Madison Cortland ARC news

(Madison County, NY – Oct. 2012) Erica Ostwald is a shy woman who has faced personal challenges in her life. She was diagnosed with Autism when she was a small child.

Ostwald attended public school despite efforts from the school district to place her in a special class. Her family knew that she was special and advocated for her to be just like any other student and to be mainstreamed in regular classes.

In 1995, Oswald graduated from high school and then went to Utica School of Commerce where she graduated with a certificate in computer operations.

Oswald and her family have received help from Madison Cortland ARC since 2000. The ARC helps her with communicating with others, housekeeping and shopping skills, and with employment opportunities through Alternatives Vocational Services (AVS).

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month and Ostwald is an inspiration.  Through the assistance of AVS, Oswald was hired by the ARC in 2010 and works in the Public Relations Department. Her position is PR Clerk and her job is to maintain the database, take notes, and other clerical duties.

“I like working at ARC” says Erica Ostwald, “I enjoy doing office work.”

Working in the Public Relations Department may not seem to be a perfect fit for someone who is as shy as Oswald; however, in her case it has been extremely successful.

“When Erica started working, she was very shy and barely said two words” said Christine Sears, Director of Development and Public Relations for Madison Cortland ARC, “Now she participates in meetings, asks questions, takes photographs, and is a great member of the Public Relations team at ARC.”

If Oswald has difficulty at work, she knows that she can always call her Employment Specialist at AVS who will help her with learning a new skill, and reinforcing skills.

One area in the Public Relations Department that she never thought she would do is public speaking. Once terrified of the thought of speaking in front of a crowd, Oswald has learned that if she is prepared she can do it and enjoys it.

Oswald spoke at the Madison County Bar Association Law Day giving a two sentence speech. In June, she gave the welcome address that was two pages in length at the ARC Annual Dinner in Oneida.

On Oct. 19, Ostwald has been invited to give the welcome at the NYSARC Convention Delegate Assembly in Albany. She will be speaking to more than 300 people.

“We are so pleased to have Erica speak at the NYSARC Convention.” says Sue Brandt, Assistant Executive Director for Member Services and Special Projects, “Erica represents the people that NYSARC advocates for all across NYS.  She is an inspiration to all who have the privilege of knowing and working with her”.

When asked about how she felt about her upcoming speech in Albany, Oswald replied in a quiet voice, “I am nervous and excited at the same time.”

For more information about Madison Cortland ARC call 315-363-3389 in Oneida or 607-756-2015 in Cortland. The ARC website address is

By martha

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