hashtag!
  • Post a picture of how you hope to be more inclusive of women with intellectual disabilities!
  • Visit DayOfTheGirl.org and https://www.unicef.org/gender-equality to find a local event near you and to learn more about the day!


13th: World Kindness Day.

  • Write uplifting notes and place them on restroom mirrors, in library books, on someone's locker, inside someone's desk, or on their computer screen telling them how you pledge to include on World Kindness Day.


3rd: International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

  • Write to politicians from your local, state, and national governments about bills/laws that should be passed to create a more inclusive environment for persons with disabilities. This may include changes to physical access to certain facilities or more inclusive practices within school classrooms by providing necessary resources.
  • Hold a forum/discussion regarding the values and goals of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Talk about ways to be more respectful, inclusive, and understanding on a daily basis. Speak to your own experience.
  • Hold a performance for persons with disabilities. Allow performers to showcase their unique talents of art, music, and dance.
  • Invite local Special Olympics athletes/Best Buddies Ambassadors to speak at your school/campus about inclusion and issues regarding disability.
  • Learn more at https://idpwd.org/


All month: International Creativity Month.

  • Partner up with your local School of Art/Design or community art organization to host an inclusive art show that showcases work from artists with and without intellectual disabilities.
  • Join forces with local bands/musical groups to host a performance by musicians with and without disabilities.


All month: Black History Month. Some ideas for how to celebrate from the NAACP include:

  • Host a movie/film marathon of black films starring/featuring individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Read Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech, found at https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf
  • Check out museums detailing achievements of black individuals who have IDD.
  • Partner up with organizations at your school (such as the National Black Student Union) to host a presentation on African American leaders who are educating others on diversity and inclusion of those with intellectual disabilities.
  • Explore the experiences of black individuals with IDD.


All month: Women's History Month.

  • Give thanks to women with IDD who inspire you. Buy them flowers and write a card explaining how amazing they are!
  • Post on social media about how you pledge to include women with intellectual disabilities in your community with the hashtag #PledgeToInclude.
  • Check out speeches from the Women's March: https://youtu.be/ZEQS81K0tI8
  • Read about influential women with intellectual disabilities from history.
  • Visit a local museum that includes the history and achievements of women with intellectual disabilities.
  • Check out events running through 2021 to celebrate women! https://womenshistorymonth.gov/

4th: Spread the Word: Inclusion Day

  • Hold a local pledge event at school or in your community. Set up a laptop or tablet to encourage people to sign the pledge page on the spot and/or create a banner for people to sign on the spot. Invite local Special Olympics athletes or International Global Messengers to speak at an assembly.
  • Work with local sports teams to participate in a halftime event to promote Spread the Word Inclusion.
  • Spread the Word Inclusion samples are on the resources page of our website (www.spreadtheword.global)
  • Use sample leaflets and talking points; hang posters; create and hand out stickers; send e-mails; text/call your family and friends; create your own Spread the Word Inclusion Rally; use your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn); join Spread the World Inclusion's social networking pages; send an Evite to friends to take the pledge and spread the word online.
  • Print and distribute leaflets throughout your community.
  • Notify the press. Call local radio shows; write letters to the editor of your local newspaper using the samples provided in this kit; direct message/tweet at news reporters via social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Post a comment to an online social message board sharing your thoughts about inclusion in society. Ex.: "Inclusion matters because... We can create a more inclusive world by... The world will benefit from more inclusion by...".
  • Create a video speaking about inclusion. Post it online and share it on our Facebook page so we can add it to the growing list of videos on our website. Share the link with your friends and family.
  • Always include the hashtag #PledgetoInclude to grow the movement!
  • Post your event's time and location in the community events section of your hometown newspaper or in your school newspaper or website. Don't forget to register your event on our website--www.spreadtheword.global
  • Share a story about your experience with the Inclusion campaign, why others should pledge, or how people can get involved through the blog, "Our Words."
  • Visit www.medium.com/specialolympics to read other stories and contribute your own!
  • Create a Week of Inclusion. Partner up with other student organizations to organize luncheons, assemblies, speakers, and rallies to get others to #PledgetoInclude.
  • Contact your local Special Olympics or Best Buddies office to learn how to get involved in Spread the Word Inclusion events in your community.


