Georgian marks World Autism Awareness Day with student success
April 02, 2015

Allie Webster, a first-year student in the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program, speaks to the crowd gathered outdoors at the Cenotaph at the Barrie campus of Georgian College on April 2. The assembly was to raise the flag for World Autism Awareness Day. Other speakers included Renee Ferguson, CICE co-ordinator and Erin Nightingale, manager of the Barrie chapter of Autism Ontario. Webster, who is diagnosed with Asperger's, part of the autism spectrum disorder scale, spoke of how she has grown as a person and come to accept herself, and appreciate what she can contribute.

Allie Webster, a first-year student in the Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program, speaks to the crowd gathered outdoors at the Cenotaph at the Barrie campus of Georgian College on April 2. The assembly was to raise the flag for World Autism Awareness Day.

Allie Webster used to fear that she would never fit in with the rest of her family.

Diagnosed as a youngster with Asperger’s, part of the autism spectrum disorder scale, Webster says her shyness and feeling of being different worried her considerably.

“I felt that I could never belong in my family – the rest of them seemed so successful compared to me,” she said.

Originally from Collingwood, she is now 19 years old and finishing up her first year of the Georgian College Community Integration through Co-operative Education (CICE) program, living in residence at the Barrie Campus.

“Today, I would say I am courageous. I was nervous, but excited, to start a new life here at college. Now I can say I am able to work in groups with other students, and I make presentations to groups on campus and even at Open House. The CICE program has helped me overcome my shyness,” she said.

Webster was a featured speaker as college officials raised the Autism Ontario flag at the Barrie Campus on April 2 to mark World Autism Awareness Day for the first time. Renee Ferguson, co-ordinator of the CICE program, said that as the CICE program grows it helps students to succeed while also enriching the entire Georgian community.

“All our students, including those on the autism spectrum, enhance diversity on campus. They share new ways of thinking and doing and perceiving the world,” Ferguson said.

Erin Nightingale, manager of the Barrie office of Autism Ontario, said her organization appreciates the recognition that Georgian offers by marking World Autism Awareness Day. She called the CICE program a “wonderful opportunity for those on the autism spectrum to take part in college.”

A relatively new program at Georgian’s Barrie Campus, CICE is a two-year postsecondary certificate program for students with cognitive disabilities or learning challenges who require academic accommodations and modifications for success.

Many students who have traditionally been unable to access postsecondary education can now experience college through the program. CICE students take a variety of college courses, develop essential employability skills, gain work experience through field placements and earn a college certificate. After graduation, they may embark on their career or continue with academic study.

One of the keys to student success is that CICE students are integrated and participate fully in Georgian courses. Learning facilitators work with students to help them stay organized, prioritize their assignments, learn how to study and, in general, succeed at college

Webster can’t say enough about how succeeding at college has raised her self-esteem and helped her plan life goals.

“Now, I say I have skills that can inspire others. I tell people, be kind to yourself and others. Embrace your differences. You have something to give to the world,” she said.