Improving communication between children with autism and their peers through the 'Circle of Friends': A small-scale intervention study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

  • E. Kalyva
  • E. Avramidis

Department/unit(s)

Publication details

JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
DatePublished - Jun 2005
Issue number3
Volume18
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)253-261
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

BACKGROUND The 'circle of friends' is an educational approach that facilitates the inclusion of children with disabilities into the school community by engaging their peer group in supporting the individual proactively. The present small-scale study examines the efficacy of this intervention in improving the communication (and ultimately social) skills of pre-school aged children with autism. METHODS Five children identified with autism aged between 3.10 and 4.7 years participated in the study – three in the intervention and two in the control group. The 'circle of friends' was applied for 30 min on a weekly basis at a nursery setting for a period of 3 months with the active involvement of one teacher and five peers of each child with autism. The effects of the intervention were systematically examined by means of an observation schedule which recorded the number of responses and initiation attempts – both unsuccessful and successful – of all participating children with autism during baseline, post-intervention and at 2 months follow-up. RESULTS The statistical analysis of the data revealed that children in the intervention group had significantly lower unsuccessful response and initiation rates at post-intervention and follow-up than children in the control group. Moreover, children in the intervention group had significantly higher successful response and initiation rates at post-intervention and follow-up than those in the control group. CONCLUSIONS The recorded changes in the interaction patterns indicate that the 'circle of friends' is a powerful intervention that, if carefully applied, can improve the social skills of children with autism and their ability to communicate, and ultimately facilitate their 'inclusion' in mainstream settings. Further larger-scale longitudinal research is needed to examine the long-term benefits of the approach for children with autism and the broader changes in the nexus of relations within the mainstream environment.

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