Circle of Friends

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Circle of Friends

Introduction

Circle of Friends is a way of helping a vulnerable child through the organised support of their peers. It is effective for children who struggle with friendships including those with more complex behaviour, emotional and social needs and/or autistic spectrum. It involves mobilising the support of peers in generating their own ideas, targets and strategies to improve the friendship skills of the focus child. The power of the circle as in Circle Time is that is provides a safe social structure governed by shared rules where difficulties can be openly discussed and a collective responsibilty is established to develop solutions. Circle of Friends has been used with children and young people of all ages from nursery through to adulthood. The approach has been used for many years in the United Kingdom as well as in North America, where it originates. It is itself based on Circle Time which was developed in Sweden a century ago.

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Outline of the Circle of Friends Approach

The following is a brief outline of process of setting up and running a successful Circle of Friends intervention:

A discussion between the school and the focus child and their parents to gain agreement
Initial meeting with whole class without the focus child being present. This is usually about 40-60 minutes in length
Peers volunteer to become Circle of Friends. Often done secretly and staff choose 6-8 members
6-8 weekly meetings of 20-30 minutes for the Circle of Friends, the focus child and the group facilitator
Targets are set each week detailing how the focussed child will be supported and minutes from the meeting are shared with the whole class
The last meeting evaluates the success of the circle and is followed by a whole class celebration

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Benefits

The Circle of Friends helps the focus child by:

Creating a support network for the child and a safe place to express emotions and rehearse basic social skills
Encouraging and recognising any achievements and progress
Identifying their difficulties and generating practical ideas to support these difficulties
Putting these ideas into practice

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Running a Circle of Friends Intervention is not only useful for the focus child but it can also have the following benefits for all participants:

Increased co-operation
Develop empathy
Identify and express feelings
Social problem solving skills
Learn to be honest, assertive and sensitive
Better understand the link between feelings and behaviour
Develop a sense of community
Opportunities to talk about problems and feel supported
Less reliant on adults to solve problems

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Resources

Circle of Friends

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A video presentation on the YouTube Channel providing a guide for parents and schools on the Circle of Friends approach.

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Circle Of Friends Facilitator's Handbook

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A step by step guide for setting up and running a Circle of Friends group.

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Circle Of Friends Information Handout

Behaviour Observation Record

An introductory guide to the Circle of Friends approach for parents and schools

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Five Minute Guides

Friendship

Playground Games

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