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The Friendship Circle

Adam Croman
Adam Croman

Community is especially important in today’s society. To build strong communities, active attention and a helping hand can be extended to youth of all backgrounds. With the opportunity to invest in youth who need the confidence to succeed in the future, volunteers can help provide guidance and assistance to youth in everyday scenarios.

The Friendship Circle

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A D A M C R O M A N . C O M
T H E F R I E N D S H I P C I R C L E
S E E K S T O S U P P O R T
S P E C I A L N E E D S C H I L D R E N
A D A M C R O M A N
Community is especially important in today’s society. To build strong communities, active
attention and a helping hand can be extended to youth of all backgrounds. With the opportunity
to invest in youth who need the confidence to succeed in the future, volunteers can help provide
guidance and assistance to youth in everyday scenarios.
The Friendship Circle is a growing Jewish organization that seeks to help children with special
needs. The non-profit organization offers social recreational programs for Jewish children, teens,
and young adults, allowing kids who are often misunderstood or discriminated upon because of
their needs to experience the basic needs of childhood; scheduled social dates, friendships, and
ways to express and connect with other children.
With over 80 locations worldwide, the Upper East Side also hosts a center where I volunteer. The
center was founded by Chabad in 2008 and now allows teenagers, like myself, the opportunity to
pair with a child for weekly home visits and other social activities events. For example, the
organization offers social meetings like Sunday Circle, Miracle Sports League, Hang’n with
Friends, Day Camp, holiday celebrations, and other family-focused programs.
The Friendship Circle confronts the
challenges these youth face head on by
helping to celebrate the individuality and
unique experience of the children with
special needs. By incorporating the needs
of professional individuals and the insights
of the teens and youth volunteers and
professionals, the organization can help fit
the needs of each individual in the
program. Through interaction, the
volunteers can lift the spirits of their
charges in ways that therapy cannot. In
fact, research from the Indiana Resource
Center for Autism and studies from the
likes of Governors State University have
shown that kids with special needs benefit
greatly from social interactions with peers
without special needs.
The ways in which volunteers can provide
positive social interaction for the youths
we help to develop include:
S O C I A L I N T E R A C T I O N
I S A S B E N E F I C I A L A S
T H E R A P Y
This level of intervention focuses on pairing
experienced adult guides typical peers and
children with special needs in structured and
supportive environment through activities that
encourage interaction. Volunteers maintain a
consistent schedule, and can coach their at-need
peers through play sessions. Encouraging the
children with special needs to remain engaged
with cues like eye contact and positive language
can help the child become familiar with everyday
social cues and skills.
P E E R B U D D Y A N D
P E E R T U T O R S
I N T E G R A T E D P L A Y
G R O U P S
This approach is more based on individual peer-to-
peer relationship building. One peer is designated
to keep a close watch on their buddy which
includes talking to them about their needs, playing
with them, and helping them when needed.
Strategies like these aim to create opportunities
for natural interactions between special needs
children and typical peer encounters through
incidental learning about normalized social
behaviors.
PRT calls for adults to intervene by
using role-play scenarios to train
peers to engage in specific
behaviors with special needs
children. These trainings include
taking turns, providing narration for
play activities, encouraging
conversation, and modeling
appropriate social behaviors.
P I V O T A L
R E S P O N S E
T R A I N I N G ( P R T )
Group-Oriented
Contingency
As a more in-depth strategy, group-oriented
contingency focuses on training entire classrooms
how to improve social behaviors and techniques
in the hopes of creating a more inclusive
classroom for children with special needs. If
teachers have limited personnel, these trainings
could be useful ways to encourage the learning
and development of special needs students.
Peer Networking
A number of peers can form a social network that
helps support children with special needs in the
classroom. Peer networks can develop skills
needed to welcome, offer direction, and build
bonds with these children. In addition, both
groups can learn how to initiate positive social
conversations.
Peer Initiation Training
In these trainings, peers learn techniques
that can help initiate interactions from
children with special needs. The trainings
can focus on ways to get their attention and
ways for peers to approach these children
with focus on offering to share, requesting
assistance amongst other strategies.
Not only does in-need youths gain positive social
experiences from this program, but it also helps the
volunteers grow, too. Since children with special
needs are often stigmatized, it helps build
perspective and character into the skills of youth
volunteers. I have been able to find a sense of
connection, responsibility, and inclusion in spending
time with my special needs partner. However, it also
allows me to also extend my reach into the greater
Jewish community of New York City. As a member of
this community, I am being given the mutual
opportunity of developing my skills as well as theirs.
I encourage others to volunteer with organizations
like The Friendship Circle or start peer-mediated
programs in their schools and classrooms. Not only
can you build a sense of community and leadership
qualities, but you can also build lasting friendships
with these kids for years to come.
Mutual Benefits
A D A M C R O M A N . C O M
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The Friendship Circle

