One in 68 Children has Autism

QSAC's blog – 2011 – August » 2011 » August

8/29: Hurricane Irene Aftermath

August 29, 2011 1:52 am Published by

Due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, QSAC offices, Day Hab and EI will be closed on Monday, August 29, 2011.

Parenting your child with autism: helpful tips for structuring the summer break

August 22, 2011 3:54 pm Published by
Many parents of a child with autism are concerned with the lack of structure the summer months bring and are apprehensive about the challenge of keeping their child supervised and occupied appropriately. Preparation and planning are the key to keeping your time home with your child enjoyable for both him/her and your family.

1. Maintain a routine as much as possible– guide your child with autism by planning his/her days, from morning routines to a set time for structured activities and activities of interest. Although you cannot plan every minute, keeping a routine will help your child with autism feel less anxious and stressed.

2. Use visual reminders– as part of your daily routines you can use picture schedules to cue what will happen and in what order. Post it on the wall as a visual reminder. Such a schedule could go something like this: wake up, use toilet, brush teeth, eat breakfast, get dressed. Here are some examples:
3. Reward good behavior.
Positive reinforcement can go a long way with autistic children, so make an effort to “catch them doing something good.” Praise them when they act appropriately or learn a new skill, being very specific about what behavior they’re being praised for. Also look for other ways to reward them for good behavior, such as giving them a sticker or letting them play with a favorite toy.

4. Make time for fun.
A child coping with autism is still a kid. For both autistic children and their parents, there needs to be more to life than therapy. Find ways to play and have fun together. Don’t obsess over whether or not these activities are therapeutic or educational. The important thing is to enjoy your child’s company!

5. Plan a Vacation- There are plenty of places you can go as a family if you so choose… check out this link for planning a great vacation with your child

With proper planning and a flexible mindset, everyday events, family gatherings and vacations can create wonderful memories for families of a child with autism.

Second Hoops for Autism Event a Success

August 18, 2011 5:06 pm Published by
School teacher, Ali Diwany takes a free throw and day school staff are ready to rebound.
The QSAC Day School hosted the 2nd Hoops for Autism event on Friday, August 12th. There were raffles for amazing gift baskets, face painting, tattoos and arts & crafts for the kids, and gift cards for 1st and 2nd place prizes in each of the 2 main events: the Free-Throw competition and the Three-Point Shoot-Out. Congratulations to David Chung, who repeated as the 1st place winner in the Free-Throw competition, followed closely behind by Day School Teacher, Dan Gatto, who took 2nd place. James Wolfin, son of Madelyn Wolfin (the School and Preschool’s social worker) took 1st place in the three- point shoot-out but only after going to a sudden death round with none other than our own, Lisa Veglia. Lisa lost in the shoot-out but took home 2nd place!

In the end, the event raised over $5,000 for the QSAC Day School. It was a fun evening for all and we’ll look forward to seeing all our supporters for more fun at Hoops for Autism III in August 2012!

 School APE teacher, James Wilhelm during the free-throw competition.
Lisa Veglia awaits her turn at the three-point competition.
Lisa Veglia receives 2nd place prize from Mariann Lai.

QSAC Summer School Program Awarded Grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children

August 16, 2011 4:06 pm Published by
We are pleased to announce that the Heckscher Foundation for Children has awarded Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) a grant in the amount of $25,000. This generous funding enabled the Bronx After School Summer Program to continue its service to autistic children during July and August 2011 despite government cutbacks.
The grant aligns closely with our principle that every child with autism deserves the highest quality of treatment and care that enables them to live meaningful and fulfilled lives in our society. Thirty-three children were able to continue working after school in July and August with QSAC therapists on their individualized, outcome-oriented treatment plans focused on improving behavioral and social functioning. The families of the children were able to pursue their employment.
“The Heckscher Foundation was critical to sustaining this vital community service to children and their families in the Bronx this past summer,” said Gary A. Maffei, MPA, Executive Director and CEO of QSAC. “The generous grant from the foundation supported the QSAC team to continue its ongoing treatment to help children improve their educational outcomes, motivation and self confidence.”
Our hope is that this award will serve to enhance and expand support to the people with autism and their families in the New York Metropolitan area. We are grateful for the Heckscher Foundation for Children’s critical support of our mission.
For more information, contact Marissa Goldberg, Development Officer at 212-244-5560 ext. 2035 or

