One in 68 Children has Autism

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Hurricane Sandy: Disaster Relief for Families of Children With Autism

November 26, 2012 4:06 pm Published by

For families who have a child with autism, minor disruptions can be a huge inconvenience. When there are major disruptions in routines such as long lasting power outages, or displacement from one’s home, anxiety and behavior problems become more frequent.
To this end, QSAC offers free support groups and trainings for families in need of support. Click here for more information.

Below are some resources that are helpful for families who have children with special needs:

Autism Cares: According to the Autism Cares Web site they are “actively seeking families affected by autism who are victims of Hurricane Sandy and invites those families to call the Autism Response Team at 1-888-Autism2 (288-4762), En Español at 888-772-9050, or email to receive assistance. Families may also register directly at

Autism Society: Providing support for autism families impacted by Hurricane Sandy. “Call the Autism Source Center TM, 800-3AUTISM, Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5.”

MTA Access-A-Ride: According to the MTA Web site, “Access-A-Ride is now operating regular service for all eligible Paratransit customers. All service, both advanced reservation and subscription will be delivered, with the exception of areas in Zone A, including the Rockaways, City Island, Lower Manhattan and Staten Island. However, if you need a trip of medical necessity (dialysis, chemotherapy or radiation treatment) please call 1-877-337-2017 and every effort will be made to provide the trip.Volunteering and Donation Drives has put together a list of places accepting donations in Queens, NY.

Astoria Recovers: Organized by Occupy NYC, this site provides information for people in Astoria who want to give, have a need, or want to volunteer.

The Interdenominational Disaster Relief through NALEC (National Association of Latino Evangelicals) is up and running out of the Kingsbridge Armory, 2817 Reservoir Ave, Bronx NY 10468. For more information, or to schedule a pickup of disaster relief items, please call 718-473-6993. Donations are being accepted! Address for donations (water, food, clothing, medical supplies): IDDRNALEC 10 W. 195th St, Bronx NY 10468

Staten Island was one of the hardest hit boroughs and they are still in need of relief. Donate to Staten Island Relief Fund by clicking here.

The Red Hook Initiative: Click here for information on how to donate to help the residents of Red Hook who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.

New York Cares: This organization has been sending volunteers all over the city to help New Yorkers affecting by Sandy. Click on the link to donate your time and/or money.

The JCC of Manhattan is organizing donation drives on their Facebook page. Check the link for details.

Occupy Sandy Relief: According to their Web site: “Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. We are a coalition of people & organizations who are dedicated to implementing aid and establishing hubs for neighborhood resource distribution.”

Hope for New York: According to their Web site, “Hope for New York is working with our non-profit affiliates, our church partners, New York City churches and pastors, local government officials, and national relief organizations to channel volunteers and resources to those who need it the most in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.”

American Red Cross: The American Red Cross has been on the ground in the tri-state area helping families affected by Sandy.

Federal, State, and Local Government Assistance

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): This link includes information to apply for assistance directly.

New York State Office of Emergency Management: For information on everything from flood recovery to power outage updates. Check out the link for information.

New York City Government Relief: For a list of shelters, food and water distribution centers, and other important emergency relief information. To volunteer and donate: Click here.

Filing for Unemployment Benefits due to unemployment caused by Hurricane Sandy, click here. Here is a CNN article on eligibility requirements for unemployment due to Sandy.


Con Edison: For power outage and restoration information, click here.

Fuel truck locations in the NYC and Long Island. (10-gallons of gas per vehicle- FREE)

For the latest MTA updates, click here.

Food Bank of NYC: To donate and volunteer at the Food Bank click here.

The National Food Truck Association and Jetblue have partnered up to provide hot meals to people in the NY and NJ who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy. Click here for food truck locations.

Visit the New York Sports Club for a hot shower and to charge your phone.

Photo Restoration: According to Marc Bushelle Photography, “free photo restoration services are being offered to New York City victims of Hurricane Sandy. Marc Bushelle Photography’s expert touch will restore your family photos destroyed by water or suffering from other damage. We, at Marc Bushelle Photography, understand the value of photographs and bringing back your family’s treasured memories is our way to support fellow New Yorkers in their time of need. This offer is good for up to two Sandy damaged pictures per family for families who had their photos destroyed during the storm.”  Contact Marc Bushelle at 917 202 2614. You can also reach him at and through his Web site.

New Trends in Autism Research

November 26, 2012 12:55 pm Published by

Neuronal signaling in Autism

The advances in genetics, epigenetic, neurobiology, medical technology and pharmacology have been reformulating our understanding of the complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism is understood as neurodevelopmental syndromes characterized by impairments in social behavior, relations, language and communication, and also repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. (Buxbaum 2012, Coghlan et al 2012). Similar symptoms have been observed in other developmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, and Fetal Anticonvulsant Syndrome.

In the past, the scientific community was focused on serotonin and dopamine as important neurotransmitter in ASD. Today, research evidence suggests that ASD may be also linked to dysfunctions in GABAnergic inhibitory signaling in the brain. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the adult human brain. GABA is synthesized from the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate via the action of glutamate decarboxylase (GAD). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been associated with defects in the chromosome 15q11–q13 region, which is a site that contains a number of genes coding for particular subunits of the GABAA receptor (GABRB3, GABRA5 and GABRG3).