  • 1. A D A M C R O M A N . C O M T H E F R I E N D S H I P C I R C L E S E E K S T O S U P P O R T S P E C I A L N E E D S C H I L D R E N A D A M C R O M A N
  • 2. Community is especially important in today’s society. To build strong communities, active attention and a helping hand can be extended to youth of all backgrounds. With the opportunity to invest in youth who need the confidence to succeed in the future, volunteers can help provide guidance and assistance to youth in everyday scenarios. The Friendship Circle is a growing Jewish organization that seeks to help children with special needs. The non-profit organization offers social recreational programs for Jewish children, teens, and young adults, allowing kids who are often misunderstood or discriminated upon because of their needs to experience the basic needs of childhood; scheduled social dates, friendships, and ways to express and connect with other children. With over 80 locations worldwide, the Upper East Side also hosts a center where I volunteer. The center was founded by Chabad in 2008 and now allows teenagers, like myself, the opportunity to pair with a child for weekly home visits and other social activities events. For example, the organization offers social meetings like Sunday Circle, Miracle Sports League, Hang’n with Friends, Day Camp, holiday celebrations, and other family-focused programs.
  • 3. The Friendship Circle confronts the challenges these youth face head on by helping to celebrate the individuality and unique experience of the children with special needs. By incorporating the needs of professional individuals and the insights of the teens and youth volunteers and professionals, the organization can help fit the needs of each individual in the program. Through interaction, the volunteers can lift the spirits of their charges in ways that therapy cannot. In fact, research from the Indiana Resource Center for Autism and studies from the likes of Governors State University have shown that kids with special needs benefit greatly from social interactions with peers without special needs. The ways in which volunteers can provide positive social interaction for the youths we help to develop include: S O C I A L I N T E R A C T I O N I S A S B E N E F I C I A L A S T H E R A P Y
  • 4. This level of intervention focuses on pairing experienced adult guides typical peers and children with special needs in structured and supportive environment through activities that encourage interaction. Volunteers maintain a consistent schedule, and can coach their at-need peers through play sessions. Encouraging the children with special needs to remain engaged with cues like eye contact and positive language can help the child become familiar with everyday social cues and skills. P E E R B U D D Y A N D P E E R T U T O R S I N T E G R A T E D P L A Y G R O U P S This approach is more based on individual peer-to- peer relationship building. One peer is designated to keep a close watch on their buddy which includes talking to them about their needs, playing with them, and helping them when needed. Strategies like these aim to create opportunities for natural interactions between special needs children and typical peer encounters through incidental learning about normalized social behaviors.
  • 5. PRT calls for adults to intervene by using role-play scenarios to train peers to engage in specific behaviors with special needs children. These trainings include taking turns, providing narration for play activities, encouraging conversation, and modeling appropriate social behaviors. P I V O T A L R E S P O N S E T R A I N I N G ( P R T ) Group-Oriented Contingency As a more in-depth strategy, group-oriented contingency focuses on training entire classrooms how to improve social behaviors and techniques in the hopes of creating a more inclusive classroom for children with special needs. If teachers have limited personnel, these trainings could be useful ways to encourage the learning and development of special needs students. Peer Networking A number of peers can form a social network that helps support children with special needs in the classroom. Peer networks can develop skills needed to welcome, offer direction, and build bonds with these children. In addition, both groups can learn how to initiate positive social conversations. Peer Initiation Training In these trainings, peers learn techniques that can help initiate interactions from children with special needs. The trainings can focus on ways to get their attention and ways for peers to approach these children with focus on offering to share, requesting assistance amongst other strategies.
  • 6. Not only does in-need youths gain positive social experiences from this program, but it also helps the volunteers grow, too. Since children with special needs are often stigmatized, it helps build perspective and character into the skills of youth volunteers. I have been able to find a sense of connection, responsibility, and inclusion in spending time with my special needs partner. However, it also allows me to also extend my reach into the greater Jewish community of New York City. As a member of this community, I am being given the mutual opportunity of developing my skills as well as theirs. I encourage others to volunteer with organizations like The Friendship Circle or start peer-mediated programs in their schools and classrooms. Not only can you build a sense of community and leadership qualities, but you can also build lasting friendships with these kids for years to come. Mutual Benefits A D A M C R O M A N . C O M
  • 7. T H A N K Y O U A D A M C R O M A N . C O M A D A M C R O M A N