April 22, 2014 9:44 am
By Catherine Falleo, M.S.Ed., SAS, SDA, and Anya K. Silver, M.A., BCBA
For typical developing children, the process of reaching independence in adulthood seems to come naturally. However, this is not so for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As children with an ASD develop and grow into adults with an ASD, the idea of college or job training, a career, and living on their own comes with an overabundance of uncertainty. For many individuals with an ASD, they do acquire and demonstrate a wide range of skills, but often during transitioning to adulthood, when levels of support begin to fade and independent use of these skills is expected, generalization of skills becomes challenging. Independent functioning may be difficult for adults with an ASD due to the core deficits of the disability.
Adults with an ASD, in order to achieve independence, should develop the necessary skills and supports to be advocates of their own lives and to be free to make things happen for themselves without an inappropriate amount of assistance from others. Achieving this requires a strong adaptive behavior repertoire. These are the daily living skills that most typical individuals seem to learn naturally, but must be systematically taught to many individuals with an ASD. The term adaptive behavior refers to the skills or abilities that people need to function independently at home and in the community and includes everything from interacting and communicating with other people to shopping, budgeting, cleaning, eating, dressing and grooming, following directions, completing tasks, getting to work on time, reading, computation, being responsible for oneself, and becoming financially independent. Reaching true independence for adults with an ASD means developing meaningful friendships, being competitively employed, and living independently.
QSAC has four Day Habilitation (DH) Programs and three Day Habilitation (DH) WOW (Without Walls) Programs. Developing meaningful friendships for our consumers is an essential aspect across all of our programs. Our goal is to foster friendships among the consumers we serve as well as their ability to develop new friendships in their communities.
We have assisted our consumers in developing several social groups based on their common interests, passions, hobbies, and experiences. We facilitate a monthly Gamers Club where consumers across all of our DH programs who have shown an interest in gaming come together to share games while also playing games and comparing strategies together. The supervisors of the program work collaboratively with the staff and consumers in developing the monthly Gamers Club agenda so to ensure that it incorporates important social, communication, and adaptive skills throughout the event.
Another development has been the Spa/Wellness Club for our female consumers across programs who have shown an interest in the area of beauty, specifically with regards to hair, nails, makeup and fashion. Some consumers are interested in learning how to apply makeup while others specifically want to create their own fashion designs. The supervisors of the program work collaboratively with the team to incorporate into the Spa/Wellness Club agenda the opportunity to work on health awareness, specifically exercise and nutrition.
Additionally, due to our large number of comic book enthusiasts and those interested in anime, a Comic Book Club was developed. The supervisors of the program worked collaboratively with the staff and consumers to incorporate within the monthly agenda topics such as character discussions, character drawings, and comprehension of material read. In addition to our social clubs, our consumers participate in talent shows where they get to showcase their wonderful abilities from singing to dancing to stand up comedy, which offers the opportunity for our consumers to cheer on their friends, and for some, learn to be supportive of others.
In addition to developing meaningful friendships we are also committed to providing opportunities for our consumers to prepare for work environments and become competitively employed. For many of our consumers, we are providing formal curriculum programming to prepare them for these environments. Some of the program goals our staff are assisting our consumers with are within the areas of vocational tasks, schedule following, clerical skills, computer data entry, appropriate social behavior in the community, problem solving, communication skills, behavioral self-monitoring skills, self-care skills, budgeting, completing work applications, travel skills, and cleaning. Four days per week our consumers have the opportunity to generalize these skills to a vocational setting in the community. Some of our volunteer training sites include but are not limited to clothing stores, shoe stores, furniture stores, pharmacy/drug stores, preschools, colleges/universities, pet stores, senior centers, supermarkets, churches/community centers, non-profit organizations, book stores, food carts, and preparing food/deliveries and office/clerical environments. We have the opportunity to observe our consumers in these settings and further develop and enhance their skills by addressing any areas that require further development and practice by providing on the job support, discussing areas of skill development with the consumer, their family, and team of professionals, so that goals can be modified and future goals developed.
