One in 68 Children has Autism

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Infographic: 1 in 88 Children Diagnosed with Autism (1 in 54 Boys)

March 29, 2012 9:45 pm Published by
According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with autism in the United States continues to increase. The latest data suggests that 1 in 88 American children (1 in 54 boys) has some form of autism spectrum disorder. This marks a 78% increase in diagnoses over the past decade.
In 2000, the diagnosis rate was estimated to be 1 in 150 children. Two years later, an average of 1 in 125 eight-year-olds was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. In 2006, the number rose to 1 in 110 children (1 in 70 boys).
Source: CNN

People First Waiver Briefings Announced

March 28, 2012 8:08 pm Published by
The 1115 Waiver Unit has announced, as part of their ongoing commitment to keeping the public engaged in the development of our many reform initiatives, that they will conduct another series of public briefings on the People First Waiver, a critical initiative to strengthen the quality of services throughout the system.
The briefings are scheduled for Buffalo, Hauppauge, Schenectady, Syracuse, Rochester, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. To date, more than 75 public presentations on the waiver have occurred. OPWDD recognizes that some are new to the waiver development, so in addition to the briefings, they will soon begin introductory presentations in all regions to help those stakeholders join the discussion.
To reserve a seat at one of the upcoming presentations, please visit the OPWDD web site. OPWDD will be recording the presentation and distributing it system wide to assist those unable to attend in person. Everyone is encouraged to visit the dedicated waiver homepage or the OPWDD YouTube page for regular updates about the waiver. Attendees may also register for an event with the corresponding regional OPWDD waiver liaison—contact information is online.

The briefing schedule is as follows:

April 3, 10 AM: Buffalo (181 Lincoln Avenue, Depew)

April 5, 1 PM: Hauppauge (415-A Oser Avenue)

April 5, 2 PM: Schenectady (500 Balltown Road)

April 11, 1 PM: Syracuse (5885 East Circle Drive, Cicero)

April 17, 1 PM: Rochester (The Strong – One Manhattan Square)

April 19, 1:30 PM: Brooklyn (Gymnasium – 888 Fountain Avenue)

April 19, 10 AM: Bronx (1301 Morris Park Avenue)

OPWDD’s Facebook page is also a great place for individuals, family members, employees, advocates, and other stakeholders to exchange thoughts and ideas. Please feel free to join the conversation. The OPWDD YouTube channel also has useful information relating to development of the 1115 waiver, and other reforms and initiatives.

Wall Street Joins QSAC to Combat Autism

March 28, 2012 6:05 pm Published by
Duncan Niederauer
The CEO of NYSE Euronext, a board member of Autism Speaks, a major pharmaceutical company, and companies representing the financial services sector will join together to increase autism awareness at our upcoming benefit being held under the 59th St Bridge.
QSAC will honor Alison and Duncan Niederauer and Pfizer, Inc. at its annual gala on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. The gala will be held at Guastavino’s (409 E 59th Street) beginning with a VIP reception at 6:30pm. The honorary co-chairs for this year’s gala are The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand and The Honorable Charles E. Schumer.
Alison Niederauer
Duncan Niederauer is the CEO of NYSE Euronext and Alison Niederauer is a lawyer and member of the board of Autism Speaks. The Niederauers will be honored for their commitment and service to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families with QSAC’s Philanthropic Leadership Award.
QSAC will also honor Pfizer, Inc. with its Corporate Leadership Award. Pfizer will be recognized for its Autism Research Effort, which is working to identify new treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr. Nicholas Brandon, Head of Pfizer’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Disorders Research Group, will accept the award on behalf of the corporation.
The gala will also celebrate Gary Maffei’s twentieth anniversary as QSAC’s executive director.
“QSAC is thrilled to be honoring such a distinguished group of honorees at our gala this June. Each of the honorees has mobilized the greater community to help meet the needs of the autism community. By recognizing their contributions to society, we’re confident they will serve as an inspiration for the families we serve,” said Yvette Watts, President of QSAC’s Board of Directors.
Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are available for the event. To learn more, visit the gala’s website at: Current sponsors include NYSE Euronext, Knight, Stuart Frankel & Co., Enterprise, USI Insurance, Astoria Federal Savings, DAS Trader, and Quontic Bank.

Lighting the Unisphere for Autism Awareness!

