One in 68 Children has Autism

QSAC's blog – 2016 – January » 2016 » January

An Overview of the New York State Alternate Assessment Process

January 18, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

As part of the New York State Testing Program (NYSTP), students in the 3rd, 4th, and 8th grade, as well as High School, must be assessed using standardized assessments. This regulation applies not only to students who participate in the general education curriculum, but also applies to students who receive special education services. For students who receive special education services in New York State, the Committee on Special Education (CSE) makes the determination as to whether a particular student meets the eligibility criteria to participate in the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA) instead of participating in the State’s general assessments (Office of State Assessments, 2016).

The NYSAA measures the progress of students with severe cognitive disabilities in achieving the NYS common core p-12 learning standards in English Language Arts (ELA), Math, Science, and Social Studies. For the 2015-2016 school year, New York joined the consortium of states that have contracted with the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation to deliver Dynamic Learning Maps (DLM) assessments for ELA and Math ( This means that for the 2015-2016 school year, teachers had to complete traditional assessments for Science and Social Studies, but the ELA and Math assessments are to be administered via a computer based platform (KITE Suite), starting in the Spring of 2016. The purpose of the NYSAA is to ensure the expectation that students with disabilities continue to progress from year to year. The NYSAA aims to test the progress of students with disabilities in relation to the NYS common core standards.

What does this all mean for us at the QSAC Day School? All of our students at the QSAC Day School participate in the New York State Alternate Assessments as mandated by each student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Due to the changes made to the NYSAA starting with the 2015-2016 school year, the preparation and administration process for the NYSAA is different from previous years. During the month of December, the students that were to be assessed were identified and the relevant materials were reviewed. During the month of January, teachers diligently worked on selecting the appropriate Alternate Grade Level Indicators (AGLIs) in Science and Social Studies for their students, creating activities to assess the AGLIs, and planning the evidence to be included for each standard. Teachers then met several times to review and provide feedback to each other regarding the activities and tasks selected and created for each of their students. Once the review was completed, the teachers conducted baseline administrations. After baseline data were collected, the teachers taught the target tasks to the students using their typical teaching methods, and then conducted the final administration between 2/2/16-2/5/16 to determine whether learning occurred. After the final administration was completed, teachers compiled all of the documents for each student into a portfolio which the NYSAA refers to as a datafolio. Teachers then participated in several collegial reviews to review each other’s datafolios to ensure the accuracy of their scoring.

Although at times the AGLIs and the assessment tasks provided by the state are not necessarily appropriate for our students, through being persistent, working diligently, individualizing, and differentiating instructional tasks, our teachers at the Day School were able to successfully administer the Science and Social Studies assessments to their students. In the upcoming months, teachers will start preparing to administer the Math and ELA alternate assessments to their students via KITE Suite. Following the completion of these assessments, we then wait to receive our assessment results!





Cynthia Martinez, M.S., M.S. Ed., SBL, ABA Coordinator, QSAC Day School has been with QSAC since 2007.  She started out as a 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.  Cynthia has a Master’s degree in Special Education from The City College of New York and a Master’s degree in School Building Leadership from Touro College.



New York State Office of State Assessments. (2016). New York State Alternate Assessment

(NYSAA). Retrieved from

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Discovering An Etiology

January 11, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

helixAutism as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) can be better understood if we can identify the connection between contributing genetic and environmental factors.  Twin studies have shown high evidence of heritability. Several genetic syndromes have been associated with autism by mutations in single genes such as FMR1 in fragile X syndrome, MECP2 in Rett syndrome, and TSC1 and TSC2 in tuberous sclerosis complex or by deletions or duplications affecting multiple genes (e.g., deletion of 16p11.2) or maternal duplication/triplication (15q11-q13) (Wang, et al. 2010; Weiss, et al. 2008).


In addition, epidemiological studies have found evidence of the role of environmental factors in Autism Spectrum Disorder risk. Environmental exposures before and during pregnancy to Valproic Acid, Thalidomide, and antidepressants or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors medications (SSRI) have been associated with an increased risk of Autism (Clements, et al. 2015; Croen et al., 2011; Christensen, et al. 2013; Matelski and de Water, 2015). Exposure to toxicants such as pesticides, solvents, substance use disorder, PCBs and air pollutants during pregnancy can have severe consequences and implications in Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Ressignol and colleagues in their study argue that “shared environmental and genetic factors could converge to result in neurotoxic mechanisms that may lead to the development of ASD”.


We hope that the understanding of the combination of genetic, environmental, neurobiological and immunological factors may lead to better patient care, benefits for the family and new targets for treatments.



Francisco Monegro currently serves as the residential Clinical Director of adult services programs at QSAC. He is also a consultant on autism for the PSCH clinic and the Shield Institute. Dr. Monegro received his MD/PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Santo Domingo/University of Kansas. In 1988, he received a diploma from the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists, Nashville, and from the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling and Psychotherapy, Dallas, TX.

Researchers continue to seek a more objective way to diagnose autism

January 4, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

Currently, there is no medical test that can diagnose autism spectrum disorder. Getting an ASD diagnosis relies on a multidisciplinary team of trained professionals who interview parents and administer specific behavioral assessments and parent questionnaires.

Researchers of The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT), which is made up of Yale University, Duke University, Boston Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles, are seeking to develop reliable and objective measurements of social function and communication in people with ASD.

The scientists are recruiting both typically developing children and children with a diagnosis of ASD between the ages of 4 and 11 years old. They plan to measure children’s brain waves with an EEG and track the child’s eye movements while given certain tasks to perform. They will also use automated recording techniques to assess behavior and speech, which are approaches that have the most support from previous research.

The Yale researchers and their collaborators hope to show that EEG and eye tracking can be used as autism biomarkers. The ultimate goal is to validate a set of tools that will enable clinicians to objectively measure and predict how children with ASD respond to treatment.




Kristen DuMoulin, Ph.D., BCBA, SAS, has been a devoted professional to the field of special education and individuals with autism since 1995. She joined Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) in 2002 and is currently the Director of Children’s Clinical Services, where she is responsible for managing the clinical and administrative aspects of the Early Intervention (EI), Special Education Itinerant Teachers (SEIT), Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) as well as the CPSE and OPWDD evaluation programs. She is a permanently certified New York State Special Education Teacher and School Administrator.


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.