One in 68 Children has Autism

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The Importance of Employment for Individuals with Autism

September 28, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

For as long as I can remember, I have looked forward to having the opportunity to work. After all, we ask children in elementary school what they want to be when they grow up. We are encouraged to work hard in school, so that we can go on to have successful careers.

But what about those who are diagnosed with autism or other developmental disabilities? A recent study found that 1 in 3 young adults with autism had not found gainful employment, nearly seven years after graduating. Many adults with autism are given volunteer opportunities, or part-time, unpaid internships. Although these are important opportunities in order to help them increase their vocational skills, there comes a time when these individuals are ready to seek out meaningful employment, and receive compensation for their hard work.

Individuals with autism work diligently to become more independent across all areas of their lives. From the moment they start receiving services, children with developmental disabilities work on goals that will help them become more independent. For children, learning how to become more independent consists of working on Activities of Daily Living (ADL) skills, such as brushing their teeth, or getting dressed by themselves. As they grow older, learning to become more independent consists more of working on Independent Living (IL) skills, such as cooking and cleaning, traveling, and learning to manage finances.

The first time any of us really earn our own income is when we get a job. Whether this is part-time or full-time, we finally have the opportunity to earn our own money (the key words here being earn, and own). There is a certain sense of satisfaction and pride in being able to have your own money, and be able to do many more things as a result. Having a job, and earning wages, exponentially increases our independence.

For those on the autism spectrum, there are a number of obstacles that stand between them and gainful employment. Many individuals struggle with social cues, managing their emotions, dealing with different sensory triggers, following directions/instructions, planning and organizing, adapting to changes, and so on. Even the standard small talk of an office can be overwhelming to someone who has autism.

That being said, many adults on the spectrum would rather find ways to work through the challenges of being in a work environment, rather than not having the chance to work at all. It can be incredibly discouraging and frustrating to not have the opportunity to make money for yourself, and be able to use that money how you want to. The money we earn from working allows us to spend time with our friends, participate in different activities, buy clothes and other items for ourselves, even be able to eat what we want to! As much as there are different ways to supplement income for individuals with disabilities, it is not the same as earning your wages based on the work you have done. There is a difference between receiving an income, and earning one.

Many adults on the spectrum are aware of the limitations on what they can do when they do not have paid employment. In my experience, speaking with adults with autism about their goals, several have expressed to me how much they desired to have a job, just like I do. They were able to connect the fact that we were close in age, and that having a career is something they would like to do by a certain age as well. It is difficult to encourage someone with autism to become more independent, if they do not feel that they have the opportunity to do so.

Thankfully, there are more opportunities and initiatives for individuals with developmental disabilities to obtain employment. OPWDD is providing new ways for individuals to seek out meaningful work across the state. I have also observed more individuals attending college, which opens the doors for them to pursue a number of different careers. More initiatives are taking place to broaden the job opportunities that exist for individuals with developmental disabilities. With the proper supports in place, adults with autism can find success in different careers. For example, with the guidance of a job coach, an individual can learn to overcome their specific deficits and challenges in order to perform well at a job of their choice.

There are no guarantees in terms of whether or not any of us can obtain employment, disability or not. However, adults with autism and other developmental disabilities should be provided with the same opportunities as the rest of us, if it is something they would like to do and if it would be appropriate for them. Being a contributing and independent member of society is something that many adults on the autism spectrum highly value, and obtaining and maintaining gainful employment is an important way for them to achieve this.




Sara Giangiobbe, MAT serves as a Medicaid Service Coordination Supervisor in QSAC’s MSC Department. She has been serving in a multitude of roles with QSAC since 2004. In addition to her professional role in the field of autism and developmental disabilities, she has a younger brother who is diagnosed with autism. She is a proud sibling and professional, and is also a regular contributor to onQ, QSAC’s blog.

Strategies for Managing and Communicating Emotions

September 21, 2015 3:00 pm Published by
  1. Handling stress
  2. Using time effectively
  3. Saying what you feel
  4. Dealing with change
  5. Understanding the point of view of others
  6. Taking risks and knowing when to take them

The emotional challenges above are just some of thencountered in our day to day routines.

