One in 68 Children has Autism

QSAC's blog – 2012 – February » 2012 » February

Singles Meet Up for NEXT STEPS Autism Run

February 28, 2012 7:16 pm Published by
CharlieTheMatchmaker will be hosting a singles meet up for men and women, straight and gay, during QSAC’s Next Steps: A Walk/Run for Autism on Saturday, May 5th at Astoria Park
If you would like to join CharlieTheMatchmaker’s LOVE Team, register and join the team today!

Registration is $25! 
To register go to:

Once you are registered, you can then join CharlieTheMatchmaker’s LOVE Team and walk or run with a group of singles. Color coded name tags will be provided
There will be a SINGLES PARTY after the race with GUACAMOLE and chips!!!! A great way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo!
Charlie says, if you are in NYC on May 5th, join my team and join us for a fun Walk/Run around Astoria Park along the river with a great team of people!

If you cannot join Charlie, any donation is appreciated by going directly to his fundraising page. Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure.
If you would like any further info, please feel free to email Charlie at or if you’d like assistance in setting up your own team, contact

Amodeo Joins QSAC as Director of Development

February 27, 2012 9:45 pm Published by
Joseph Amodeo has been selected as QSAC’s new Director of Development. Along with managing QSAC special events, Amodeo will be facilitating relationships with legislators and providing insight for other fundraising efforts on behalf of QSAC. Most recently Amodeo has served as the Partnership Manager at CFY (Computers for Youth). There he managed the organization’s national events and helped develop strategic corporate partnerships.
Amodeo’s academic accomplishments include, a Masters of the Arts in Political Science from the University at Albany, along with his current enrollment in Marist College to pursue his second Master’s Degree. Amodeo has several published articles and is a contributor to the Huffington Post and the World Medical and Health Policy. In 2005, Amodeo was a candidate for Ulster County Legislature in Ulster County, NY. 
 “We at QSAC are delighted to welcome such a distinguished new mind to the QSAC development team, and are extremely excited for both the future of the organization and what we foresee to be a long and beneficial relationship with Mr. Amodeo.” said QSAC Executive Director, Gary Maffei.

Alternate Assessments

February 21, 2012 1:55 pm Published by
Every year between the months of October and February the teachers in the Day School begin an assessment procedure known as the Alternate Assessments. The New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) is a datafolio assessment that measures the progress of students with disabilities in achieving the learning standards through alternate grade level indicators (New York State Education Department, 2012). Students are tested once at each grade level in content areas such as math, English language arts, science, and social studies.
During the preparation months, teachers work diligently to put together tasks and assignments that will align with state expectations. Information collected includes photographs, video and audiotapes, data collection, and work samples, with the overall goal of differentiating assignments effectively for our students to have the most success. Putting together these tasks is not always simple. Creativity and thinking outside of the box, as well as a high degree of effort, is needed on behalf of the teachers to successfully implement these assessments.
So, as we often hear within our building, why the overall push for the assessments to be conducted in the first place? All students in the United States are required to be assessed according to State and Federal regulations yearly. This is to ensure the expectation of progress of students with disabilities continues to grow as the year’s progress. The Alternate Assessments are in place to test students with disabilities academic abilities, in relation to the statewide curriculum. These indicators are in place to drive the curriculum we implement here daily. Sure, this does not include a myriad of other skills we aim to teach within the Day School, but it does provide insight to the educational side of things. The datafolio provides a way to highlight successes of our students in relation to the learning standards the state sets forth.
This year, students in grades 3-8 and at the secondary level participated in the assessments. Teachers were given the opportunity to create datafolios of their students’ progress in specific curriculum areas. The majority of our assessments included data collection and permanent products, which include some procedures we implement every day. Although challenging at times, teachers were given the opportunity to explore their own abilities and creativity. Through this, we have identified strengths within our own teachers, and areas we can build on. Next up on our agenda is waiting for the results from the State.