On Assistive Technology…

August 11, 2011 3:55 pm Published by
Assistive technology devices have been a HUGE part of curriculum and behavior management techniques for the Day School. Communication devices are evaluated using the The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised, (ABLLS-R), and teacher observations to determine the student’s level of communication. From that point, a loaner device is provided at the child’s level, from there, more formal evaluations can be requested from the Department of Education. There is a strong demand for communication devices, but we need to understand that sometimes more advanced or more expensive devices are not always simplest answer.
There is a ton of research in the area of communication and technology more than I can mention in this blog, it’s a “hot topic” among professionals and parents, but as we all know some of the best ideas come from following some of the simplest of rules of Applied Behavior Analysis.
Edward is an eight year old boy just transitioned into a new school, and his first few days at school were difficult. Adjusting to the new environment, new faces of therapists and classmates made Edward’s experience quite overwhelming. Being non-vocal he would resort to multiple forms of problem behavior to get his point across. This included tantrums, grabbing towards or at favorite objects, and dropping to the floor when denied access. He was unable to express his needs in an appropriately way and his therapist’s ability to strategically manage, and figure out his environment made his behavior a big challenge. Edward did not display the ability to use universal gestures, rather resorting to sustained tantrums as a quicker, more effective means of getting what he wanted. All the signs pointed to tangibly maintained problem behavior. When beginning instruction, Edward would not tolerate the removal of favorite items from his possession.
Initially, his therapist practiced removing his preferred items (stuffed animal, musical toy), then returning it back to him while gradually increasing the time to return the item. If Edward did not engage in problem behavior within the interval, the items were returned. This occurred over several sessions until he was able to tolerate removal of objects for over 30 seconds. This may not seem like much time, but took over 1350 trials and between those trials, redirection was required. As days went by, Edward began to maintain tolerating longer periods of item removal with less frequent tantrums, but it was still only the first steps.
Since he was new to the school, it was observed that he became interested in other items around the classroom, mostly musical toys, or the classroom radio. The clever therapists’ noticed that when these items were turned off, or taken away, they would trigger tantrum behavior. Conversely, when his preferred items were in his presence he would sit appropriately and wait. They also noticed that these items were strong motivation tools that could be used to help teach him during instruction.
The classroom therapists decided that they would teach him to ask appropriately for these items as an alternative to the tantrums. There were a few days of interesting debates between the classroom staff and speech therapists as to which mode of communication Edward should start to learn, picture exchange, sign language, gestures, or a assistive technology. Trial by trial testing was used with all modes and it was determined that he gravitated towards the audio feedback and button pressing. It was also very helpful to see that he already knew how to press buttons on his musical toys as well.
Edward was given a single button communication device. This small, simple device had one windowpane and recordable audio feedback, saying “I want radio.” There was also a picture symbol in the device windowpane. This button was located on a small triangular board, placed on the table with enough space to prevent him from knocking it over, or grabbing the device off of the board. It also gave therapist enough room to prompt and re-direct him, if he lunged towards the radio, or mis-pressed the button.
Edward was prompted to press the communication button; he was given 10 seconds of preferred music to listen to. This was conducted in trial-by trial format where items were removed and therapists would reinforce him with the radio when he pressed the button. He made this connection after practicing across many sessions. After 2 months, Edward was able to identify and make a connection between the button press and the back-up reinforcer (access to the radio and his favorite musical toys). This caused him to appropriately wait as well as being able to request his most favorite items without resorting to tantrum or maladaptive behavior. He developed a very powerful contingency system.
Although there are still going to be difficult moments and goals to reach in other areas outside of the teaching session, Edward was able to establish an alternative means to express himself and control some of his surroundings in the simplest of ways. This one communicative contingency was successful in significantly reducing his problem behaviors and is a simple example. For many other students this type of contingency can be used to shape behaviors in many other areas. Edward was taught to press the button under different scenarios, in different locations, and staff realized that they could place this contingency into effect during other types of programs leading to greater independence.
Our loved ones with communication deficits have many options with the advent of a broad range of technologies. From learning simple gestures to sophisticated sign, using a visual picture exchange, to the most expensive com device you can find on the market, achieving communication still requires 4 things: prompting, reinforcement, time, and consistent implementation.
But as my brother so callously told me one day on the golf course, it’s not about the golf clubs; it’s how you use them, and I could not use them. When I first started out playing, missing swings was my strong point, curving left away from the fairway my best suit. Only after hundreds of practice shots at the range, I was able to develop a (somewhat) straight, controlled shot; my clubs are a set of handed down 1972 Walter Hagen’s. You could not have put a brand new $900 set of Ping golf clubs in front of me, and expect a hole in one all the time. Prompting, (correcting my swing), reinforcement, (scoring lower), time (thousands of practice shots), and consistent implementation (practicing often) lead to greater success.
Just like in the Edward’s story, we can’t just put an advanced device in front a child with communication and behavior deficits and expect an immediate “hole in one”. So many times, I have observed therapist and family members wanting to use these strategies, only to succumb to incorrect or insufficient knowledge about how to use the tool. This leads to frustration on the part of the child, and on the part of the person wanting to use the technology.
It comes with time and practice, it comes with identifying motivators, and teaching communication comes from learning the contingencies that elicit behavior. Starting to sound familiar? Conditioning takes effort and every attempt should be made to prevent communication from degrading as time goes by. Best practice dictates that we need to consistently implement the use of communication training throughout the entire day for it to become a useful skill. Just keep prompting…

Teaching Autism Awareness in the Community

August 8, 2011 3:14 pm Published by

Res Hab or Residential/Community Habilitation is a great service provided by QSAC that provides a staff trained in Applied Behavior Analysis to work in the homes and in the community for families with children afflicted with autism. Early in my career, I worked as a Residential Habilitation Therapist through QSAC and I spent much of my time with one particular student taking him to restaurants, movies, stores and walks around the community. When I am working, especially when I am providing direct service to my students, I tend to be extremely focused. My mind completely shuts everything else out and I am often unaware of anyone’s reactions or expressions around me. I have walked into a deli with my mind so focused on what I needed to order that a friend who happened to be at the same store had to pull at my elbow to get me to notice them. And even then, after 10 seconds of blinking blankly at them does recognition finally set in – (unfortunately this type of focus doesn’t set in on other important things in my life like dieting and exercising).