Another hot topic research is Glutamate receptors (mGluR5) as a potential treatment in ASD. Novel glutamate compounds have shown to be useful in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in autism such as N-Acetylcysteine (Mucomyst), Memantine (Namenda), Riluzole (Rilutex), D-Cycloserine (Seromycin), and Baclofen. Adenosine may also play a role as a new therapeutic agent to target autism and comorbid symptoms such as anxiety and seizure. Masino and colleagues (2012) discuss the role of adenosine as a homeostatic regulator of cell function and nervous system activity. Multiple adenosine-modulating receptors are in clinical trial. Some agents with adenosine-modulating properties are already approved such as allopurinol (Axanthine oxidase inhibitor) and dipyridamole (an adenosine transport blocker). Caffeine is a non-selective adenosine A1/A2 receptor antagonist, but is not presently approved for ASD therapy due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Genetic trends in ASD

Twin studies have estimated a genetic component in ASD at about 70% to 95% concordance for classic autism in monozygotic twins and 5% for dizygotic pairs. De novo mutations has been estimated in 10% to 20% of autism spectrum disorder cases and there is a 5% risk rate for siblings of an affected individual, unless fragile X syndrome is determined as the pathway, increasing the risk rate to 50%.

Some studies have been exploring why Autism Spectrum Disorder is more prevalent in males than females (4:1 in classic autism and 9:1 in Asperser’s Syndrome). This question has led to the suggestion that prenatal brain exposure to androgens may be associated with this developmental condition. A study conducted by Lombardo and colleagues (2012) suggested that fetal testosterone (FT) in human male subjects may act as a fetal programming mechanism on the developing brain as it relates to ASD. Fetal testosterone is double in males with ASD than males in the general population, which also acts as a modulator of serotonin and GABA (Baron-Cohen, 2006; Chakrabarti, et al 2009). Henningsson(2009), Lenroot and colleagues (2007) have found differences in brain volume between males and females with ASD. Male brain volume is 8% larger and males have 33% more synapses than females.

Autism Insurance Reform in New York [Guest Blog]

November 16, 2012 4:01 pm Published by

by Andrew M. Cohen, Esq.

As most people know by now, autism is a developmental disorder that usually appears within the first three years of life. It affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. While symptoms can vary in severity, children with autism may have difficulty with speech (both verbal and nonverbal), social interaction, making and maintaining eye contact, pretend play, sensory issues, perseverative behaviors, intense tantrums, and/or repetitive body movements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 88 children have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). While there is currently no cure, autism is a treatable condition.

While more and more health care professionals are aware of the signs of autism, a health care professional experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of autism is usually needed to make an actual diagnosis. To date, some private health insurance companies have been covering the testing and diagnosis of ASDs, however, the majority of insurance companies have not offered such benefits.

When dealing with autism and spectrum disorders, early and intensive treatment usually produces substantially greater long term benefits. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), medications, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy are commonly used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. ABA programs are usually done early on in the child’s home, under the supervision of a behavioral psychologist. It is a one-on-one approach, which teaches a variety of skills. The goal is to get the child as close to “normal” developmental functioning as possible. Access to ABA―which has been found to be among the most effective treatments for autism spectrum disorders―has been limited because families are forced to struggle with their ability to pay out of pocket for this treatment.

In the past few years, many states have adopted legislation to include health coverage for these disorders and New York is the 29th state to implement such a law. In 2011, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill (co-sponsored by Long Island’s Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr.) that advocates for those with autism and ASDs. This new law is being viewed as one of the most comprehensive autism insurance reform measures in the country. Scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2012, this law provides coverage of “medically necessary” autism therapies, such as ABA, with a maximum annual benefit of $45,000 per covered individual. In addition to covering ABA, the new law will also cover behavioral health services, medications, diagnostic services, psychiatric and psychological services, therapeutic care, and assistive technology (as long as the services are medically necessary and prescribed or ordered by a licensed physician or licensed psychologist). Under the new law there is no limit on the number of visits per year, nor is there an age limitation, thereby extending this coverage to children and adults alike. Furthermore, an individual cannot be terminated from health insurance coverage due to the diagnosis of or treatment for ASDs. It should be noted, however, that these services are still subject to deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance, similar to those imposed on other health benefits. It should also be noted that this new law only applies to state regulated insurance plans. Accordingly, companies with self-funded insurance plans are not required to provide coverage under the new regulations. New York’s Medicaid program, which provides invaluable services to the disabled, does not provide coverage for ABA.

Today, the prognosis for people with autism is much more optimistic than it was in the past, when individuals with a cognitive disability were forced into institutional settings. While those with the diagnosis will continue to face challenges throughout their lives, the hope and goal is to have the greatest number of persons afflicted with autism and spectrum disorders remain with their families, and to enable them to live to their fullest potential within their communities. The severity of the disorder and the amount of treatment and therapy a person receives often determine the prognosis for the future. The ability for many families to now seek appropriate therapy as a covered benefit under their health insurance plans will likely be a welcomed economic relief to thousands of families dealing with these issues.

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.