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Oklahoma teacher creates program to help children understand fellow students with special needs

JENKS, Okla. – One teacher at an Oklahoma school is being praised for the way he’s helping children understand fellow students with special needs.

Teacher Bob Fisher at Jenks West Elementary started the program “Fisher Friends,” to help form friendships through understanding, compassion, and laughter.

“When I first started teaching special ed, I realized that on the first day of school, the first day I’ve taught, that these children didn’t have any friends. And I feel it’s important for them to have friends as well,” said Fisher.

Two students, Kyli and Victoria, became best friends through the program.

“The way Kyli broke through with one of my students, is just amazing. I’ve known this child for over three years and I’ve never known her have any friends or interact with any children until Kyli,” Fisher said of Victoria, who also has autism.

“The first time we met, she didn’t really you know, interact with other people, and like, a week after she started talking and laughing with me, and we just kind of clicked,” said Kyli, a 4th grader at Jenks West Elementary.

Every day, kids like Kyli volunteer to help and play alongside the students with special needs in Mr. Fisher’s class.

And for Kyli, Victoria was also her first friend.

“She told us that Victoria was her first real friend that she had ever had. And for a regular ed kid to come up to us and say that one of our children with autism was the first friend that she had ever had, I cant imagine that ever happening before,” said Paraprofessional Leslie Schepers. “And we’re forming real friendships here. And it’s just incredible to experience it and be a part of it.”

Fisher says the program as a win-win for both sides.

“Even if a child doesn’t talk, they still have feelings. They still care about things and,you know, these Fisher Friends help bring that out. There’s some stigma associated with it but I think we’re breaking those walls down rapidly,” said Fisher.

The Fisher Friend’s program has been growing steadily over the past five years.

Currently, 80 students at the school are involved in “Fisher Friends.”

“Hopefully, these children grow up to be compassionate, understanding adults, and they’ll teach their children the same lessons. We can play a part in fostering generations of people who grow up caring about kids with special needs,” Fisher said.