What is Circle of Friends

Circle of Friends (CoF) is a form of Peer Mediated Intervention (PMI). PMI is defined as a treatment approach in which typically developing peers are trained to implement behavioral interventions and facilitate social skills development in special needs populations. It has been identified as an established treatment with positive outcomes for children with autism (National Autism Center, 2009). Originally implemented with preschoolers, the Circle of Friends model has been used to support individuals on the autism spectrum of all ages through the college level.  
Through a Circle of Friends program, typically developing peers ‬‬ are taught important information about classmates with social challenges, and are invited and encouraged to befriend them. These peer ‪mentors are provided education and awareness, strategies for connecting and supporting ‬‬ others who may be different, and given opportunities to socially interact on a regular basis. Check out this short video for some basic information on what a Circle of Friends group is: HERE‬
Emerging research indicates Circle of Friends programs can:
  • Increase the quality of social interactions for children with disabilities
  • Replace physical-only inclusion with true social inclusion
  • Prevent bullying
  • Develop empathy and caring in peers
  • Give group facilitators confidence in teaching social skills
  • Support parents in their quest to meet their children's social needs
  • Decrease office behavioral referra
  • Increase academic classroom participation