Lastly our adult programs are committed to further developing the skills of our consumers to be able to live independently. We have introduced The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)TM by James W. Partington and Michael M. Mueller to our program. The AFLS is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills tracking system. It provides information regarding a learner’s skill set and provides a curriculum guide that can serve as a basis for developing learning objectives. We use the AFLS with our consumers at DH to assess skill levels and develop functional, practical, and essential skills of everyday life. The domains covered within this guide are basic living skills, home skills, community participation skills, and school skills. The types of goals our staff have generated for our consumers to strengthen living independently include but are not limited to: dressing, toileting, grooming, bathing, health, safety and first aid, preparing meals, leisure, cooking, learning to physically navigate safely around sidewalks and streets, safety signs, strangers/people encountered while walking or while being transported in the community, basic mobility, shopping, money management, phone use, time, social awareness, and manners.
Independent functioning may be difficult for adults with an ASD due to the core deficits of the disability, however, reducing their dependence on assistance will lead to greater independent functioning and greater levels of social acceptance within the community.
About the Authors: Catherine Falleo M.S.Ed., SAS, SDA, serves as the Director of Clinical Services for QSAC’s Day Habilitation Programs; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anya K. Silver, MA, BCBA, serves as the Assistant Clinical Director for QSAC’s Day Habilitation Programs; she can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared in QSAC’s print newsletter for Spring 2014.
April 18, 2014 10:34 am
The New York State Dental Foundation’s mission aims to spread smiles throughout New York State by helping to meet the oral health needs of those most in need. Over the winter the New York State Dental Foundation, along with support from Dr. Scott Firestone, helped with facilitating the donation of a dental chair for QSAC’s Day School in Queens. The dental chair will serve as a simulated learning experience for the students at the Day School. By sitting in the chair and experiencing the dental lamp, students will be desensitized to the dental office setting, so as to be ready for their next dental appointment.
“QSAC is very grateful for the generous support of the New York State Dental Foundation and Dr. Scott Firestone. With their combined efforts, we have a dental chair that will allow us to provide a unique hands-on learning experience for our students,” said Lisa Veglia, QSAC’s deputy executive director.
Laura Leon, the executive director of the New York State Dental Foundation said, “The Foundation exists to improve the oral health of all New Yorkers, but clearly, there are some among our population whose needs are greater. Among those are individuals who have special needs. Our most vulnerable citizens need advocates like QSAC to secure basic care that many of us take for granted. The Board of the New York State Dental Foundation applauds the work being done by QSAC, and we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to assist in this donation.”
April 15, 2014 11:31 am
Over the past year, QSAC has been fortunate to partner with the Blue Hill Troupe (BHT) as their 2013-2014 charity. As a part of this partnership, the Troupe generously donates the net proceeds from their season to their charity partner. In fact, for more than 90-years, the Troupe has been producing first-rate productions throughout New York City to benefit community-based organizations.
Whether you joined us for their fall production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” or for their recent production of “Ruddigore,” both were terrific! On behalf of QSAC and the families we serve, I want to extend a special thank you to the Troupe for their commitment to our work in the community. Their generosity will have a direct impact on our efforts to increase access to educational technology for children and adults with autism participating in QSAC’s programs and services.
As the Troupe enters its 91st year of service to New Yorkers in need, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for their tremendous commitment to our community. Their dedication of time, talent, and treasure is truly inspiring. You can joining me in congratulating the Troupe on another successful season while thanking them for their support by visiting them on Facebook or Twitter and leaving a comment or tweeting a short “thank you.”
Partnerships with organizations like the Blue Hill Troupe enrich our programs and the lives of the children and adults we serve. These partnerships remind us that together we can achieve great things.
Gary Maffei, M.P.A.
Executive Director and CEO
April 8, 2014 11:42 am
Yesterday, Monday, April 7, Paul Halvatzis, a QSAC parent and board member, alongside Joseph Amodeo, QSAC’s Director of Development and Strategy, participated in an interview on NBC 4 New York with Roseanne Colletti. The interview focused on the impact of QSAC’s programs and services for children and adults with autism throughout New York City and Long Island. You can watch the interview online by clicking here.