March 28, 2012 3:17 am Published by
Are you ready to light it up blue and pink for Autism Awareness Day? 
Join QSAC and other area organizations at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens this Sunday, April 1, from 4:00pm to 8:00pm to light up the Unisphere in pink and blue for Autism Awareness Day. The event will feature activities for children and adults as well as informational booths hosted by local organizations. 
Be sure and stop by the QSAC booth to learn more about our programs and services for the autism community. QSAC will also host a story time and other activities for attendees. The event will culminate to the lighting of the Unisphere at 6:30pm featuring elected officials and leaders from throughout New York City.
  • 4:00pm to 6:30pm – Activities for Children and Tables of Understanding
  • 6:30pm to 8:00pm – Illuminating the Unisphere and Closing Ceremony
We hope you’ll be able to join us as together we work to raise autism awareness in our community!

Go Clean Your Room!

March 26, 2012 3:34 pm Published by
Photo by boltron-
It’s spring time in our fair city, and the opportunity to take advantage of the season of change within our own “mini cities”. Classrooms, work stations, offices or your own home! Clean out your spaces, clean your places, organize your environments!!! Let spring be your time for change. Let these upcoming weeks be a chance for you to take the time to focus the spaces around you.
So, why is this on a clinical blog post?
Dan was a new instructor in the classroom, who just got Phil as his assigned student for the session second or third student of the day. Although Dan worked with Phil before, he struggled each time. This morning Dan came into to his classroom, grabbed his book, chatted about his weekend, and made no attempt to prepare for his day. He loved working with his students and was very eager help them learn, but he was wholly unprepared. While Dan started to run trials discrete trials with Phil, he realized he didn’t have the correct flash cards in his workstation, he got up went to the closet where he found them. Came back sat down, but Phil had already gone off task, spent another 2-3 minutes trying to prompt Phil to sit next to him before he was able to start again. Dan began to work with Phil, who began to reach in the bookshelf grabbing old books, toy and fighting to get past Dan for access to them. Dan, had to re-direct him away from the cluttered bookshelf but also, did not prepare any toys/edibles or games for Phil to work for. As they began down the road towards discrete trials, Dan realized he dropped the target flash card onto the floor into some sticky juice from his previous student, gross! 
All while Phil continued to reach for all the items in the bookshelf! Dan dropped his pencil and quickly became overwhelmed with the situation. Luckily his classroom teacher Mariann was there to step in, and provided Phil with a puzzle to work for, and cleaned off the green flash card and swept under his chair, so Dan could run his discrete trials! What a mess, a classic best practice nightmare. 
What if Dan was more proactive? What if his shelf was properly organized for Phil to choose an item to work for? What if his materials and reinforcers were prepared prior to instruction? What if he wiped up the juice spilled by his previous student?
The workstation environment relates directly to clinical practice, and the topic of organization is considered best practice for school staff; it is the most basic topic we teach, maintaining an organized and safe learning environment for our students is our first and foremost goal. This means clearing out that disorganized shelf, organizing your supplies and data collection book before-hand, throw away/donate those broken or unused toys and make more space to work efficient. Having an organized work space makes your sessions and your days flow better. Many times this takes a back seat when working on educating the students, working thru problem behavior, or any number of other higher priorities that occur from day-to-day. We know, the less cluttered, and more organized workstation, the less opportunity a child has to engage in certain problem behaviors. 
A long time ago, I adopted the term “situational awareness” when sitting in a workstation. You need to know where your flash cards are, token board, pencil, data sheet, and where you student is! Many folks, especially newer staff have a hard time wrapping it all together. It’s a skill which develops like any other, with practice and time. Perhaps with the appropriate support for a staff member like Dan, he can learn to be proactive and learn situational awareness, even if it’s a little at a time. 
Take the opportunity to prepare yourself for a better “session”. Take small opportunities of time to clean up the space around you, “But I don’t have any time” is simply an excuse. But just like any other task analysis, break the skill down into small units, clear out one area at a time, you’ll be ahead of the game in the long run. Maintaining a clean environment does not happen in a day, but brick by brick, can build a better city. Many people get overwhelmed when trying to do it all at once. 
Enlist the help of your students, family, and loved ones in the process; even if they cannot participate independently, even the smallest participation is worthwhile. 
Cleaning is socially significant and can bring forth a certain motivation for us to perform better. Put aside the focus on immediate agendas, management plans, time schedules, for a moment and to open up the windows, dust off the ledge and feel the effect of change.
— Go now and clean your room!