Autism Risk Gene Linked to Sensory Overload

February 14, 2012 11:25 pm Published by
Many individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) demonstrate hypersensitivities to their environment. At some point, we may have observed behaviors such as the covering of ears, looking away from lights, etc. Recent research suggests that a gene mutation may explain the hypersensitivities seen in individuals with an ASD.
New research may help explain how a specific gene mutation produces the hypersensitivities to sound experienced by many persons affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The researchers found that when a suspected autism gene – PTEN – is disabled in the sound-processing center of a mouse brain, incoming signals are abnormally amplified regardless of whether their source is near or far.
“It’s long been hypothesized that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) arise from a partial disruption of long-range connections in the brain during development,” explains study leader Anthony Zador, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in New York. “Our finding that PTEN-deficient neurons receive stronger inputs suggests that one way this disruption can be caused is by signal enhancement.” Thestudy [1] – funded by Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health – appears in the Journal of Neuroscience [2].
“This is an exciting study that offers insight into why some people with autism suffer auditory hypersensitivity,” comments Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. “As we discover the biological basis of this common symptom, we come close to developing effective treatments that can help those who struggle with it.”
Although ASDs can arise from mutations in any of dozens of candidate genes, hypersensitivity to sound is a common symptom. The brain’s hearing center, or auditory cortex, plays a critical role in attention and perception to sound and language. It also connects with other critical brain areas, including those that process other types of sensory information. For this reason, the auditory cortex has been a target of research aimed at understanding how changes in brain circuits contribute to the symptoms of ASD.
PTEN mutations have been found in individuals with both autism and extreme macroencephaly, or increased brain volume. Previous studies have found that PTEN loss in animal models boosts brain cell size and interconnections between brain cells.
Deletion of the PTEN gene in brain cells increased the cell’s connections with other brain cells (right column)
Using adult mice, Zador’s group disabled the PTEN gene in select parts of the auditory cortex, while leaving the gene intact in neighboring brain cells. They then assessed the effect by stimulating brain cell activity in the auditory cortex. This resulted in abnormally strong sensory signals regardless of whether the incoming stimuli came from a local or distant source.
However, these effects could be blocked by treating the PTEN-deficient mice with rapamycin, a powerful immune-system suppressant most commonly prescribed to prevent organ rejection. In examining the animal’s brain tissues, the researchers found that the drug prevented the abnormal increase in cell interconnections otherwise seen in PTEN-deficient mice (image above).
“While this study is exciting, we need to know more before it would be appropriate to use rapamycin as a treatment for individuals with autism,” adds Joe Horrigan, M.D., Autism Speaks head of medical research. “Safety considerations are of paramount importance as rapamycin can increase susceptibility to infections and malignancies such as lymphoma. At present, it should be prescribed only by physicians experienced in immunosuppressive therapy.”

Visual Activity Schedules

February 13, 2012 4:00 pm Published by

Visual activity schedules have been used to promote self-regulation and independence, reduce challenging behaviors, and forge smooth transitions between activities or settings. “An activity schedule is a set of pictures or words that cues someone to engage in a sequence of activities.”(McClannahan & Krantz, 1999). During sessions with staff, parents or clinicians, visual representations of activities in sequential order are used to aid individuals with ASD in scheduling and transitioning between activities. Subsequently, the autistic individual can note successful completion of an activity by placing the picture on the “finished section” of the visual activity schedule board. The visual activity schedule will give the autistic individuals the following information: 1) what is currently happening, 2) what is coming up next, 3) when they are “all done”, and 4) what changes might occur.

Two review articles examined 23 and 380 studies respectively that used activity schedules /visual schedules for autistic individuals. These studies evaluated the effectiveness of activity schedules to promote independence, facilitate transition and engagement during play, compliance with task, or be on-task, and self-regulation (Lequia, Machalicek, Rispoli, 2012; Takanori and Wang, 2011). The functional behavior analysis (FBA) indentified that functions of challenging behaviors were most often associated when demands of non-preferred activities were presented to autistic individuals (escape-avoidance function). However, when the transition is from a preferred activity to a non-preferred activity, the activity schedule may prompt the autistic individual to display challenging behaviors. These finding suggest that a new behavioral strategy should be used in these cases, or only for high functioning autistic individuals, self-scheduling can be incorporated (Takanori and Wang, 2011).
QSAC’s Adult Clinical Services promotes the use of Picture Activity Schedules where staff assists autistic individuals in creating visual schedules in order to empower them in making their own choices and have a sense of control over their environment as well as the ability to see what is coming up next, to decrease prompting dependency or excessive prompting and guidance, and be provided with appropriate structure during the day.