One of the ways to consider handling and being under stress is to stay in the moment. The way we are involved in handling it is part of the solution, and remaining present is part of handling this challenge.

Sometimes just being in the moment and looking at the big picture is the best remedy.

Personally, I feel that when I am prepared for a situation I am can put my best foot forward. This is so important and helps me be clear about what my needs and wants are. These are all tied and linked to communication.

Language is not the only way that one can express themselves.

One of the ways life is challenging is the way that we become involved in dealing with and handling changes in everyday routines. These challenges are impacted by the way we react to them emotionally.

And then the most challenging aspect of these ways to handling everything is by being clear and getting an understanding of the other person’s point of view.

This involves not only being in touch with how you feel but also being considerate and being in tune with the other person’s thoughts, feelings, wants, and desires

Finally, I am going to talk about challenges and taking risks.

I personally believe that only risks that are important are the ones that we don’t know that we can take. Taking small steps towards our goals in communication and  becoming in tune with what we want are the best ways to understand ourselves and the environment around us.




Danielle Lazzara serves as a Development Assistant in QSAC’s Development Department and as an instructor in the Self-Advocacy Training Program funded by the Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund (LIUU Fund) of the Long Island Community Foundation. Danielle is a self-advocate and presents regularly at local and regional workshops and conferences on the topic of self-advocacy. She has been a member of QSAC’s Development Department since 2013 and writes regularly for onQ, QSAC’s blog.


The Right To Effective Behavioral Treatment: Our Commitment To Our Students

September 14, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

As a school administrator, who is a board certified and NYS licensed behavior analyst, ethical considerations drive programmatic decision making. Curriculum, staff training, and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) candidate supervision and training are all inspired by the need to ensure effective treatment for our students. Van Houten and his colleagues (1988) were progressive in their conceptualization of how effective treatment is defined. Although the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and certification were not established until 1998 the authors identified an “individual’s right to treatment by a competent behavior analyst” as required for ensuring their right to effective treatment.

At QSAC our education programs take this tenet very seriously. Does this mean that our students are only taught by Board Certified Behavior Analysts? No, what it means is that we strive to ensure that we are meeting the guidelines set forth by Van Houten and his colleagues (1988) when we train and supervise staff. According to the authors; those responsible for delivering, directing, or evaluating the effects of behavioral treatment should have “appropriate education and experience.” We have defined what “appropriate” looks like based on staff training literature (Sarokoff & Sturmey, 2004; Koegel, Russo & Rincover, 1977).  By using behavioral skills training packages we have observable and measurable performance criteria for newly hired staff. All teaching staff are trained to a predetermined criteria across specific skills before implementing practices with our students. The basic training sequence includes, but is not limited to: conditioning the instructor as a reinforcer, mand training, discrete trial instruction, and conducting preference assessments. By using this system we are able to attest to the ability level of each instructor. What does that have to do with competence?

This training systems was devised by a certified behavior analyst who consulted the literature and is monitored by three certified behavior analysts. To our pioneers Van Houten et al.; we ask does this meet the criteria? Because we do not yet have an answer, we work under the assumption that yes, by using practices derived from the behavior analytic literature, implemented and monitored by BCBAs, we are meeting our ethical requirements of treatment by competent behavior analysts.

To further support our argument we are able to test the rest of Van Houten et al.’s (1988) argument for treatment provided by competent behavior analysts. For example, is the academic training (of the behavior analyst) reflective of knowledge of behavioral principles, methods of assessment, and treatment; check! Our programs are supervised by BCBAs. Do our school leaders/trainers and supervisors have clinical competence with practicum/supervised experience with relevant populations? Check! See above. This is in addition to the many BCBA candidates we supervise in our setting who are looking for a similarly intensively supervised setting. Lastly do our students have access to doctoral level behavior analysts to manage more difficult treatment needs? Check, check, and check. Each of our programs has at least one doctoral level staff member on site who has the demonstrated ability to provide more intensive support when needed. Our efforts to train staff at times seems herculean, but our commitment to our students and their RIGHT to effect treatment is unwavering.


