One in 68 Children has Autism

QSAC's blog – 2012 – May » 2012 » May

QSAC Executive Director Celebrates 20 Years of Service

May 30, 2012 9:12 pm Published by
Gary A. Maffei, MPA, will celebrate his twentieth anniversary as QSAC’s executive director at the organization’s upcoming gala on June 12 at Guastavino’s (409 E. 59 Street, New York, NY).
Over the past twenty years, Gary has been instrumental in the development and growth of QSAC in New York City and Long Island. Under Gary’s leadership, QSAC has grown rapidly from a small neighborhood nonprofit to today being recognized as a leading region-wide human services agency serving 1,400 children and adults with autism. Gary’s insight also led the organization from its early roots as an afterschool program to an agency that now provides residential, education, support, and habilitation programs and services – touching the lives of more than 5,000 people.
In addition to serving as QSAC’s leader for twenty years, Gary has also served as a mayoral appointee to two city-wide councils, a college instructor, a delegate to a judicial nominating convention, a member of a New York City Community Board, and a member of several nonprofit boards.
Yvette Watts, President of QSAC’s Board of Directors said, “Under Gary’s leadership, QSAC has grown from a nascent organization to one of the leading agencies serving the autism community. We appreciate his twenty years of service and look forward to Gary’s continued leadership for many years to come.”

Reinforcement

May 29, 2012 4:11 pm Published by
by Julie Tuifel, MSEd, BCBA
Photo by slightly everything
I wanted to take a few minutes to delve into the topic of reinforcement. Reinforcement is the addition or removal of something, immediately following a behavior, that subsequently results in the future increase of that behavior. Using simple preference assessments and observations we can often quickly identify items that may be used as reinforcement. Every now and then a student comes along whose preferences are not easy to identify. I was lucky enough to have one such student in my class this year. While his peers were choosing M & M’s and Elmo toys he declined all offers of delectable edibles and toys. But he watched. As we identified all his peers favorite nibbles and subsequently organized a separated container to keep everyone’s favorites at close range, he watched. He noticed how all his peers wanted that container. Soon he wanted to check out that container. We let him explore its exterior. Soon he was perusing its’ interior. He moved on to smelling and further exploration. Little by little we watched as he tentatively tasted his first M & M, first a little lick then a real taste. We never pushed, we just watched and waited. Over the next four months we were able to bring a solid few edibles up to true reinforcement status. His rate of learning new targets increased dramatically.
In addition to allowing exploration and modeling to assist in the reinforcement process, new stimuli and reassessing existing reinforcement values are important tools in our classroom. Variable responding has been occurring this year due primarily to reinforcement potency. Several students can score a 100% one day when the reinforcer is highly desired then scores plummet when interest wanes. On the flip side when desire becomes so tremendous responses may plummet as well. It has become a delicate balance to constantly assess reinforcement interest and engage in some detective work. For example John is hungry and very interested in chips – he scores 100% while working for chips. After lunch he’s full and sleepy, he scores 30%. Steven loves his IPAD – he’s so excited to work for it! After the first response and he earns his IPAD, it needs to be removed for the second trial. Then he’s upset and can no longer work! Without free access to his beloved IPAD , the reinforcement value plummets. These issues can affect rates of acquisition across the board. A seasoned teacher can use these tools and perform a delicate dance of constant assessment and innovation. 
Another important tool this year was to remember the power of positive reinforcement. Being vigilant to Identify when our students are giving correct responses more often than the negative has been a challenge. If we can capture those correct responses and provide reinforcement, we are on our way to bigger and better things. Falling into the trap of constant redirection and “all done” mantras does the opposite. Another great reinforcement story surrounds a youngster who seemed to be hitting a road block. No real progress and seemingly “stuck”, with little to no eye contact ever. We ran the simplest eye contact program based on the principles of reinforcement. We simply reinforced every eye gaze during DTT and lo and behold the principle held. Our little guy was giving the best eye contact of our class! Generalizing to group settings as well. 
Reinforcement principles are integral to our classroom success. Monthly full reinforcement assessments (MSWO) are important to identify new reinforcers. More importantly are the many subtle mini assessments done within programs or prior to programs on a daily basis. 
Reinforcement remains a tremendous and valuable tool in our boxes. It’s value ebbs and flows and our class has to be aware of that and use it. It’s been an interesting and fun ride! 

Autism App Spotlight: MyVoice

May 22, 2012 6:38 pm Published by
In response to the increasing popularity of mobile apps within the autism community, and as a followup to our recent posts on iOS and Android autism apps, we’ve decided to launch an Autism App Spotlight series. This series will focus on a variety of mobile apps that assist those living with autism in communicating and socializing.

The first in the series is an app called MyVoice, which launched one year ago and now has 13,000 users worldwide. The app provides an engaging interface that is easy to use for all ages with built-in scanning to support those with motor challenges. MyVoice also offers location-based vocabularies that present useful words and images based on the user’s physical whereabouts. The application’s Automatic Backup means that work on a user’s vocabulary is always safe and secure, even if a device is lost or broken

MyVoice costs $189 and is available for purchase in Apple’s App Store and the Google’s Play Store.

For more information, visit MyVoiceAAC.com.

Do We Hear “Four?”

May 11, 2012 3:08 pm Published by

After years of people asking us to bring back QSAC’s charity golf tournament, we’ve decided that 2012 is the year! We are in the early stages of planning this year’s golf outing for this fall and would love to have you involved. If you’re interested in volunteering, serving on the planning committee, organizing a foursome, or sponsoring this year’s tournament, please contact Joseph Amodeo at (212) 244-5560, ext. 2016 or jamodeo@qsac.com.

QSAC Program Participants Celebrate Success

May 11, 2012 2:27 pm Published by
On the night of April 23, four of QSAC’s consumers – Parsram, Brian, Kyle, and Spiridon – were presented with awards from the Queens Council on Developmental Disabilities for successfully overcoming challenges and for making outstanding gains in the programs they attend. Lisa Veglia, Deputy Executive Director of QSAC said, “on behalf of everyone at QSAC and the Board of Directors, I congratulate our consumers for their hard work and inspiration. They remind all of us why QSAC’s mission is so important.”

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.