One in 68 Children has Autism

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Adjusting to life changes for people with disabilities

December 14, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

Life is full of changes, some of these changes are easy to adjust to while others are more challenging. While growing up, I became isolated and withdrawn whenever I had to change much or when change was expected of me. I hated to admit it at the time but the reality was that I hated change and changes happening around me. This became a problem whenever I was expected to do any of my responsibilities and I really disliked it. As a result, my self-esteem suffered and I would throw tantrums and become irate when things did not go the way that I wanted them to go. However, some changes were not all that bad. These changes have made me the person and individual that I am today strong and willful, but cautious about what lays ahead in my future. These changes have also made aware of a future which I now know is promising and fulfilling and is somewhat predictable.

Here are some tips on how I have dealt with changes. Being prepared is one way that can help while adjusting to change. This can be done by making a schedule and sticking with it. Learning how to be flexible by keeping an open mind can also help while adjusting to change. Communicating by expressing ideas, wants, and desires freely. Learning how to do activities that you enjoy, listen to music do art projects this, and spend time with friends. This helps by dealing with stress and can help clear your mind. Finally, allowing others to help by asking for feedback and support can be helpful by allowing you to see things from another point of view and perspective. Give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself on the work that you have done. This will emphasize your efforts and make you aware of them.





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.

My Job as the Self-Advocate Liaison

August 3, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

This past year has been a challenging one as much as a rewarding one. When I first started working for QSAC, I did not realize the impact I would have as a self-advocate and mentor to young adults with disabilities, but as time went on, myself and others have come to understand this more and more.

Danielle Lazzara (center) pictured with other members of QSAC’s Development Department: Michelle Debisette (left) and Joseph Amodeo (right)

I realized that this learning experience was just as new to me as the individuals I was mentoring. The way I learned in this endeavor was through respect and willingness to grasp information from others, a s well as being open to replicate in return.

Advocating is a skill that has ignited the fuel of my mind, bringing out my passion and opening my heart. I learned this when I realized my true potential for this task. I’ve shared my story at numerous presentations, hoping that it influences others in my position to be greater and become better advocates. During this process, I have learned that change is a natural part of life. What would have been acquaintances have become friends and unfamiliar strangers have common bonds.

Learning my skills have made an impact on me from being a volunteer to better worker. Having rights and understanding the power of them is truly necessary such as: being aware of having choices, getting involved in healthy relationships, working and/or volunteering, having free speech, and owning up to our responsibilities. This is supported by our amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Being safe in this community is a big right for everyone. One way that I learned how to be safe in a community is by having support staff, helping me get familiar with the community and feel safer. Knowing this, I have advocated my experience in hopes that others will follow my example to feel safer in the community.

I have also attended many workshops and volunteered for many organizations such as Americore and O.P.W.D.D. I do this continuously and in my spare time to set an example for others like myself. My most valuable experience has been these connections that have brought out my true voice, and these impacts on others and those around me. I hope to continue to be a voice for many others, and I hope to help them create their own voice.


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.




Adult Independence

April 20, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

When we think of autism spectrum disorders, we often think of the children on the spectrum. We know that 1 in 68 school children has autism (CDC) and that the NYCDOE estimates that 1 in 10 city school children will have an autism diagnosis before they graduate. What we don’t often focus on is that over the next ten years, 500,000 children with autism will become adults, 90% of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed, and 79.1% of young adults with autism experience residential living after their secondary education (Roux et al., 2013). This tells us that we have to do a better job at increasing independence and vocational skills in our adults with autism; and we need to determine how this can be accomplished, how students are taught, what skills are essential for the best outcomes and when do we start teaching these skills. There is a tremendous amount of research conducted with children with autism and very little published research on adults. We as educators/clinicians need to know what will enable a 21 year old program graduate to be prepared enough to get a paid job and live independently or as close to that goal as possible.