All month: Autism Awareness Month.

  • Attend an autism awareness event near you!
  • Start a fundraiser through Facebook! 1) Decide on a goal for the fundraiser 2) Share your personal story, beliefs, and thoughts on including those with autism 3) Tell your friends and family about your fundraising hopes and goals 4) Share your fundraiser on Facebook.

2ndWorld Autism Awareness Day.

  • Wear blue!
  • Post a picture decked out in blue.
  • Partner with an autism advocacy organization to promote inclusion of individuals with autism.
  • Write sticky notes on how you pledge to include those with autism and post them at libraries, in schools, and around your community.


20th: World Bee Day (BEE Inclusive)

  • Wear the yellow Spread the Word: Inclusion yellow or black t-shirt.
  • Gather a group of friends and explore ways you can be more inclusive in your community.


All month: Pride Month.

  • Find a pride parade near you and march in rainbow!
  • Explore the intersection of identities regarding sexual orientation and intellectual disability.
  • Support organizations that support those who identify as LBGTQ and who have intellectual disabilities.
  • Throw a party celebrating pride! Fly rainbow flags and have colorful decorations!
  • Join activist groups that advocate for the rights of LGBTQ individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • Watch a documentary or visit a museum to learn more about LBGTQ history.
  • Talk with individuals of the LGBTQ-intellectual disability community about their experiences.


30th: International Day of Friendship.

  • Write a card to a friend with an intellectual disability telling them how much they mean to you.
  • Reach out to an individual with an intellectual disability, take them out to coffee/lunch, and make a new friend!
  • Host a dinner party including individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.
  • Make a difference with your friends and volunteer together at a food bank or clothing drive.
  • Text five of your friends a thoughtful message about how you pledge to be more inclusive and how they can, too.
  • Make your friends friendship bracelets: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Friendship-Bracelet. Use white and blue thread to represent Spread the Word and your pledge to be inclusive. Distribute the bracelets at your school and in your community!


26th: Women's Equality Day.

  • March for equality for women with intellectual disabilities!
  • Take a woman who inspires you out to lunch, buy her flowers, and/or write her a thoughtful note.
  • Read a book by an influential female author that deals with subjects regarding intellectual disabilities.


  • Gather a team of adults/students/athletes/volunteers that will plan and carry out the activation event.
  • Make banners and posters to hang and flyers to distribute throughout your school/community promoting the event. In these promotions, make sure to highlight the date and time of the event.
  • In addition to posters and flyers, utilize the school/club website and social media pages to share your event.


Social Media has proven to be a very effective way to raise awareness for Spread the Word. It allows people to engage in conversations that help change attitudes and drive people to pledge at www.spreadtheword.global. Here are some of the more robust social media channels that you can join for discussions, subscribe to videos, or follow conversations online:


Facebook is a simple, but effective engagement tool to Spread the Word about inclusion to your friends and family. You can activate on Facebook by visiting and liking our Spread the Word: Inclusion page at https://www.facebook.com/PledgetoInclude/

Our Spread the Word team will be posting articles, videos, and activation events. You can use these posts to re-share on your own pages – along with your own narrative on inclusion. Use your own status update area in your profile for Spread the Word Inclusion:

  1. Post links to videos about the Spread the Word from our website or Facebook Fan Page
  2. Post a message and share a photo encouraging your friends to take the inclusion pledge (you can even make sure to tag them in your post to challenge them on the pledge!):

"I pledge #friendship through my words and actions. Will you (@ _____)? Pledge now at www.spreadtheword.global to create communities of respect for people with intellectual disabilities and #PledgetoInclude

