One in 68 Children has Autism

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Frustrated with Your iPad/Tablet? Problem Solving Issues When Using Your Touch Device with Your Child

October 29, 2012 4:21 pm Published by

While the benefits of using an Ipad or tablet with individuals with Autism are many, it also comes with a number of problems and frustrations as well.  Here are some common complaints I have heard and some ways to resolve them.
1. He doesn’t demonstrate an interest in the Ipad/tablet!


It’s important to keep in mind that some things are not for everyone and while it may seem impossible, there are individuals who just may not embrace this new technology…at all.  Before you spend the money, it is worth the while to try it out with your child.  This can be easily done at a store that allows potential buyers to play with the devices (the Ipad store has a specified area for children with child friendly apps loaded).  You can also check with friends or family members that may own one or check if the school has any touch technology that can be evaluated with your child. 

If you have already purchased a device and you want your child to make use of it, then consider pairing the device with other preferred items or activities.  Have your child use/play/explore the device for a short duration of time and then provide a preferred item or activity.  In addition, load your device with apps that are likely to appeal to your child’s interests.  Download apps that have your child’s favorite character, music, sounds or movies. 
2. He likes to play with it but does not use any of the apps functionally or appropriately!


If the device is simply being used as a reinforcer (i.e. access to the device is used to increase a specified behavior), then the device should be limited in its use and should be provided contingent on that specific behavior.  If the device is used to keep your child occupied and is provided at any time YOU NEED TIME, that’s ok too.   It isn’t uncommon nor in my opinion, detrimental, to use the IPad/tablet to occupy your child for a short period of time in order to have some time for yourself.  However, be sure to supervise your child’s play and ensure password protection is in place to avoid accidental purchases and inappropriate internet use.  Keep in mind that if your child is using the device for easy access to just movies and music, there are much cheaper alternatives out there without putting a dent in your wallet such as Mp3/video players. 

But if you are expecting your child to use the apps functionally and appropriately, it’s important to keep in mind that touch devices are tools that need to be taught.  Taking some time on a daily basis to demonstrate the different uses of the device will help your child learn how to use it. It may be helpful to start with apps that your child will most likely be interested in.  For example, teaching your child to play their favorite songs, to locate the video app to watch movies, to touch a picture to make a cool sound…etc.
3. He loves the Ipad/tablet so much that when it’s time to give it up, he goes into a full blown tantrum!


This is probably one of the most common complaints I hear about.  For some, the problem is so severe, whole complicated plans are in place just to get the Ipad/tablet away without the child going into a tantrum.  While some may think this problem is exclusive to the introduction of their Ipad/tablet, it probably would occur if any highly preferred item or activity is removed.  While visual cues, timers and pre-warnings may be helpful in minimizing or alleviating a tantrum, learning to give it up may be the most important skill that needs to be taught first.  This may be as simple as providing a preferred item or activity the moment the device is taken away but some children have a much more difficult time and can engage in severe behaviors the moment you even say “time’s up”.  Teaching to give up the device may need to be broken down further into easier manageable targets for your child (i.e. just allowing you to touch the device when you ask for it to allowing you to hold it for a few seconds and returning it back, to playing with it for a few minutes and returning it back…etc.).  The important part of this procedure is ensuring that your child is aware that they can always get it back at some point either through earning it or at specified times.  Introducing systems like a token economy or using visual cues may also prove useful in this situation.

4.  My child wants the Ipad all the time and if he can’t have it, he will have a behavior!


Some parents and professionals are adamant about removing the Ipad/tablet all together and will go through great lengths to keep it out of view when the child is present.  I find this to be problematic since it doesn’t teach the child to tolerate when they can’t have it nor does it make sense if this is potentially a big reinforcer and should be used to maximize the child’s learning.  Some parents may find it easier to just purchase an additional device specifically for their child’s use only.  While that may be a quick and temporary fix, it doesn’t fix the issue when the device needs to be repaired or if the battery runs out or if the device just simply can’t be used during the time.  Not only is it important to teach your child to give up the device when asked but it’s just as important to teach your child to accept when they can’t have it.  This can be taught in two parts; teaching your child to accept an alternative when they can’t have the device (initially, something comparable like a computer or MP3 player to something less comparable and not as highly preferred like coloring paper and crayons) as well as teaching delays to receiving an alternative item (while we always want to offer an alternative sometimes even an alternative isn’t available).

5. He keeps going into the other apps instead of using it for communication.
If the device is being used mainly for communication purposes, then the device should be used ONLY for communication, at least initially. In other words, he should not be taught the many different uses of the device until he learns to rely on it for communication and can do so consistently.  Some communication apps may have “locks” in place that keeps your child from accessing any other app unless a password is inputted. 
There are many issues that parents and professionals are finding with the use of the Ipad or tablet, so before purchasing one, it’s important to identify what you intend to use it for and weigh the benefits over its disadvantages.  Investing in a touch device for your child may result in more effort than one might have expected.  If you decide that the investment is worth it, remember to also consult with your school, teacher and/or behavior consultant to help maximize its use.    