Accessibility Out of the Box: iOS Apps for Children with Autism

March 21, 2012 7:53 pm Published by
Last month, the SOHO Apple Store hosted Accessibility Out of the Box: Apps for Autistic Children, a special presentation in which attendees learned about how Apple iOS products offer accessibility to those on the autism spectrum. Here is a list of some of the standout apps discussed at the presentation:
Autism Apps by Touch Autism
iPhone/iPodTouch/iPad (Free)
A simple but comprehensive directory of apps that are being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. It also includes links to any available information that can be found for each app.
Question Builder
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($5.99)
Designed to help elementary aged children learn to answer abstract questions and create responses based on inference. Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders.
Conversation Builder
iPad ($9.99)
From the maker of Question Builder, ConversationBuilder is designed to help elementary aged children learn how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings. The auditory pattern of conversation is presented in a visual format to help students recognize and master the flow of conversation. Students will learn when it is appropriate to introduce themselves, ask questions, make observations and change the subject of the conversation.  
Sentence Builder
iPad ($5.99)
Designed to help elementary aged children learn how to build grammatically correct sentences. Explicit attention is paid to the connector words that make up over 80% of the english language. Sentence Builder offers a rich and fun environment for improving the grammar of all children.
Story Builder
iPad ($7.99) 
Designed to help children accomplish the following educational goals: 1) Improve paragraph formation; 2) Improve integration of ideas; and 3) Improve higher level abstractions by inference. Extensive use of audio clips promotes improved auditory processing for special needs children with autism spectrum disorders or sensory processing disorders.
iPhone/iPod Touch ($1.99), iPad ($3.99)
Provides an easy to use, affordable way for a nonverbal young man with autism and motor planning issues to communicate with those around him. The application is straightforward. It has two, large, color-coordinated buttons…one for yes, and one for no. Press either, and you will hear a voice read your selection.
Photo Speak
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($2.99)
Transform any portrait photo into a moving 3D avatar that repeats your every word. You can make anyone come alive, just like the talking wall portraits in Harry Potter’s Hogwarts castle.
Speak It!
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($1.99)
A simple text-to-speech app. The app will read aloud any text that the user types onto the screen.
English Idioms Illustrated
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad (Free)
Uses imagery to help the user understand figures of speech. More than 160 beautifully illustrated English idioms are explored, from “Achilles’ heel” to “Wrong side of bed”.
Calm Counter
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($2.99)
A visual and audio tool to help people calm down when they are angry or anxious. The app includes a social story about anger, and audio/visual tools for calming down.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App!
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($6.99)
Develop animated stories Mad Libs style. This fully animated app includes hilarious shake-and-play technology, customized voice integration, and other exciting interactive features.
Wild Friends by Photopedia
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad (Free)
A wild life reference guide that uses oversized images. This app also offers beautiful slideshows, wallpapers, interactive maps, and visual stories presenting new adventures.
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($189.99)
Latin for “speak out loud”, Proloquo2Go provides symbol and text based intuitive development tools. Proloquo2Go is for anyone who cannot afford spending thousands of dollars on an AAC device and yet wants a solution that is just as good if not better.Includes 8,000 built in symbols, built in word prediction, and auto conjugation.
iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad ($18.99)
A simple way to create talking photo albums and participate in visual storytelling. Each page in a Pictello Story can contain a picture, up to five lines of text, and a recorded sound or text-to-speech using high-quality voices.
Have  you used any of these apps? Let us know about your experiences in the comments!

Government Benefits for Individuals with Autism [Guest Blog]

March 21, 2012 3:41 pm Published by
by Andrew M. Cohen, Esq.
When planning for a disabled person’s financial future, issues of entitlement to government benefits are an inevitable part of the discussion. The law is both complex and extensive with respect to qualifying for and obtaining such benefits. To make matters worse, two of the most common benefit programs, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), are each administered by the Social Security Administration; however, these programs offer very different benefits and have very different rules as to who may receive them.

