One in 68 Children has Autism

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Autism App Spotlight: AutisMate

July 30, 2012 1:42 pm Published by

I was recently contacted by the co-founder of SpecialNeedsWare about his new iPad application, AutisMate. AutisMate is the first scene-based communication and behavioral therapy tool of its kind. The app uses a unique approach of presenting fully customizable scenes using audio, video and images that are more relatable and come from the child’s every day environment. Check out the youtube video for more information on AutisMate’s many features! As part of their launch promotion, he provided me with a free copy of the app to test. We will be testing it in the early childhood programs this month. If families also think it might be a good fit for your children, he is willing to come in and give us a more formal demonstration of the app.

QSAC is Offering Its Seventh Sibling Support Group This Summer!

July 23, 2012 6:46 pm Published by

QSAC is offering its seventh Sibling Support Group this summer which has the largest turn out of all the previous summer sessions. There are a total of 20 siblings in attendance. This is a group experience offered to siblings of QSAC students once a week for 5 weeks in the evenings. The Sibling Group is comprised of 2 groups, which are separated according to age. The age range is from 5 to17 years old.

While the siblings are in their groups, the parents are in their own support group with school social worker Madelyn Wolfin, and the QSAC students are in respite. This set up allows the entire family to participate.

QSAC’s Sibling Support Group provides an opportunity for brothers and sisters of children with autism to obtain peer support and education within a recreational context. The group offers these children a chance to meet with each other in a fun, relaxing and supportive environment. It is a wonderful experience devoted to the sometimes forgotten or “lost in the shuffle” siblings of those with autism. Although the program is pleased to welcome several new families, a considerable number of participants continue to return year after year.

The Sibling Group shares information and has discussion activities, which is just as fun and rewarding for the facilitators as it is for the participants. Siblings have special concerns and feelings. They need acknowledgement of their concerns and feelings, and help in dealing with their feelings and emotions. Weekly discussions focus on important topics such as understanding autism, building self-esteem and building stronger sibling relationships and support networks.

Some of the siblings shared their feedback:

“This is how I began to cope with autism and I made friends.” S 12yrs old

“I love sibling group. It feels like our little family that understands and listens to all we say about autism.” M, 13yrs old

“I like sibling group because it is fun. I like the part when we do plays and make new friends.” G, 8yrs old

“I came to sibling group to learn more about autism. I also made friends.” R, 11yrs old

QSAC’s team of facilitators includes: Madelyn Wolfin, Social Work Coordinator, Anne Denning, Director of Training, Dita Ruc, Director of After School, Rocio Chavez, Assistant Director of After School and Sara Giangiobbe, MSC Supervisor

Free Spa Day for Individuals On the Spectrum and Their Families

July 23, 2012 4:42 pm Published by

The Tommy Foundation will be hosting a spa day for parents of individuals on the spectrum on Saturday, August 11, 2012 from 10am-6pm.

The Day’s events include:

10am-11am: Yoga
11am-noon: Networking and snacks
Noon-4pm: Spa treatments (hair styling, makeup, facials, massages and manicures) and Resource Fair (autism providers can talk to and share with families)
4pm-5pm: Performance by Autism Moves
5pm-6pm: Evening Yoga class

The best part is that there is no cost associated with the event!

RSVP to Kat Harrison:

A Home Run for Autism

July 17, 2012 3:00 pm Published by

Will you join us on Tuesday, July 24 for QSAC’s charity softball game at Bethpage Ball Park (home of the Long Island Ducks) in Central Islip, NY?

QSAC’s team will take to the mound against the Oyster Bay Cove Police Benevolent Association to raise funds to support our programs and services for the autism community of New York City and Long Island.

Tickets are just $15 and include both the QSAC charity game as well as the Long Island Ducks game for that evening. The charity game begins at 5:30PM (gates open at 5:15PM) and the Ducks v. Maryland Blue Crabs game is at 7:00PM.

So come out and join QSAC as together we make A Home Run for Autism.

