In middle school, making friends can be difficult, but an activity known as Circle of Friends makes friendships easier.

At La Vista Middle School in Nebraska, the Circle of Friends is a group of peers who work with certain students who are challenged when it comes to social and learning skills. The aim of the club is to help those students connect with peers through interactions that are meaningful, and develop social skills.

The program which is funded by Autism Action Partnership, began in the high schools, and then spread to middle and elementary schools. The chapter was started by Special education teacher Michele Butler and Speech pathologist Michelle Lanoue.

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“We realized what a great opportunity it was for our students to learn social skills and develop friendships,” Butler said.

The Circle of Friends group meets every two weeks, and has lunch together two times a month. Meetings consist of activities such as cookie decorating and board games.

“It’s kind of a time to teach manners, conversation skills and social skills and also throughout the hallway to model appropriate behavior as well,” Butler said. “Sometimes, students just see what’s going on and ask how they can get involved which is wonderful.”

The peers are chosen based on recommendations from their teachers.

“I like interacting with people and being able to talk to people,” said Nicole Perez, one of the peers. “I think it’s an interesting program we have at our school.”

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