SSI is a federal welfare program that pays monthly cash benefits to the poor and aged, blind or disabled. It was created as a “safety net” to supplement minimum monthly income, but does not pay for medical expenses. The base criteria for obtaining these benefits is that the applicant must be disabled (under the government’s definition) and have available assets of no more than $2,000 in countable resources. There are also significant limitations on monthly income. Prior to the age of eighteen, the income and resources of others in the household are considered in assessing eligibility. Currently, the maximum SSI benefit in New York State is $761 per month. When a person receives SSI benefits, that individual is automatically entitled to Medicaid based services, which include hospital care, physician services, prescription drugs and many programs that run exclusively through the Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). These OPWDD services can include family support, case management, respite, housing, supported employment, recreation, vocational training, adaptive devices, as well as day and residential habilitation services. Although the SSI/Medicaid income and resource limitations are highly restrictive and strictly enforced, Supplemental or Special Needs Trusts (discussed in a prior article) can protect the eligibility of the disabled individual for these crucial benefits.
While SSI is a needs-based program, by contrast, SSDI is an entitlement program and has no income or asset limitations. In order to receive SSDI benefits, a worker generally must have worked and paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years prior to his or her disability. The rules are very different if the individual can prove that he or she became disabled at or before the age of twenty-two, in which case the benefits received will be based on the work record of that individual’s parents. SSDI recipients obtain health care coverage through the Medicare program after twenty-four months. Adults with autism may also begin to receive SSDI payments when their parents retire or die. Thus, a disabled individual who has been receiving SSI benefits may later become eligible for SSDI instead. In some instances, an individual with autism may even become dual eligible, receiving a combination of these government benefits.
The one major similarity between the SSI and SSDI programs is that they use the same disability evaluation to determine if eligibility is warranted. This evaluation focuses on whether the individual is capable of being gainfully employed. While the specific criteria that the government uses to determine disability are beyond the scope of this article, it is vital to understand that unless the individual with autism meets the criteria for disability, he or she will not qualify for SSI or SSDI benefits. More information about these benefits can be obtained on the Social Security Administration’s website ( or from an attorney who specializes in this area.
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.

Registration is Open for QSAC’s Annual Walk/Run

March 20, 2012 6:55 pm Published by

Next Steps is QSAC’s annual walk/run in New York City that seeks to increase autism awareness while raising funds to support QSAC’s work throughout the region. Each year, hundreds of people gather from across the five boroughs and Long Island to participate in this exciting event. 
This year’s 5K will be held within a few miles radius of your local TD Bank branch in Queens (Astoria). Our annual event kicks-off with a “whistle blow” start that will be led by this year’s 5K chair, New York City Councilman Daniel Dromm.
Register online today at!

Who needs an iPad? Alternatives to the iPad for your child with Autism

March 19, 2012 5:02 pm Published by
If you thought that the iPad is the only device available for your child with autism and you’re prepared to stand on line for hours for the new iPad 3, you may want to take a moment to consider some of the comparable Android tablets in the market. Whether the expense of dishing out 500+ dollars for the iPad hurts to even think about (Don’t forget to include all the accessories too!) or you’re just inherently against all Apple products, the latest Android tablets out today is much easier on the wallet and an excellent competitor to the iPad.

Main points you should know:
Android tablets operate on an open source platform, in other words, developers are able to change, modify, improve and create their own software, which means greater flexibility and more apps to choose from. However, although there are many Android apps available, some of the popular apps for children with special needs are currently only available for the iPad. For example, Proloquo2go, one of the leading communication apps out there, was developed for the IPhone, Itouch and IPad only and according to their website, they’re not intending to develop their app for the Android system in the near future. Nevertheless, as more and more affordable Android tablets surface, its popularity will continue to grow as will the demand for compatible apps. Below is a brief list of currently popular Android tablets and apps.

Android Tablets
(Below based on 16 gb)
1. The EEE PAD Asus Transformer was considered the best tablet on the market in 2011. Although a newer version has since come out, the original can be found for as low as $337.
2. The Kindle Fire has a smaller screen but can be purchased for approximately $200.
3. The Galaxy Tab is another popular tablet out on the market and can be found for as low as $329.
4. The Toshiba Thrive can be found for as low as $330.
Android Apps
1. Although Proloquo2go may not be available, a similar app to use for communication is JabTalk. This app is easy on the wallet compared to the nearly $200 price tag on the Proloquo2go app; in fact, it’s free! This app allows the user to directly download pictures off of Google Image Search or add your own images from your camera. You can directly record your own voice to match the icons or use their text to speech option and the navigation system is easy to use.
2. Type and Speak makes your tablet say whatever you type out loud
3. Alexicom AAC for Android may be similar in its design as the Proloquo2go. Communication pages can be saved and shared across devices as well.
4. First Then Visual Schedule (also available on the iPad) allows customizable activity schedules to help with daily tasks and/or routines.
5. DTT colors or DTT Shapes (also available on the iPad) teaches colors and shapes using Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)
6. EasyKidTokens provides a virtual token board system to use on the go.
7. EasyKidTimer allows your child to visually see the passage of time.
8. Kids Connect the Dots can be used to teach number sequence while connecting the dots to reveal a picture.
9. 123 ABC’s Handwriting Fun will teach your child to trace letters and numbers.
10. IstoryBooks is a free read aloud app that publishes a new book every 2 weeks.
There are a large amount of apps available for the Android on Google Play, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always create your own!
While there may be a great deal of benefits using an iPad with a child with autism, the iPad is not the only option available. If you are looking for something more affordable that your child can use, whether it be for communication or the many educational tools available, Android tablets may be a perfect alternative.

