Friday, December 30, 2011

Friendship Circle and Being a True Friend

Friendship Circle not only teaches our children how to be sensitive to the needs of the developmentally disabled, but it also teaches them how to be good friends to their typically developing peers. As you know, as we watched our children interact in the Friendship Circle winter camp, we saw incredible caring, patience and maturity in our children. After the experience, we will then talk to them about how this week impacted on their lives.

We share with them a song by Peter Yarrow , of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, called, “Don't laugh at me.” It comes along with a video which features special needs children. You can find this video at This song is part of the curriculum he created for his organization called “Operation Respect” which travels all across the world teaching children how to treat each other with respect. Its mission is so that no child ever feels teased or picked on. He has brought this program even to Israel and has done his song in Hebrew and Arabic. A few years ago, someone from his organization came to our school to meet with our students. Since then, we have been utilizing pieces of his program in our anti-bullying curriculum. Some of the lyrics we focus upon in his song are:

In fact, I witness this issue more poignantly with our students who are in the mainstream school system, yet might have more subtle disabilities. A recent study in July 2011 found that 1 in 3 children in mainstream classrooms have some special needs- ranging from asthma and ADHD to emotional and behavioral disorders. These students reported higher levels of bullying and were less likely to feel safe in school. Research indicates that children with more “minor” special needs (not minor at all to them!) have lower social standing among students in the classroom and are frequently the targets of bullying. The research has pinpointed some specific reasons why these children may suffer bullying. Children who have difficulty reading social cues and have difficulties with social interaction can be targets. Often, these children have lower frustration tolerances and may have “melt-downs” in class causing them to stand out. They may get “stuck” in conversation making it hard for them to converse. Some children have motor difficulties which make participation in sports challenging. These are the children that are always picked last. And, we know how particularly difficult it is for a boy who is not good at sports to fit in.

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