Of particular concern would be what skills need to be taught, what systems have to be faded, the level of prompt dependency, the schedule of reinforcement, and the dependency on 1:1 instruction.  Skills in communication, social interaction, self help/independent living, pre-vocational/vocational, and leisure pursuit are essential for a productive adult life; what are we doing to teach our elementary and school age students these skills? We as educators/ clinicians have to focus on ensuring a smooth transition, focusing on teaching these skills in the elementary and secondary school years, fading out 1:1 instruction earlier, understanding that adult services do not support a 1:1 ratio, focusing on small/large group instruction and increasing independence and vocational skills across the board. Ultimately we need to shift our focus and ensure that everything we are doing for our younger students on the autism spectrum is translating to effectively supporting our adults on the autism spectrum.


Gerhardt, P.F.  & Lainer, I. (2011), Adressing the Needs of Adolescents and Adults with Autism; A crises on the Horizon. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 41: 37-45.

Roux, A.M., Shattuck, P.T., Cooper, B.P., Anderson, K.A., Wagner, M., & Narendorf, S.C. (2013), Postsecondary Employment Experiences among Young Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 52 (9): 931-939.

First Autism-Friendly Screening Showcasing People on the Autism Spectrum

May 19, 2014 11:24 am Published by

sprout film festival

On Saturday, May 31st in NYC, the Sprout Film Festival will be presenting an autism-friendly screening of 7 short films featuring people on the autism spectrum.

The program, ON THE SPECTRUM, will take place at 2:00pm on Saturday, May 31st at the SVA Theatre, located at 333 West 23rd Street in NYC.

The following are trailers of some of the films in this program:

Stephen Wiltshire:

For the Love of Dogs

Tommy! The Dreams I Keep Inside Me

For the complete schedule of films and programs in the festival please visit:

QSAC Featured on NBC 4 New York

April 8, 2014 11:42 am Published by

Yesterday, Monday, April 7, Paul Halvatzis, a QSAC parent and board member, alongside Joseph Amodeo, QSAC’s Director of Development and Strategy, participated in an interview on NBC 4 New York with Roseanne Colletti. The interview focused on the impact of QSAC’s programs and services for children and adults with autism throughout New York City and Long Island. You can watch the interview online by clicking here.

Avonte’s tragic death highlights the need for better tracking and training

February 6, 2014 10:04 am Published by

The tragic case of Avonte Oquendo  prompted Justice Department officials this week to expand a program to help parents obtain tracking devices for children with autism.  Avonte, a 14-year-old with autism, was found dead three-months after running away from school. Avonte, who did not speak, was at school in Queens, NY when he ran off on October 4, 2013 at about 12:30 p.m.

The announcement Wednesday means that federal grant funds,which already cover tracking devices for adults with Alzheimers, will also apply to children with autism. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had requested the funds, said the devices were available immediately for parents who wanted them. Avonte’s Law, which Schumer proposed in November, would authorize federal funds for the purchase of tracking devices as well as training in their use. Each device costs about $85, plus a few dollars in monthly fees, the Senator said, adding that hundreds of families with autistic children already have used privately funded tracking devices.

A 2012 study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that children between the ages of 4 and 7 with autism were four times more likely to wander away than children of the same age without autism. The study, based on a survey of parents of children with autism, found that 49% of the children had tried to run off at least once after they reached age 4. This same study indicated  56% of parents stating eloping is one of the most stressful behaviors they encounter while caring for their children with autism.

While tracking devices are  important, educating and training staff who work with individuals with autism is imperative. Avonte’s wandering behavior is called eloping, which means he left a safe location without permission. Eloping is a potentially dangerous behavior that has led to 22 deaths in just 20 months between 2009 and 2011, according to the National Autism Association.

Some children with autism do not understand the spoken word, therefore may not respond to their name when called. Some children cannot speak without support, so they may not be able to ask for what they want and need without augmentative communication, such as PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or using sign language . If a child elopes without support, or in the case of using sign language, encounters someone who does not speak the language, it could be incredibly difficult or impossible for the child to communicate any personal information, which would ultimately lead to his/her safe return home.

Many children with autism do not have an age-appropriate understanding or awareness of safety procedures, such as checking for cars before crossing the street, walking within a cross walk or avoiding strangers.

All of these stress the importance of addressing the issues surrounding elopement behaviors. All involved in the care and education of children with autism must be specifically trained in keeping children safe as a means to prevent further tragedy.


Below are some links with helpful information.

The Big Red Safety Box is a resource created by the National Autism Association for The AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education) Collaboration.





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.