Class 7 Vs. The Museum

March 11, 2012 1:24 am Published by

As many of you may know, the QSAC Day School has been focusing on building safety skills throughout the course of this school year. Earlier in the year, various community helpers visited our program which turned out to be a great learning experience for all students. This past Friday, four day school classrooms visited the Queens Museum of Art in an attempt to continue to teach valuable skills to our students. 

I remember a few months ago when I was first informed about this trip during our weekly group teacher meetings. I knew right from the start that this would not be an easy task. My classroom pretty much consists of all non-verbal students who can all engage in high levels of problem behavior ranging from self-injurious behavior to eloping. My mindset right when I heard about this trip was “practice makes perfect.” I knew that if my classroom practiced every day we would have a successful trip. We started out walking the hallways of the Day School for 20 minutes a day. The target goals for this trip were very basic. That was to teach every student in my classroom to engage in appropriate walking, appropriate attending, and remaining quiet. I told all my staff that we had to pretend that the Day School was a museum. We would pass by student art work and bulletin boards and force our students to stop and look, pretending that it was art work at the museum. We also would stress walking in a straight line to remain organized throughout our preparation. After about a month of daily practice, we had worked our way up to walking for an hour straight. I know this sounds crazy, but I wanted all my students to get used to walking for a long duration of time, just as they would the day of the trip. I also had my classroom practice around 10:00 every day because that would be the exact time we would walk the museum. I tried as hard as I could in preparing my students every way possible. We would even take community walks just so my students would adjust to walking outside the school and then returning a short while later. After over a month of hard work, the day of the field trip had finally arrived. 
Our trip was this past Friday and I had a mixture of emotions driving to work that morning. I was certainly a bit nervous in hope that all our hard work would pay off. I was also very confident as well. I knew we had worked hard and I just wanted to prove so badly that even a lower functioning group of students could participate in these types of trips. I arrived to my classroom that morning extra early just to make sure we had everything we needed. One of my students uses music to help him walk appropriately and I even brought him an extra IPOD just to make sure we had a back-up plan in case his portable radio failed. I felt that there was no such thing as “over-preparing.” When it came time to board the bus all of my students and staff were very excited. Just getting every student on the bus was a great sign because that was something we could not practice during our preparation. Once we arrived to the museum and unloaded from our bus I saw the museum was very crowded with other students from various schools. This concerned me a bit, only because I did not know how my students would react to a new environment that was probably very noisy. Right before walking in we lined up in the exact order we had practiced for the last month. I felt like a proud head coach ready to walk his team out onto the field for the Super Bowl. And so we entered the museum ready to win the biggest game of our season. 
We began to walk and right from the start, everything seemed to be going well. We were walking in a line, remaining quiet and enjoying the new surroundings. We were about to walk through a bit of a darkened area when one of my students began to cry. I knew this was a precursor for more problem behavior so I immediately exited the museum with this student to give her a short break from the new environment. 
I was a bit worried leaving the rest of the group behind, but I knew they were well prepared and knew what to do. I never panicked or doubted our group even when I had to exit with a student. I knew once we were good to go back in, we would try again and succeed. I re-entered with this student and allowed her to lead me in directions in which she wanted to walk. We walked around the same areas a few times until I was finally able to lead her through that dark tunnel. I was so happy she was able to make it through some of the museum, even after her prior outburst. At one point I remember looking upstairs and seeing the rest of my group and feeling so proud of how great they all looked. About a month and a half ago these same group of students could not even appropriately walk the hallways of the Day School for a short duration of time. Now they were all walking in a line, and were able to generalize their skills to a museum! It was almost a surreal moment for me. I remember looking at the other Day School classrooms walking around the museum and saying to myself, “These classrooms function at a much higher level than my classroom and we are here just like them participating in the same exact skill.” I was so proud that all of our hard work had payed off.
A short while later, we walked around a little bit outside and took a group picture. When I smiled for the picture with fellow staff and students, I thought to myself, “This is a picture I am going to hold onto for a long time.” This year’s group has been a very special one. Although it has been my most difficult group, it has also been the most rewarding. We were able to prove that even a lower functioning group of students could turn a field trip into a successful event. There was no secret to our success. We didn’t feed our kids a special breakfast that morning to help them behave. All we did was work hard every day and prove that there is no great secret to success. If you want to be successful you have to work hard and that is exactly what class 7 is all about. Way to go class 7.


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.