One in 68 Children has Autism

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Interactive Technology and Autism: Dayschool’s Journey…

October 27, 2011 5:28 am Published by

Thanks to generous donations, the Dayschool has been the lucky recipient of new technology this past year. We have graciously received interactive/touch devices (17 iPads and a Smartboard) and can now proudly stand amongst the rest in modern education! The positive reviews of devices like iPads and Smartboards with children with disabilities have been a hot topic all over the internet. Despite research regarding the effectiveness of this technology being relatively new; it makes sense to me why many children with autism seem to enjoy them. With zero learning curve and the ability to access videos, music and games at your fingertips; simply put, this makes for one powerful reinforcer!! However, this is not to say we weren’t a bit tentative the moment we got them. Having talked and talked to anyone willing to listen about all the wonderful benefits of iPads and Smartboards, when they finally came into our possession; we hooted, hollered, jumped for joy…and then scratched our heads and thought, “So, what are we going to do with these things?”

It wasn’t that we didn’t research into, or for some, experience firsthand the benefits of interactive technology with children with autism, but when it finally came to fruition, we just weren’t prepared programmatically. In other words, as easily and quickly as we happily received them, we could not as easily and quickly hand them out to our teachers and students for use. As the reluctant designee for all things “techie” at our school AND being a pro-PC fan (gasp! I know!), configuring iPads for appropriate use for 76 students is no easy task. And until we discovered that we could charge and sync at least 12 iPads simultaneously with purchase of a sync and charge cart…well, let’s just say, I was pretty possessive over any open outlet I saw. And as for the teachers, they were and still are, learning to create interactive lesson plans using the Smartboard software. Not only are they teachers, but they’re slowly learning to become novice programmers too!

Some projects in the works that I hope to be able to report on in the future?
With continuing interest in assistive technology, some of the iPads at the Dayschool have Proloquo2go installed. The advantages of using an iPad as a communication device supersedes any other standard device on the market out there for one simple fact; if it breaks, you go to an Apple store, get it fixed in a reasonable amount of time without jeopardizing a child’s only means of communication and you do it with minimal pain involved (although I hear visiting the Genius Bar can ruin one’s psyche).
We will also be experimenting with using the iPads “Facetime” to work on social skills with some of our students. This may be a great way to learn basic conversational skills using written prompts that won’t be intrusive or awkward when face to face. It will also open doors to meeting and conversing with typical peers. And hey, isn’t this how we’ll all be interacting in a few years anyway?
The Smartboard has been a great way to work on group instruction in larger groups at the school while keeping the students motivated and attentive. Jordan’s class was able to participate in an interactive lesson about community helpers together. Jessie’s class has enjoyed a series of interactive lessons about living and non living things with a Jeopardy type game.
On a final note, as the Dayschool teachers are beginning to make technology part of their regular curriculum; we must remind ourselves that these amazing tools are simply that, tools. They do not replace our instructional strategies based on Applied Behavior Analysis that have been heavily researched, well documented and known to be effective. These tools are supplements to what already is in place; good practice in ABA. Without these tools, that is still what we are left with and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Queens Community Leader Shaves for Autism

October 24, 2011 2:56 pm Published by
Paul Halvatzis, a notable Queens-based businessman, has accepted a challenge from his children, including his autistic son, to shave his 35 year old mustache off to benefit those living with autism.
Halvatzis, a civic leader in Astoria, has been a board member of the Astoria Civic Association for over 20 years, past president of the Astoria/LIC Kiwanis Club for 25 years, and a board member of the 30th Ave. Merchants Association. He also serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC).
The momentous occasion will take place at the Redken Saloon Salon located at 36-16 30th Avenue Astoria, NY 11101, on Friday, December 30, 2011 at 6pm. The location is directly across from our Astoria QSAC facility which, will be simultaneously running our after school program. The public is invited to attend and, as this is a fundraiser, people are being asked to make contributions in honor of the statement Paul Halvatzis is making by shaving his mustache. Donations can be made at the event or by going to www.qsac.com/shave.
“Paul has had his mustache longer than QSAC has been in existence,” said Gary Maffei, QSAC Executive Director. “We are thrilled to be working with him on this innovative fundraiser to bring much needed resources that will both improve and expand our services to those most in need across New York and Long Island.”

We’re Still Seeking Contestants for Got Talent 2!