Halloween Tips!

October 12, 2012 6:25 pm Published by
Photo by JasonTromm

Halloween is a holiday that young children look forward to- getting dressed up, going trick or treating with friends, and having all the candy that they want for one day of the year. However for children with autism, it could be scary and a holiday in which they need to be prepared. The following are tips to make sure that your child with autism can have fun at Halloween too!

  1. PREPARE! – There are several ways you can prepare your child for the holiday of Halloween. There are several books on Halloween that give examples of what to expect that you can read with your child. You could also create a story that details each step of Halloween using simple words and pictures. You can create it using your child’s pictures and pictures of your neighborhoods. If your child can use a calendar, you can count down the days to the event to prepare you child.
  2. PRACTICE – Start teaching your child to knock on a door and saying “trick or treat.” Make it a fun game as to how many times they say it themselves. If your child is nonverbal, teach them to hand over a card that says “Trick or Treat.” If possible, talk to your neighbors that your child is aware of and start taking them up the day of the event to practice saying “Trick or Treat.” Also, let your child wear the costume around the house to help them get used to wearing it.
  3. MAKE IT FESTIVE! – Take your child pumpkin picking and carve the pumpkin together. Decorate your home and have your child help with cutting and coloring the decorations- a great way to practice fine motor skills.
  4. KEEP IT SHORT – When trick or treating, just to go a couple of houses on your block. Maybe even just go to family members. Even if your child can just go to one house, it will help them to be able to do more the following year!
  5. SPECIAL DIETS, THAT’S OK! – If your child is on a special diet, that’s ok! Bring special treats with you and give it to the person who answers the door. By doing this, your child can still be part of Halloween even while on a special diet! By following these tips, you can help your child to enjoy Halloween! I also hope that you can enjoy it too! Dress up with your child to help them feel even more comfortable. Happy Halloween!

“Psst, I Have to Tell You Something”…. the Importance of Functional Communication and How to Teach it to Preschoolers with ASD.

October 12, 2012 11:48 am Published by
by Gina Feliciano, Phd, SAS, BCBA-D
Director of Preschool
The ability to communicate wants and needs is an important self preservation skill. It’s not only important to be able to tell people what you need; communication allows us to develop friendships and involvement in a community. Unfortunately for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders the ability to communicate and develop social skills is impaired. Although addressing these concerns during early childhood leads to improved outcomes, the emphasis on functional communication can and should be addressed anytime a person is not able to appropriately ask for what he/she needs. At the QSAC Preschool our curriculum emphasizes just this approach. We use verbal behavior, the behavior analytic explanation of language ( Skinner, 1957) as our approach to assessment, program development and teaching. As early childhood educators we have made a commitment to each of our students that they will graduate with a way to communicate functionally. This means that using spoken words (vocal verbal behavior), Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or sign language (both nonvocal but verbal) will be the way our children ask for things, comment or even participate in a conversation. By the time our students leave preschool they should all be able to say what’s on their mind!
Unfortunately, for many of our students when they arrive to preschool tantrums are an effective means of getting things. However, crying or engaging in tantrums is not functional. These behaviors prevent just what we would like for our students, friendships and community integration. Our teaching staff follow specific guidelines to determine what communication system will most efficiently meet the needs of our students. This protocol incorporates comprehensive assessment and specific data based criteria for determining what communication system will accomplish our goals. Upon enrollment we assess each of our children with an ABLLS-R (Partington, 2008), a Behavior Language Assessment (Sundberg & Partington, 1998) and a Verbal Behavior Inventory. Once we determine a child’s abilities we begin Functional Communication Training (FCT). For many of our non vocal students, FCT will start with just learning to point to objects he/she may want. Since we know that pointing is not enough to participate in a conversation we also look at how we can develop sound production ( echoics, echoic to mand transfer procedures, shaping procedures) and more advanced verbal behavior repertoires. Based on progress in each of these areas we decide how to proceed in teaching our kids to be better communicators. We decide what the next steps to teaching communication are by analyzing vocalizations, presence of echoics/words, gross /fine motor skills as well as imitation skills and input from the families. Because our children are young and developing skills in many areas, early choices are words (vocal verbal communication), PECS or sign language.
We have developed protocols and procedures based on the science of behavior analysis and our students’ individuality. Our teachers know how to teach what’s best. Our goal in preschool is to establish component skills that can be further developed with the child. No matter the age, functional communication is essential to community integration. By using what we know about good teaching, based on the science of behavior we are preparing our students for success!


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.