March 27, 2014 3:26 pm
Earlier today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that autism diagnosis rates had climbed 30% over the past two years from 1 in 88, to 1 in 68 schoolchildren. The report issued by the CDC also mentioned that diagnosis rates among boys is now 1 in 42 boys compared to the earlier statistic of 1 in 54 boys.
With today’s news, I wanted to take a moment to share with you an article from CNN regarding the CDC’s new report: “CDC: 1 in 68 U.S. children has autism.”
As we reflect on the CDC’s new report, please know that QSAC has programs and services for families in need of support. In fact, for more than 36 years we have been providing person-centered educational, residential, habilitation, and support services for children and adults with autism throughout New York City and Long Island. In light of the CDC’s recent report, it’s clear that our mission is more important now than ever before.
If you know of a friend or family member who may be seeking services or supports, please encourage them to visit the “Our Resources” section of QSAC’s website to learn more about our support groups, parent trainings, and other community-based programs.
With the CDC’s new report, I hope you’ll join me and others in expressing the continued need for critical programs and services to support the autism community. As diagnosis rates continue to rise, so too will the need for support services.
Thank you again for your support of QSAC and our programs for the autism community.
March 26, 2014 1:02 pm
An enterprising crew from the Bronx Day-Hab has started up their very own business!
Members of the Doggy Delights team began from scratch and have built a thriving dog biscuit company. The team bakes the biscuits on site using fresh ingredients and has marketed their product to members of the QSAC community.
Please support our efforts and give your dog a delicious peanut buttery treat! To place an order, contact Courtney Johnson at (718) 728-8476, ext. 1800. (Note: delivery/ pick-up will be arranged depending on location- all bags are $3.00, payment is COD/ COP).
March 5, 2014 4:36 pm
On Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) will host a job fair at their office located at 25-09 Broadway to recruit and fill multiple positions. QSAC is seeking employees to fill vacancies for community habilitation and respite opportunities.
Positions are part-time during the afternoon, evening, weekend and school holidays. Locations are in consumers’ homes throughout Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Nassau. Jobs are available in May 2014.
The Job Fair will provide interested candidates with an opportunity to interview with QSAC’s hiring staff while learning more about job opportunities with the organization. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, however, a college degree is preferred. Applicants with a familiarity with people with developmental disabilities, a plus.
QSAC will be primarily recruiting candidates for Community Habilitation Specialist openings. Habilitation Specialists are responsible for the implementation of client treatment plans. In addition, to client treatment plans, employees promote client socialization, recreation, communication, travel training and money management where applicable. On-the-job training related to the responsibilities of the position will be provided.
Interested applicants can register online for an interview time at www.QSAC.com/JobFair. Interview times are available for 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. If you are unavailable to attend, please email your resume and a cover letter with a subject line indicating “Direct Care Worker” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 4, 2014 11:59 am
Earlier today, Council Member Corey Johnson visited QSAC’s Day Habilitation Program in his district in Manhattan. The Council Member had an opportunity to meet with program participants and staff while also learning more about QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community throughout the borough and the city. Council Member Johnson represents Manhattan’s West Side (District 3) and serves as the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Health.
Council Member Johnson shakes hands with a participant from QSAC’s Day Habilitation program.
Council Member Johnson and a member of QSAC’s Day Habilitation staff discuss the impact of our programs.
February 27, 2014 10:00 am
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Feb. 27, 2014 – Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a New York-based charity supporting children and adults with autism, has selected Sprint (NYSE: S) as the 2014 recipient of the Change Maker Award for its commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities. Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO, will accept the honor on behalf of the company at QSAC’s annual gala taking place on Tuesday, June 17, at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers (West 26 Street and West Side Highway) in New York.
Each year, QSAC’s Change Maker Award recognizes a company that has made a meaningful commitment to supporting the needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Sprint is being honored for delivering innovative accessible solutions that empower individuals with disabilities.
Sprint offers a variety of products and services, including unique, accessibility-themed ID packs for select Android™ devices that are designed to accommodate various accessibility needs. Sprint’s Accessible Education ID pack, among other services, assists individuals with autism who are working to improve their socialization and communication skills.
“Sprint’s efforts to expand access to technology embodies our hope for more tools and resources to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving greater independence, empowering them to contribute more meaningfully to their communities,” said Gary Maffei, executive director of QSAC. “By recognizing Sprint, QSAC hopes to encourage others to actively support Sprint and similar efforts to expand access to technology for children and adults with autism.”