October 20, 2011 7:51 pm Published by
Last week’s installment of Got Talent 2 was a huge success. The room was full and the performances were top notch.
Celebrity judges Janet Pailet, Ben Cameron and Steph Watts provided excellent feedback for the contestants, all while keeping us laughing out loud at their entertaining banter.
We also still have a few spots available for our November 8 show. Remember there is $5,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs, so if you know some people with some talent encourage them to send in their entries.
Don’t forget to help get the word out to friends and family about the event. If you can’t make it down in person, remember we are now streaming live on the internet! Everyone can vote for their favorites online, from anywhere. Visit www.qsac.com/talent for more information.

We’ve Lost a Longtime Friend

October 20, 2011 7:32 pm Published by

Mrs. Joyce Carone, a long time friend of QSAC and parent of one of our group home residents, passed away last week. She will be missed.

On Identity [Guest Blog]

October 20, 2011 6:39 pm Published by
Lydia Wayman, guest blogger

Since I’m contributing to the QSAC blog for the first time, it seems appropriate that I should begin my first post by telling you a bit about myself. My name is Lydia. I’m 23, but since I can’t stand the number 3 or multiples of 3, I prefer to say that I’ll be 24 in December. I’m entirely obsessed with my nearly-14-year-old tabby cat, Elsie Penelope. I’m a writer, through and through. This brings me to my last point, which is that I am, in fact, autistic, which for me, means that I don’t do nearly as well verbally as I do when I type. Not infrequently, I can’t speak at all. Typing has given me a voice in this world.

Perhaps surprisingly, I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until just a few weeks after my 21st birthday. My best friend in college knew that I was autistic upon meeting me, and she brought it up for me to consider in September of 2008. Many adults with autism report that they feel like someone wrote a book about them when they read about the subject. Not so much, for me. Actually, when presented with the idea, I balked.
Why would a moderately affected autistic young woman fail to see herself in a description of autism? Well, I didn’t have any sense of self or theory of mind at that point. My memories, prior to the age of 21, are only sensory impressions, and muddled at that. I actually can’t remember what I thought, how I felt, or what I believed about anything. I had no idea that I love cats, or that I tend to be a pessimist, or that I’m very honest and loyal. Nothing. And so, for 21 years, I had no identity whatsoever, and least of all with respect to things like behavior such as are described in a list of autism traits.
After this revelation, though, for a time I saw myself as autistic and only autistic. I suppose this is a typical reaction to such a diagnosis coming into one’s life… to hyperfocus on it for some time. Essentially, I saw things through autism glasses, so to speak. I’d say, “Is that why I lose my speech all the time!” and “Is that why I melt down in public!” I was beginning to make sense of myself and my world.
Over time, some of the hyperfocus has faded, and I’ve begun to learn more about myself as Lydia, instead of just as “an autistic person.” As I aluded to earlier, I am a writer, a poet, a blogger, and an author. I’m a speaker. I love pink and purple, hats and shoes and clothes, and thus I’m a bit of a girly girl. Although, I do hate make up. I love Disney World. I like stuffed animals and dolls. I like to swim and walk. I’m trusting and trustworthy, honest, loyal, and yes, pessimistic. I am very interested in my cat, crafts, language, and, finally, autism.
I leave autism at the end, because while it is a part of me and what I’m all about, it is no longer all of me. I am autistic, but I am also hundreds and thousands of other things that are equally as important. I have a shirt that I like to wear to autism events that said, “I Am So Much More Than Autism.” All around the big words are smaller words, descriptive adjectives.
One theme that’s come up for me time in again through my writing is how people with autism really aren’t so different from people in general. Now, tell me, don’t many people seek to define themselves by one thing? For many, it’s by what they do (I’m an engineer). For some it’s by how they look (I always have to be tan and have my nails done). Others, by what they believe (I’m a Democrat). Or by relationships (I’m a mother).
I would argue that this way of defining ourselves by a single attribute is a mistake, on all our parts. I want to make shirts for the whole world that say, “I’m So Much More than ____.” And all around those words, there would be a bunch of adjectives that describe the person. We, both people with autism and people without it, are multifaceted. We owe it to ourselves to recognize our strengths, weaknesses, goals, dreams, and accomplishments…
Recognize. Don’t judge. Celebrate.
Until next time,
Lydia

Lydia Wayman is a 23-year-old Pittsburgher who loves cats, writing, more cats, and more writing. She also has autism. Lydia found her voice through typing and uses her writing ability, combined with a degree in education, to blog, write books, speak, and consult for families. She believes that a girl with a dream and a keyboard can change the world and has set out to do just that.

