FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio — The Fairview Park City Schools is searching for role models, but it's not adults they're searching for.
The district is now accepting applications for next school year for their preschool Developmental Assistance Program, also known as DAP. The preschool program is a 50/50 ratio of students who have been identified as having a disability and students considered peer role models.
The peer role models assist teachers in the classroom with students who have disabilities.
“They help the children follow the regular preschool program. They teach them how to sit, how to answer questions, how to wait turn, how to line up, things like that," Megan Frenz, intervention specialist, said.
Frenz, who's been teaching DAP for five years, said having other young students in the classroom can make all the difference.
"They hear the same language at the same age level as they are as opposed to us talking to them. They've got kids on their same eye level, it makes a difference," Frenz said.
She said the class teaches students lessons about empathy.
“It's such a great opportunity to learn empathy at such a young age and to learn that everybody’s different but we can still be friends.”
Mary Jo Rader's son, Ethan, has been a part of DAP for the last two years. Ethan was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism. He has a hard time interacting with other children and making eye contact. She said the preschool program has changed his entire future.
"He’s done so many great things. He’s so happy. He loves going to school. It's one of the few words he can say, is school," Rader said. "I wish he could stay here forever because I don't know what his future is going to be like, but I do know that his present right now is remarkable."
Rader said Ethan is now interacting and even mimicking his peers. She said she can't recommend the program enough to other parents of special needs children.
"It's just amazing. I didn't even know this existed before I was in it. These people have become like family to me," she said. "The ratio they have to special needs children and peers is perfect."
To reserve a spot for your child for screening, click here. The deadline is March 15.