“I just pledged to make the world a more accepting and inclusive place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I hope you will pledge too! #PledgetoInclude http://www.spreadtheword.global

“Join our movement! Pledge for Inclusion! #PledgetoInclude spreadtheword.global


Twitter is an engaging social media channel to share your thoughts on how you plan to spread inclusion. Twitter is most effective when you use hashtags in order to help build the movement. You can activate on Twitter by:

Visiting and following Special Olympics at @SpecialOlympics and utilizing the #PledgetoInclude hashtag when tweeting about the Spread the Word Inclusion campaign.

A few sample tweets to help you Spread the Word:

  • "I pledge #Inclusion through my words & actions. Will you? Pledge now to create communities of respect for people with disabilities http://spreadtheword.global "
  • "Language affects attitude. Attitudes impact action. Make your pledge to choose respectful people-first language http://spreadtheword.global "
  • “I took a pledge for #Inclusion, and you can too! Just go to spreadtheword.global to help respect the unique abilities of everyone #PledgetoInclude”
  • "Be a Fan of Inclusion. Help create opportunities for inclusive activities in your school or community #PledgetoInclude http://spreadtheword.global/ "
  • "I pledged! Eliminate exclusionary actions and pledge. Stand up for yourself and others by pledging #Inclusion! http://spreadtheword.global "
  • When you see positive tweets in support of Special Olympics, Best Buddies or Inclusion, retweet them and thank the originating handle and follow them.
  • Tweet at your favorite celebrities and ask them to support Spread the Word.


Instagram is a social media platform dedicated mostly to sharing ideas via pictures. Instagram, like Twitter, is very effective when using hashtags and tagging other accounts to build the campaign. To engage on Instagram, you can:

Follow Spread the Word: Inclusion Instagram account and post photos sharing:

  • 1) Your thoughts on inclusion
  • 2) Experience participating in an inclusive event
  • 3) Time organizing and carrying out one of many Spread the Word: Inclusion activation opportunities
  • Make sure to include the hashtag #PledgetoInclude
  • Tag your friends, family, and local news reporters to Spread the Word!

Blogosphere and other tips

There are conversations taking place every day about inclusion, people with intellectual disabilities, sports, or friendship.

  1. Find a subject that interests you and engage in those online communities and conversations and help spread the word about this campaign in those communities.
  2. Keep the interactions respectful and forward moving by always encouraging people to join us and learn more.

Whenever you see media items posted on any site like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. it is likely there will be negative comments toward our efforts.

  1. Use those comments as an opportunity to engage the person in conversation.
  2. Offer thoughtful counterpoints to their arguments!

Do not let negativity from immature people online get you down. You already know why you are passionate about this campaign.

  1. Prepare a few lines of text expressing your feelings and why this matters to you. Have it ready to engage in positive conversation. We cannot effect change without confronting the attitudes we hope to change.
  2. Arm yourself with your honest feelings and words and a well-thought-out statement of compassion.
  3. Most people will respond to this positively. Those who don’t, brush it off! It's likely they’ve heard your message and it sticks with them, maybe they pledge next year or the year after!
Social Media Activation Calendar

Social Media Activation Calendar Days

Take action on your favorite social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) on these days of inclusion year-round.