For more information or to purchase your tickets online, please visit

QSAC Awarded Grants to Support its Programs and Services

July 17, 2012 2:41 pm Published by

We are pleased to announce that QSAC has received a number of grants in support of our programs and services for the autism community of New York City and Long Island.

In June, QSAC received a grant for $25,000 from the Heckscher Foundation for Children in support of our after-school program in the Bronx. This grant will help to provide meaningful programming for the students we serve while providing the funding necessary to keep the program open throughout July and August despite government cutbacks.

In addition to the generous grant from the Heckscher Foundation, QSAC recently received a grant for $5,000 from the New York Yankees Foundation in support of the Bronx after-school program and day habilitation program. Support for QSAC’s educational programs, has also been received from the Walter Kaner Children’s Foundation, which has been a long-time supporter of our work in the community.

QSAC was also the recipient of a generous $10,000 donation from an anonymous donor, which will support the beautification project at the Lattingtown residence for adults with autism. This contribution will help us to improve the property, so as to make it a meaningful home for the adults we serve.

Gary Maffei, QSAC’s executive director said, “The generous support of New York’s philanthropic community enables us to continue our commitment to providing quality services for the autism community. The Heckscher Foundation for Children, New York Yankees Foundation, Walter Kaner Children’s Foundation, and all of our donors are vital to sustaining our work — we truly appreciate their generosity.”

For more information or to inquire about how you can support QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community, please contact Joseph Amodeo, Director of Development, at or (212) 244-5560, ext. 2016.

“Pick One!” A Brief Probe of iPad App Preferences

July 16, 2012 6:00 pm Published by

It was time for us to assess some of the many questions being asked about the implementation of iPads in the classroom starting with a basic question. Out of all the Apps that we have, which ones are selected most frequently by students and staff during classroom use? I generally write about technology, not just to be trendy, but because it becomes a great part of some of the clinical conversations. Some relevant questions raised are, What is the functionality of these devices? Which apps are worthwhile, or do iPads in general cause more problem behavior for our children. All of these questions loom. But the basic outcome which is agreed upon is that we are glad we have them, and we need to work hard towards finding their use for our kids. Perhaps just like the intoduction of any other past electronics. They never replace the core of our instruction mearly, they help to provide motivation and increase student attending in some way.

But to start it all off, which applications, regardless of the platform, do children prefer over others? We hand our iPads in the mornings, and again in the afternoon, so students have the opportunity to use them at different times during the day. The school is starting to work towards how to address specific questions regarding academic implemenation, generalization and it’s use as a communication device. Current research in this area is still brand new too, we we’d like to answer the questions, “Which Apps could my child be using ?”

“Use” is quite a subjective term, as we can observe some students who “use” the iPads for fun and games, and “use” for functional academics, or recieve it as a reinforcer during Discrete Trial Teaching (like in our group lessons or activities). We have also observed the “use” of the iPad for stereotypic behavior (Re-arranging Apps, scrolling thru photos, opening and closing Apps repetitively, not “using” it appropriately)

So I guess all we can do right now is look at what the children are gravitating towards to assess preferences.

A list was created of the applications used on the Day School’s iPads. A probe was conducted on each individual App synced on the iPads to determine which were being opened most often in the classrooms. By double tapping the home button, you can see a list of Apps which were open during a specific time period. Prior to giving out the iPads to classrooms, this section was cleared, and upon returned checked to see which apps were used during that time. This was tirelessly repeated for 3 days. Data was collected on the number of times each App was opened across all 15 first generation iPads. During the probe we had to discounted some selections because it was observed that some children may erroneously tap on certain Apps, although these were included in the probe, any App opened less-than 3 times was considered insignificant, thus non-preferred. This is considered a type of free operant preference assessment which showed us some useful information. Use, right now leans towards strong motivation for academic programming and leisure skills (watching videos, or playing games), and an indication of preference level for certain application outside the realm of instruction. Later questions may lead us to assess implementing Low-preferred Apps with Hi-preferred Apps and games.

Although the list below indicates the most popular in the school right now, it’s a glimpse into what they are being used for and next steps for assessment. It’s also one of many probes we will be conducting to assess the level of preference for the Apps which we are using!