GFelicianoBlogGina Feliciano is the Senior Director of Education Services; prior to that Gina served as the Director of the Preschool. Gina is responsible for the overall operation of the preschool and day school. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (Doctoral level) as well as a certified New York State Special Education Teacher and School Administrator.

Gina received her Doctorate from Columbia University in Special Education and Behavior Disorders in 2006.

Her previous professional experience includes being appointed as Director of Clinical Services, Director of ABA services and years training staff and education professionals as a Behavioral Consultant.

Gina has held academic positions as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, Pace University and Queens College teaching courses on behavior management, classroom management and education psychology.



Koegel, R. L., Russo, D. C., & Rincover, A. (1977). Assessing and training teachers in the generalized use of behavior modification with autistic children. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis10(2), 197-205. doi:10.1901/jaba.1977.10-197.

Sarokoff, R. A., & Sturmey, P. (2004). The effects of behavioral skills training on staff implementation of discrete-trial teaching. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis37(4), 535-538. doi:10.1901/jaba.2004.37-535

Van Houten, R., Axelrod, S., Bailey, J. S., Favell, J. E., Foxx, R. M., Iwata, B. A., & Lovaas, O. I. (1988). The right to effective behavioral treatment. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis21(4), 381–384.

The Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment, Part 2

September 7, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

In a previous post on this blog, my colleague, Todd Merritt discussed the first tenet outlined in the Van Houten et al. (1998) article. As Todd stated, the article provides six tenets that should be included in any program that provides behavioral services to individuals.  The first tenet covered by my colleague was the individual’s right to a therapeutic environment.

The second tenet discussed by Van Houten et al. is that “an individual has a right to services whose overriding goal is personal welfare” (p. 382).  The authors discuss how “the client or an authorized proxy” should be included in making “treatment related decisions” (p. 382).  In determining who attends an individual’s meeting, one should consider the extent to which it is feasible for the individual to actively participate in his/her own meeting and advocate for him/herself.  If it is determined that an individual is unable to participate in a meeting, then Van Houten et al. (1998) indicate that an authorized proxy can also participate in an individual’s treatment planning meeting.  Depending on the context, a proxy can be a parent, caretaker, teacher, etc.  A proxy would then be anyone who is invested in the success of the individual and would represent the individual’s best interests.

At the QSAC Day School, parent involvement is encouraged and actively sought out, as we understand how important parental input is in developing students’ goals and individualized programming.  The team then comprised of all relevant participants advocate for appropriate services to increase the independence and overall wellbeing of the individual.  All of our students have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and the goals on each student’s IEP are what drive that student’s instructional curriculum.  The underlying philosophy of any instructional program should always be that students’ goals are written based on the assessment of students’ current skills, and in collaboration of all those involved in the student’s educational team.  Having students participate in the development of their own instructional/treatment plan can look differently for different students. Meeting participation could range from ensuring students are provided with choices in the types of activities they engage in, to using students’ interests to tailor activities/goals based on those interests, to giving students the opportunity to advocate for themselves.

The underlying philosophy for us at the QSAC Day School is to provide our students with the appropriate curriculum to ensure they attain the skills necessary to thrive while at the school and beyond. Because our students are only here until they transition to a less restrictive setting, or until they transition to an adult program, we want to ensure our students acquire the necessary skills to succeed when they are ready to move on from the QSAC Day School.






Cynthia Martinez, M.S., M.S. Ed. has been with QSAC since 2007.  She started out as an Medicaid Service Coordinator, then transferred to the Day School where she was a classroom teacher for 4 and a half years.  Cynthia has been at her current position as an ABA Coordinator since 2013.



Van Houten, R., Axelrod, S., Bailey, J. S., Favell, J. E., Foxx, R. M., Iwata, B. A., & Lovaas, O. I. (1988). The Right to Effective Behavioral Treatment. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 21(4), 381-384.


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.