Queens Council on Developmental Disabilities Annual Legislative Breakfast

February 2, 2012 9:41 pm Published by

Friday, February 17, 2012

Doors open to General Public at 8:30 AM

Continental Breakfast begins at 8:45 AM
Program & Legislative Platform from 9:30-11:30 AM
Flushing Town Hall
137-35 Northern Boulevard
Flushing, New York 11354
(718) 463- 7700
R.S.V.P. by February 10, 2012 to: 

(718) 805-6796 ext. 123
Doug Triebel
(718) 805-6796 ext. 131

Autism Parents & Professionals: Sesame Workshop is Developing Programming on Autism and Wants Your Input!

February 2, 2012 6:56 pm Published by

Please take a few minutes to help Sesame Workshop improve the content of their programming for people with autism spectrum disorders.

Click here for the PARENT survey.

Click here for the PROFESSIONAL survey.

This is a wonderful opportunity for our community’s voices to be heard.

Surveys should be completed by February 3, 2012!

OPWDD February Waiver Update

February 1, 2012 6:11 pm Published by

OPWDD is now posting and distributing brief monthly updates on the development of the People First Waiver. The first update for February 2012 can be found on the People First Waiver web page. Please feel free to download, copy and share the update widely.

Providing for a Child with Autism [Guest Blog]

February 1, 2012 4:19 pm Published by

by Andrew M. Cohen, Esq. 

For many families that include a child with autism, the questions concerning who will take care of the child in the future and where the money to support that child will come from are daunting thoughts. Some parents choose to postpone planning rather than deal with the difficult reality that faces them; however, early, careful planning can secure a disabled individual’s future long after his or her parents have passed away. 
Parents and grandparents who continually put money and other property in the child’s name, even as part of jointly held accounts, could be doing a disservice to that child. A disabled individual is actually precluded from receiving means based government entitlements, such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), when assets held in that person’s name exceed a specified amount. By contrast,completely disinheriting the child and relying solely on the government is not necessary and hardly qualifies as sound planning. Smart, proper planning is best achieved by creating a scenario that includes full eligibility for the government assistance, as well as whatever private resources the family can leave to provide a more comfortable future for their family member. This best of both worlds approach is accomplished with a Supplemental Needs Trust. 
The Supplemental or Special Needs Trust is often referred to as the cornerstone in formulating a plan to care for a child with disabilities. It is typically established as part of a comprehensive estate plan and funded with an inheritance and/or life insurance products, such as a second to die policy. If drafted correctly, the assets that fund a Trust will provide the “extras” for a beneficiary (the disabled individual) without affecting or disqualifying the beneficiary from those important government programs. The child retains the right to receive these means based benefits because this type of Trust is not considered a countable resource by the government. Once the Trust is established, it’s usually managed by a person known as a Trustee, generally someone similar in age to the disabled individual; there are also organizations and institutions that provide Trustee services. It should be noted that when a Trust is funded with money or assets of the beneficiary, such as a recovery from a lawsuit or a gift/inheritance directly to the disabled individual from another family member, payback rules apply with regard to the government benefits received by a disabled individual over the course of his or her lifetime. 
When properly created, a Supplemental Needs Trust provides a comfortable and secure future for the individual with autism, enhancing the quality of his or her life by providing funding for the “luxuries” in life not supplied by the government, while not affecting that person’s rights to receive government benefits.
Andrew is the principal of the Law Offices of Andrew M. Cohen located in Manhattan and Garden City, and he is the father of three daughters, one of whom has multiple disabilities and graces the cover of his business brochure. His practice focuses on Trusts & Estates and Elderlaw, with an emphasis on planning for families with a disabled child. Andrew is a charter member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, a national organization of attorneys who are dedicated to providing high quality legal services to the disabled community and, in May 2010, he was selected by Exceptional Parent magazine to receive its Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award. Andrew was added to the Long Island Board of Directors of Easter Seals New York in February 2011 and he was an advisor to Parents magazine for its March 2011 commentary on special needs planning. Andrew believes that it is crucial for parents of individuals with special needs to make all of the arrangements necessary to protect and provide for each family member, and he is a frequent lecturer on this topic. Visit for additional information about Andrew and his practice.


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.