Many of the apps listed below can be found using “Autism Apps.” This can be downloaded using ITUNES: Specifically stated this app was created as a resource for families and anyone who is looking for hard to find apps for children with special needs. It’s an extensive list of which applications are being used for iPadand Apple products. This application will direct families/clinicians towards appropriate apps for their children with special needs separated across 30 categories.

Highest Preferred Selections of the Brief Probe and Brief Descriptions:

Mobicip Internet Browsing App-This app allows safe secure internet browsing and will block out any inappropriate videos or content on YouTube or web pages automatically. Many of our students use this to access YouTube or their favorite websites. Setting preferences is easy on Mobicip replaces Safari and YouTube apps, and they must be turned off to use Mobicip. YouTube and internet browsing is highly motivating, but also many videos and pages display inappropriate content even if a child is not trying to look for it. This is the only easy-to-use filter tool out there right now. The cost of this app is worth the benefit.

I Heart Radio– Basic radio stations we’ve all heard of this, great for motivation for children who enjoy current and popular music.

Photos– Students enjoy scrolling thru photos which are pre-installed on the iPad. This can easily be done using ITUNES. Students can identify people places and things which you choose to pre-load.

MAPS– This was a more surprising selection, but further questioning of the teachers told us that students enjoy moving around the maps, looking at different areas and words, and it’s zoom and pan features.

Touch and Say (emotions): Even though right now it’s a simple app for teaching emotions I predict it will be more popular than Elmo. This series of applications from is the next generation of children’s toys which will eventually be everyone’s favorite holiday gift. Based on research from Center for Autism in Pittsburg, This series of applications will have an interactive interface that all children can use. It will come with a “stuff animal” animatronics dolls.

Stack the States, Stack the Countries- Great Geography app. Fun, Interactive, a great hit.

ABC Tracer: Excellent for children who are starting out with basic handwriting. Allows the child to trace letters and associate them with words.

Angry Birds: Enough said, kids love this game.

ABA Flashcards Series/ABA Receptive ID: These flashcards are useful across many age ranges. Fun photos, audio feedback addresses multiple domain areas such as Actions, Foods, Shapes, Numbers, and many other areas.

Feel Electric- Helps Identify emotions, with an interactive interface!

Here is the list based in order of selection during the 3 day probe. I encourage you to research each application; many of them are free or inexpensive to purchase. We encourage you to explore, and investigate them and share them with your friends. If you find new ones, please share them with us too!!! Enjoy.

# of times selectioned
Mobicip-Internet Software/Youtube /Browsing
I Heart Radio
Stack the Countries
Photos-Looking at Installed Pictures
Touch and Say
Stack the States
ABC Tracer
Angry Birds HD FREE
Angry Birds RIO HD FREE
ABA Flashcards
Feel Electric
Angry Birds Lite
Mega Run
My Food-Nutrition Facts
Garage Band
Starfall ABC’s
Hand Drum
Sight Words Free
ASL Dictionary
BobbleWrite HD
DTT Colors
ABA Receptive ID Fruits and Nuts
ABA Receptive ID- Science
Cat Game
Google Earth
Green Eggs and Ham
Numbers Free
VP Light
3 Pigs Light
ABA Flashcards-Actions
ABA Flashcards-Emotions
ABA Flashcards-Fruits
ABA Receptive ID Eat
ASL- American Sign Language
Colors Tool
DT Numbers Light
Farm Touch
Going Places
I WriteWords Lite  (IWW)
Jumbo Calculator
My Sunny Day
Spelling Bee-Free
STL Pro 2012
Tap To Talk
Whiteboard Lite

What’s Your Biggest Challenge in Dressing For Your Child Living With Autism?

July 12, 2012 4:03 pm Published by

Lauren Thierry of The October Group would like to ask you one question:

“What’s Your Biggest Challenge in Dressing For Your Child Living With Autism?” 

