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College provides critical support to parents of individuals with autism
Jaimee Therrien Nov 2013Okanagan College Media Release

An Autism Spectrum diagnosis can be paralyzing for parents, but the Autism Spectrum Certificate at Okanagan College can help them fill the knowledge gap and move forward.

“After her diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with what to do first. I knew what she needed, but not where to go to get that help,” says Jaimee Therrien, a mother of four, who has a 14-year-old daughter with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“In my experience, you need at least 80 hours of education to really understand what it is your child needs over the long term and how to successfully navigate that process,” says Joanne Poole, one of Okanagan College’s Autism Spectrum Certificate instructors and mother of 20-year-old son on the autism spectrum.

Providing that critical piece of education to parents and caregivers alike, Okanagan College offers the Autism Spectrum Certificate, a three-month, part-time course at all Okanagan College campuses with new intakes in Vernon and Penticton starting in January 2014.

The certificate provides students with an in-depth understanding of what ASD is, how it affects brain function and how those differences in brain function create behaviour, learning and language problems. Not only will students master teaching and learning techniques, they will get the tools and resources to support children and adults both in school and in the community. Knowledge about how to transition older children into self-sufficiency and employment will also be acquired.

Students of this program typically include people who work with individuals on the autism spectrum such as behaviour interventionists, nurses, teachers, support care workers, and now, more than ever, parents.

“It’s parents who are bearing the brunt of recent cuts to autism intervention funding,” says Poole. “The Autism intervention and support programs do as much as they can with the resources they are provided, but the onus is now on parents to become educated.”

“For someone who is facing a new diagnosis or someone who wants to work with individuals with autism this course is so beneficial because it gives you all the information you need to be an advocate for individuals with autism,” says Therrien.

Equipped with what she learned in the Autism Spectrum Certificate, Therrien became a behavioural interventionist with the Autism Department of the Central Okanagan Child Development Centre. “I am really passionate about working with kids with challenges,” she says. “After taking the certificate, not only was I able to help my own daughter, but now I make a living helping other kids and their families everyday,” she says.

For more information on the Autism Spectrum Certificate, visit Applications are currently open for programs starting in Vernon and Penticton in January. Contact Lisa Robert at 250-545-7291, ext. 2812, in Vernon and Ingrid Carter at 250-492-4305, ext. 3206, in Penticton for more information.