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5800 S. Eastern Ave., Ste. #500

Commerce, CA 90040

323-629-4178

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© 2016 Circle of Friends ~ The Path to Inclusion, a Project of Community Partners, 501(c)(3), Tax ID # 95-4302067

Program Description

Circle of Friends (CoF) is a social and language skills program of inclusion that provides valuable support to students with special needs.  It is based on the establishment of friendships between students with disabilities and their trained, non-disabled peers as both interact meaningfully in the natural environment.

 

CoF provides a systematic approach to a multi-layered program, enabling students with disabilities to lead productive and engaged lives.   

  • CoF organizes a different group of non-disabled peers (two to four) around a student with special needs, mutliple days per week, enabling students with disabilities to form multiple friendships over the school year.  Our model of inclusion is appropriate to all grade levels

  • These small CoF groups meet weekly throughout the school year at a variety of locations, fully woven into the fabric of the campus.

  • CoF provides on-going training to non-disabled peers throughout the year. They are shown how to model and shape appropriate language skills. 

  • Weekly phone calls provide the opportunity for students with special needs to develop the life skill of speaking on the phone.  They accustom themselves to dialing, leaving messages, asking for friends, and talking to peers when not face-to-face.

 

  • Monthly large group activities, on campus or within the community, are encouraged as part of Circle of Friends. These gatherings (e.g., dances, holiday parties and meals) offer additional opportunities to socialize and bring all CoF participants together to have fun and get to know each other better.  This allows for community members to see how effortlessly students with and without special needs interact. 

  • A CoF Student Officer Board (under the supervision of school CoF Advisors) meets weekly to organize and run the program, planning community activities, "Ability Awareness" presentations, and a year-end Friendship Celebration. 

  • During  "Ability Awareness" presentations, students in CoF share with classmates an understanding of disabilities and the unique gifts and talents we each possess.  As peers talk to peers about these issues that matter, the campus climate is positively impacted and becomes sensitized to personal differences.  More considerate and mindful behavior is inspired.

  • Meetings for the parents of students with special needs are recommended annually. This is a time and space for parents to join in voicing their concerns, challenges and experiences, while sharing knowledge.  It is a sanctuary that fosters true support and trust.

When a school district decides to implement Circle of Friends, it is a first step towards optimizing the learning experience for students with disabilities, eliminating the stress of social isolation and decreasing incidents of bullying.  There is a shift that manifests in the hearts and minds of typical peers, teachers and administrators as their awareness, understanding, acceptance and appreciation of students with special needs increases.  As a result, school staff are often motivated to find ways of further integrating students with disabilities into classroom and campus life. CoF helps everyone discover that people are people and embrace individuality.  And this “inclusive” attitude is readily extended beyond school borders into local communities.

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