Dressing a ChildWe ask because we have recently patented a clothing line featuring “hidden helpers” that assist children/teens/young adults with special needs in dressing.
I’m an autism mom. I know it’s not the same for every family. But in my case, I rise at 6am every morning to “begin the journey” with my son Liam, of completely and independently dressing himself before the school bus arrives. After 10 years, Liam is still occasionally challenged by “frontwards/backs” issues, tag issues, even reversible issues.

So after joining forces with a skilled designer and an apparel production company familiar with the special needs community, we are close to launching off our first-run production line of clothing that addresses dressing issues faced by Liam and thousands like him.
We’ve done a focus group, but now we’d be grateful for your input — just a word, naming which article of clothing is most difficult, or anything else you’d like to mention.

We’d be most appreciative! 

Lauren Thierry
October Alley“No Tags. No Zippers. No Buttons. No Worries.”

Going on vacation? Some tips for families.

July 12, 2012 12:40 pm Published by

As summer goes into full swing, many families are preparing for a family vacation.  Unfortunately, planning a family vacation with a child with autism can be a stressful one.  For some, it may not even be an option.  However, with careful planning and preparation, family vacations can be successful and doable!  Here are some tips to prepare if you are planning on going away. 
Ensure your child can provide personal information
Some of our Day School students were taught to identify their basic information when asked at the beginning of the year.   For our nonverbal students, they were taught to tolerate wearing personal identification badges on their shirts.   If this is currently not a feasible option, consider putting personal identification on the back of your child’s shirt or attaching a key chain with identification on your child’s shoe.
Plan your trip and call ahead
There are a number of family vacation spots that offer additional services to children with special needs.  By calling ahead and letting them know your situation, many accommodations can be provided.  For example, several websites indicated that Disney World will allow families to use the Fast Pass line.  In addition, some of the restaurants at Disney will make special meals if your child is on a special diet.  In case of an emergency, it may be helpful to map out important locations such as the closest 24 hour urgent care center or 24 hour pharmacy.
Prepare your child
For one of our students, we prepared a social story from the start of the trip (boarding an airplane) to arrival to the destination.  The story is read to him regularly so that he knows what to expect when he gets there.  Your child can also have a sneak preview of some of the rides and attractions.  Many parks have websites with short clips of the various rides that can be viewed or can be found on Youtube.  Finally, routines and structure may be very important to your child.  It may be helpful to provide a schedule of events or an itinerary that your child can refer to or a map of the park.  
Practice with your child
It is always helpful to practice the skills that your child may be expected to do during your trip, i.e., waiting in line, sitting in a restaurant, going through airport security…etc.  These skills can be practiced at local restaurants and recreational sites.  Earlier this year, our students practiced the skills needed to visit our local museum.  Some of our other classrooms practiced going out to eat at our local pizzeria and ice cream shop. 
Collect materials/toys
Load up that Ipad/Tablet/Smartphone with your child’s favorite apps, music, movies and T.V. shows.    During a trip to Disney with my then 2 year old, I had several Disney movies loaded in my smartphone. This was quite helpful while waiting on long lines for rides.  Have a “goody bag” prepared for those “emergency moments” with new or novel toys that may be easily accessible, can fit in a small bag and replaceable.  Pack items from home that may make transitioning to a hotel easier, such as blankets and pillow cases.     
Utilizing your child’s educational team to assist with developing and teaching some of these necessary skills as part of your child’s curriculum should be part of the process.   Not quite ready yet but thinking about it?  Check out some of these sites for some ideas. While going on a vacation may be daunting, it doesn’t have to be.  Enjoy your summer!

A Program Participant’s Point of View: QSAC’s ‘Fitting Together’ Gala [Guest Blog]

July 10, 2012 8:38 pm Published by
by Lea P. 

Photo Credit: Rahav Iggy Segev

The place to be was Gustavino’s on a rainy and cold June day for the QSAC gala event. Everyone was dressed up and getting pictures taken like celebrities. There were awards given out to recognize a few people in the QSAC community. In addition to the very pretty place and good food, performances were done by amazing singers. Overall, it was a time where the QSAC family can come together.  