So when I would go out in the community with my student, everyone else became obstacles, almost like in a video game. People became things to maneuver around, avoid or in some instances, engage in to make purchases. This focus has proved useful when dealing with a variety of issues while outside with a student; challenging behaviors, toileting accidents, tantrums…etc. I never really gave the people around me a thought; to me, the neighborhood was my teaching ground for my student and everyone else was just the players.

One day, while at a fast food joint with my student, I was alternating between teaching my student two skills; 1) eating at an appropriate pace and quantity, as he was prone to grabbing a large handful of fries at a time (something I’ve done but will never admit to) and 2) increasing his language by having him mand or request for a drink. I would lightly touch the back of his hand each time he would make a beeline for those tasty fries, prompt him to only grab a few, move the fries away, hold his drink in my other hand and wait for him to ask for it. And for approximately 10 minutes or so I was completely engrossed in that sequence; touch hand, move fries, hold drink, give drink, repeat, touch hand, move fries, hold drink, give drink, repeat, touch hand, move fries, hold drink, give drink…. At some point, he stopped responding to my prompts; in fact he stopped responding to me at all and was staring straight ahead. He began vocalizing louder than usual and laughing hysterically. Gradually, I started tuning in to a lot of chattering behind me and what appeared to be….”barking”. At that point, my bubble burst and my players were no longer playing along. It turned out that 3 college-like frat guys were barking and laughing at my student. Being young then, I glared at them angrily and soon after, we exited the place. As we passed by them, I continued to desperately silence them with my death glare. This, of course, did nothing to dissuade them from continuing to bark at my student until the doors swung shut behind us. I was quite annoyed and upset as we walked back to his house and though my student didn’t seem to mind, I did, and thereafter became much more aware and disillusioned by those around us.

Had I been older, wiser and a little more focused on the world around me, I would’ve used that moment and changed it to a teachable one. Cards like these that offer information about autism could’ve been a quick and more effective way to quiet those guys than my glare (though I’ve been told I’ve made some people cringe with my angry face!). Despite this incident occurring about 15 years ago, happenings like this do continue to occur and there is still a need to promote awareness and understanding about Autism. As summer rolls on and you find yourself out more to beat the heat but in a similar situation as above, take the time to change your angry death glare into something more positive…it may prove to be much more satisfying.

Applications Being Accepted for ‘Got Talent 2: A Competition to Benefit Autism’

August 3, 2011 5:06 pm Published by

Got Talent 2, a competition to benefit autism, is seeking singers, dancers, musicians, magicians, etc. of all ages to compete for a $5,000 entertainment prize package including $1,000 in cash. Second and third place prizes will also be awarded.
Application forms are available online at, where details about the talent show, rules and regulations are also available. The deadline for the video online entries is Aug. 31.
A committee of entertainment industry professionals will select artists to perform/compete in front of a live audience on three Monday nights (September 19th, October 3rd and October 17th), an online semifinal round, and then the live grand finale with Celebrity Judges and performances on November 7, 2011.
Legendary Diva Martha Wash (from the hit song “It’s Raining Men”), has signed on for another round of Got Talent. “I am so happy to be a part of QSAC’s Got Talent for the 2nd year in a row,” says Wash. “Last year’s contest showcased outstanding talent, raised a lot of money for QSAC programs, and provided opportunities for our contestants to find further success. Many of the contestants have since performed on Broadway, off-Broadway and tours. This year we are looking forward to even greater talent and raising the bar with donations as well.” Martha was so moved with the organization and the Got Talent experience that she decided to sign on as QSAC’s celebrity spokesperson.
All proceeds will support QSAC’s services helping individuals with an autism spectrum disorder to live meaningful and fulfilled lives in our society. 
To Submit to QSAC’s Got Talent 2:
Complete your online application form at

  • All audition media submitted will become the property of QSAC, Inc.
  • Your audition should be no longer than sixty (60) seconds and contain only one song/performance.
  • Every act must complete an online application with Video and Internet Release form
  • Only one fee per act is required no matter the number of performers in the act.
  • All audition materials including submission forms, Internet video release forms, and YouTube links, must be received by August 31, 2011, to be eligible for consideration.
  • If chosen as one of the official contestants, the performer must agree to buy/sell twelve (12) $12 tickets to be eligible to continue in the contest.
For more information visit


QSAC is a New York City and Long Island based nonprofit that supports children and adults with autism, together with their families, in achieving greater independence, realizing their future potential, and contributing to their communities in a meaningful way by offering person-centered services.

QSAC pursues this mission through direct services that provide a supportive and individualized setting for children and adults with autism to improve their communication, socialization, academic, and functional skills.