COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The COVID-19 pandemic has created education challenges for many families, with some students often falling behind in their schoolwork, and getting caught up has been difficult for some of these families.

For children with disabilities, it’s been even more of a challenge, but one program is hoping to help fix that.

Last fall, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Learning Aid Ohio, with the Down Syndrome Association Central Ohio (DSACO) serving as the program’s managing partner.

Learning Aid Ohio affords families with children on an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) access to funds that can cover the cost of tutoring and supplemental education supports.

Even though students are back in school, program organizers realized they needed to extend the program and offer after-school assistance. One mother, Esther Bonilla, said the program has been helping her immensely and hopes others can take advantage of it.

Esther’s 14-year-old daughter, Edilia, has Down syndrome. She said daily tasks are hard for EdIlia and as a single mother with four kids, a full-time job, and a language barrier, Esther said there’s only so much help she can offer her daughter.

Learning Aid Ohio helps her both financially and with translation as the organization works with different kids with multicultural backgrounds. On top of that, it’s also easier sometimes for the kids to learn from others.

“When kids learn in a different way, it’s easy sometimes for parents to have someone else to help them with that part,” said Vanessa Armenta, Spanish liaison for Learning Aid Ohio. “It’s difficult just daily when the kids know you’re their mom. Having that teacher is beneficial.”

Another aspect of the program is parents can pick their children’s itinerary, whether that’s coloring, painting, learning to say the alphabet out loud, or any other educational activity.

Initially, the Governor’s office and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities provided financial support to fund the program, but more recently, significant support from the corporate sector has poured in a well. Specifically, CoverMyMeds has made a $100,000 investment in support of families like the Bonillas so they can continue to benefit from the program.

For more information on Learning Aid Ohio, click here.