After getting VIP reception, drinks and food, there was the first performance by a group called the Broadway Dolls (Tracee Beazer, Hollie Howard and Coleen Sexton, who are all actresses that appeared on Broadway). I recognized Coleen as an actress from the touring production of the musical Wicked which led to my mom and I talking to the other two girls. Tracee was in the original cast of the Tony Winning musical Memphis and she and Hollie did Hairspray together. They performed beautifully and you should look out for their next performance by checking their website or Facebook pages. Next presented was the Anita Smith Scholarship (named in honor of Anita Smith who was a victim in the May 2000 Wendy’s tragedy) to James Wilhelm and Meng Yao Hu. Two time Grammy nominated singer Martha Wash presented the Corporate Leadership Award to Pfizer, Inc., Autism Research Effort. She also got to end the evening with the famous song “It’s Raining Men” which got the audience on its feet. Another standout performer was Katie Shults who was the grand finale winner of Got Talent. A heartwarming speech was given by Duncan and Alison Niederauer who were awarded the Philanthropic Leadership Award. They had mentioned their son who has autism and the journey he has. Alison’s speech was touching and something the audience could relate to. QSAC Executive Director Gary A. Maffei was awarded for his 20 years of services with QSAC. I ran into a lot of people that I know from volunteering at the day school. I had a fun time and congrats to all the honorees that were recognized that evening.

Lea participates in QSAC’s community habilitation program and writes for her school newspaper.

Stage Fright

July 2, 2012 12:49 am Published by
As many of you already know, the Day School held our second annual graduation ceremony this past Friday. As expected, it turned out to be another successful graduation ceremony. During this year’s ceremony, two separate groups of students were called to walk up onto the stage to receive awards based on overall progress. One particular student in my class named Kyle was winning an award based on progress during group instruction. During our rehearsals for this year’s graduation it quickly became evident to me that Kyle had a strong fear of walking up onto the stage. His name would be called to walk up and he would immediately begin holding his ears and pulling me away from the stage. After about 2 or 3 rehearsals with the same undesired outcome, I knew it was time to work on this skill diligently with Kyle, to ensure that on the day of graduation, he was able to walk up and receive his award. I used a shaping procedure in which I differentially reinforced closer and closer approximations to the overall target behavior. The target behavior in this instance was standing on the stage for 15 seconds without engaging in any problem behavior. I started by just reinforcing Kyle walking up onto the first step to get onto the stage. I placed a blue circle onto the first step to serve as a discriminative stimulus (Sd). Every time Kyle walked up to the blue circle, he was reinforced with his favorite edible snack (chips). Once Kyle successfully walked onto the first step three consecutive times without problem behavior, I then moved the blue circle to the second step. I continued this process until the blue circle was placed at the center of the stage, forcing Kyle to walk all of the steps and walk across the stage just as he would the day of graduation. Soon I began to realize that the blue circle had gained stimulus control over Kyle’s ability to walk on the stage. The presence of the blue circle as an antecedent effectively had control over Kyle’s ability to walk onto the stage. From a behavioral standpoint, the blue circle effectively served as an Sd because it signaled the availability of a reinforcer (access to chips). Once Kyle was walking up on stage, the next step was teaching him to stand and wait on stage for 15 seconds while pretending to look out at the audience. I used shaping once again to now differentially reinforce the duration of time spent on the stage. I started out by just reinforcing walking on the stage and standing near the blue circle for 5 seconds. Kyle was eventually able to stand on stage for the entire 15 seconds without engaging in problem behavior. Lastly, I needed to transfer stimulus control from the blue circle to a simple verbal command. I slowly faded out the blue circle by placing it further out of Kyle’s view until it was fully off of the stage. My simple command of, “let’s walk on stage Kyle” was now effectively resulting in Kyle appropriately walking up onto the stage for the entire 15 seconds. The day of graduation Kyle did a wonderful job receiving his award. It was great to see all his hard work paying off. Overall, this year’s graduation ceremony was another example of the hard work and dedication put forth by both students and staff.


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.