Anthony Throws First Pitch at Mets Game

October 20, 2011 3:25 pm Published by
Anthony throws the first pitch at Mets game
Anthony (20), an avid New York Mets fan, is one of QSAC’s first consumers since the age of three. He was given an opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the Mets-Marlins game on 8/31/11, thanks to Emblem Health. Anthony was accompanied by his parents Rose and Daniel and his sister Sara, who is one of our very own Service Coordinators. Anthony was thrilled when he found out he’d be throwing the first pitch at a Mets game. He wanted to tell everyone and was getting prepared by practicing throwing pitches with his Dad.
Anthony receives Service Coordination and Community Habilitation services from QSAC. He was also a recipient of a trophy at one of our talent shows. Anthony has come a long way from being a shy, loving boy, giving very little eye contact, to blossoming into a young man, full of vibrant energy. He is living proof that one can overcome his/her obstacles.

QSAC Board Member Honored With House Dedication

October 19, 2011 8:13 pm Published by

Having spent a large portion of her life fighting for the services our families receive today, after 32 years on the Board of Directors Esther Greenberg is retiring from her position.

In honor of her service QSAC has dedicated one of its residential programs in the name of Esther Greenberg. The QSAC group home located in St. Albans, Queens will now be known as the Esther Greenberg House. QSAC Executive Director Gary Maffei commented that “Esther Greenberg made sure that her child, and those children that followed, had a place to call their own. She helped us get to where we are today and many of the people we serve now have a home to live in and call their own because of her. Esther will be missed on the Board and we wish her all the best.”
Esther Greenberg’s daughter Daphne expressed the following in a letter to QSAC: “Dear Gary, Thank you for dedicating the house in my mother’s name. Ever since my brother was a young boy, {my mother} worked long and hard to make sure that he and others like him would have appropriate educational and residential services. It is therefore very fitting that the house is being dedicated in her name. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know this means a lot to her, and it means a lot to me as well.”
To make a donation to QSAC in honor of Esther Greenberg, please send checks payable to QSAC to JAF Station, P.O. Box 2442, New York, NY 10116. Donations can also be made online via qsac.com or by calling us directly at 212-244-5560, x2059.

Bowl for Autism!

October 19, 2011 4:19 pm Published by

It’s time to strike it up and bowl for a great cause! There will be lots of fun, incredible prizes and plenty of opportunity to show your style, flair and spirit. There are only a limited number of lanes, so sign up early to secure your lane!
No bowling experience is necessary! Get started right away… here’s what you need to do to start with the QSAC Bowl-A-Thon:
  • Organize a team of up to 4 of your friends, co-workers, classmates, family or neighbors (a maximum of 4 bowlers per team) and choose a team name. The lane will be reserved under this team name the day of the event. Be creative and have fun!
  • Each team member must register for the event. Registration is only $18 per person. You can either donate this yourself or ask your friends, co-workers and families to donate to your team. This must be paid before the start of the Bowl-a-Thon. (*A team is up to 4 individuals. Special lane provisions can be made for Groups/families over 4.)
  • Direct your supporters – friends and family – to the QSAC website to make their donations on behalf of your team with a credit or debit card through our website www.qsac.com/bowl. For tips on how to share information about your team with your supporters look on the fundraising website and it will show you how to send emails to friends and how to post information on the event into your individual Facebook pages. Donations can also be made by cash or check. See below for more details.
  • The QSAC website will keep track of your progress. It’s that easy! Let’s go bowling to “strike” for autism and help QSAC continue to make a difference in the autism community!
  • Donations can be made online using a credit card or by cash or check. Checks should be made out to”QSAC – 2011 Bowl-A-Thon” and these donations should be recorded on the paper pledge/sponsorship forms that can be downloaded here
All proceeds from the QSAC bowl-a-thon will go towards developing therapeutic programs for children and adults with autism throughout New York City and Long Island. You can make the difference for the autism community and have a great time while doing it.
Register now at www.qsac.com/bowl

ABOUT US

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.