“At Sprint, we recognize how making wireless technology more accessible can reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate, the communication barriers faced by individuals with disabilities,” Hesse said. “We embrace this challenge and we are proud to receive the 2014 Change Maker Award.”
Past recipients of honors from QSAC have included Pfizer and PIMCO. Each year, QSAC’s gala brings together more than 500 people to increase autism awareness while raising funds to support QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community of New York and Long Island.
Additional details regarding the gala are available online at www.qsac.com/gala. Current sponsors include Accenture, Astoria Financial Corporation/Astoria Federal Savings, Koeppel Auto Group, and Sprint.
Sprint’s corporate responsibility program, Sprint Good WorksSM, is guided by the principle that doing the right thing is good business. More than a statement, it’s also a belief: Good does indeed workSM. That’s why Sprint is committed to anticipating the needs of customers and making award-winning services accessible to all. By empowering seniors and people with disabilities through accessible technology, Sprint is demonstrating how good technology works as a positive force in society.
Download the Press Release (02/27/2014)
Download the Sponsorship Packet for the Gala
February 10, 2014 3:03 pm
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been redefined as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairment in social communication and social interaction and restricted behavior (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). From the clinical point of view, ASD is a very complex condition commonly associated with psychiatric, medical, and behavioral comorbidities (e.g. seizure disorder, anxiety, mood and sleep disorders, eating and behavioral problems) which have been referred to as “challenging behaviors” (Durand, 2014).
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and antipsychotic and anticonvulsant mediations have been used extensively to treat the “challenging behaviors” in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (e.g. irritability, impulsive aggressive behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors). Unfortunately, evidence-based research of anticonvulsant, Lithium, and antipsychotic medications is limited (Rajkumar, 2012), and there is no FDA approved medication to treat these behavioral problems in autism.
Beta-adrenergic receptor blockers (Propranolol, Nadolol, and Pindolol) have been used since 1977 in the treatment of violent behaviors in psychiatric patients (Silver, et al. 1999). In particular, Propranolol is a non-selective beta-adrenergic antagonist that reduces sympathetic nervous system activity. Recently, Propranolol has been used successfully to treat impulsivity, aggressive behaviors, hyper-arousal, and self-injurious behaviors in individuals with autism and intellectual disability. The mechanism of action of Propranolol is not clear, but may involve central Beta-adrenergic blockade, peripheral effects on the sympathetic nervous system or serotonergic blockade (Weinstock, 1980). Beta-adrenergic receptors are wildly distributed in different regions in individuals with autism such as frontal, parietal, hippocampus, midbrain etc. Genetic studies have identified several factors linking Beta-adrenergic receptor blockage to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013).
According to Bodner and colleagues (2012), in a study, which compared individuals with autism and non-autistic individuals on a working memory test, using Propranolol and the ASD group performed significantly better than the placebo group (non-ASD). It has been hypothesized that Norepinephrine (NE) levels are increased in individuals with autism, which may play a role in cognitive impairment associated with ASD. Recent research evidence suggests that Propranolol in doses (< 520mg/qd) improves impulsive aggressive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, and some aspects of learning in individuals with autism and intellectual disability (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013; Rajkumar, 2012; Fleminger, et al. 2008; Simeon and Hollander, 2001; Shroeder, et al. 2002.).
At the 2013 Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego, David Beversdorf’s group at the University of Missouri, Columbia, proposed that Propranolol was better than a placebo in enhancing functional connectivity between certain brain regions and in improving verbal fluency, verbal problem-solving, and non-verbal behaviors in individuals with autism (Zamzow, et al., 2013; Beversdorfd, et al. 1999, 2008). In addition, according to Beversdorf and colleagues (2011), Propranolol has some language benefits and performance on tasks involving cognitive flexibility of access to networks (Narayanan, et al. 2010, Hecht, et al. 2014).
Further studies are needed to evaluate the non-genomic mechanisms, neurobiological mechanism of Propranolol in context-specific anxiety, and cognitive flexibility and functional connectivity.