Individuals with disabilities are often easily identified on campus and isolated for being “different.” In turn, they experience a higher rate of peer rejection along with higher frequencies of verbal and physical attacks.
According to PACER’s online National Bullying Prevention Center, “One study shows that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.”
The stress of bullying interferes with a student’s ability to learn and may adversely impact their health and safety. School/class avoidance; a lack of focus and concentration; chronic depression, fear and anxiety; as well as acts of self-harm or aggression are potential outcomes (PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center). And these symptoms will often have long-term negative effects that persist into adulthood.
Circle of Friends (CoF) alleviates bullying by breaking down stereotypes to reveal that we are all more alike than different. When students begin to see themselves in their peers—recognizing common interests, desires, and struggles—empathy and sympathy increase.
Through CoF, students with and without special needs come to know and understand each other while lunching on campus and participating in fun school and community activities. Genuine friendships form where they may not have otherwise and social isolation diminishes. The line between disabled and non-disabled is erased.
Students in the CoF program develop a strong social and emotional intelligence to guide their behavior. They become catalysts in creating a kinder, inclusive school environment.
"My favorite part of Circle of Friends is being able to truly, like, hang out with those that see life at a better perspective than some other people that don’t really understand. I’m glad to see…people that are so good with positive energy. "
– General Education High School Student