  • October 11: International Day of the Girl. Post a picture with a girl with intellectual disabilities who inspires you. Explain how you plan to be more inclusive and empowering of women with intellectual disabilities with the hashtag #GirlTakeover.
  • December 10: International Human Rights Day. Share how you plan to promote justice, freedom, and inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities using the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights. Tag your friends and family!
  • December 18: International Migrants Day. Share your experience being a migrant with intellectual disabilities with the hashtag #WithDignity. Explore how those with and without intellectual disabilities share the migrant experience.
  • March 1: Zero Discrimination Day. Wear black to symbolize zero tolerance for discrimination of those with intellectual disabilities. Post a picture decked out in black and share your plan on how you hope to end discrimination of those with intellectual disabilities in your community with the hashtag #ZeroDiscrimination!
  • March 4: Spread the Word: Inclusion Day! Attend/host a local pledge event/rally and post about your experience with the hashtag #PledgetoInclude. Post a comment on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook about what inclusion means to you. Use the hashtags #PledgetoInclude and #SpreadtheWord. Create a video speaking about inclusion and how you plan to be more inclusive in your community. Post it online, share it on Special Olympics Facebook page, tag friends and family, and use the hashtag #PledgetoInclude.
Template Letter to the Media


Dear Editor,

As [publication name] is a leader in driving local culture, we need your support, and the support of your readers, for the Spread the Word Inclusion campaign to help take a stand against discriminatory words and actions and to create a more inclusive world. We can create a more accepting world by working to integrate individuals with intellectual disabilities into realms of society from which they have been excluded. We fight for equality, acceptance, and respect by treating all with the dignity they deserve. Those with intellectual disabilities have grown familiar with a feeling of isolation as a result of exclusivity in society. A lack of inclusion has become a hurtful norm to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and their friends.

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had to overcome challenges arising from societal stereotypes for too long. It is time for a change and you and your readers can help.

Special Olympics [program] athletes/Best Buddies participants like [Insert athlete/participant name] accomplish great things, are members of our local communities and deserve the same respect and dignity that each of us expects from others.

Help drive much needed change that will bring acceptance and inclusion to our community. You can make a change by bringing awareness to inclusive practices and exercising those practices. This could include notifying readers of local Special Olympics/Best Buddies events and national holidays celebrating those with intellectual disabilities. You can also include the R-word into your “Not Fit to Print” publishing guidelines alongside other hurtful and profane words. With your publication reaching XXXXX of subscribers/members of the community, you have a large influence and can help us get members of the community to take the pledge to spread inclusion at https://www.spreadtheword.global/pledge. If the role of a local leader like [PUBLICATION] is to inform and effect positive change in the community, what better way than helping us to Spread the Word Inclusion? In turn, the support will create communities of acceptance and inclusion for all people. Please support our mission and help us get your readers to pledge at https://www.spreadtheword.global/pledge.



Template Letter for Twitter/Instagram

Template Letter For Twitter/Instagram

Social Media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have become increasingly effective in gathering support for movements similar to Spread the Word Inclusion. However, some social media sites (such as Twitter) limit the size of the message one can send.

Below is a condensed “letter to the editor” message that can be customized and tweeted @/direct messaged to local news reporters and individuals of influence:

Dear (name),

As (publication/news channel name) is a powerful force in shaping public action, we need your support for the Spread the Word Inclusion campaign. Our fight is to stand against discriminatory action and language and engage in more inclusive behavior. We must welcome those with intellectual disabilities into fields they have been excluded from and end discriminatory, disrespectful behaviors.

You can help to create a more inclusive world! Bring awareness to the importance of inclusion by directing attention towards local Special Olympics/Best Buddies events and national days of celebration. You can deepen your understanding and the understanding of your readers/viewers by speaking about intellectual disabilities. Please support our mission and help get readers/listeners to pledge at https://www.spreadtheword.global/pledge



Reference Materials and Links


Intellectual Disabilities and Language and Terminology Fact Sheet

The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century

  • Groundbreaking poll from Shriver Media and Special Olympics International, supported by the Richard and Cecilia Attias Foundation, conducted online by Harris Poll
  • Reveals that the more than half of Americans who have personal contact with someone with intellectual disabilities are increasingly accepting and positive.

Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

Advocacy and Inclusion Opportunities from Best Buddies International

More Information on Various Intellectual Disabilities

Spread the Word: Inclusion

To find all of the editable resources, our Spread the Word logos, and campaign photos please visit our Dropbox link below: