One in 68 Children has Autism

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Battling the winter blues? How visual supports can help!

February 16, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

It’s the dead of winter and for those of you living in the Northeast in particular, it’s been one winter! During these long, cold days it’s a good idea to have a snow day plan for you and your child with special needs. Consider the use of schedules and visual supports to help both YOU and your child when inclement weather keeps you indoors.  A basic schedule would include some of the things that need to get done paired with things you know your child would like to do. Set up your schedule so the fun activity follows the “chore”.  For example “First we brush our teeth”, then we “_______” (fill in fun activity here).  If your child reads he/she or you can write this out. If your child is better with pictures, it can look like this.  The picture of the activity can be drawn, copied, pasted etc in the corresponding box.






If you have an older child or a child that can manage a longer list, try a checklist. You can add a sticker, smiley face etc once each task is completed.   Here is an example.




In November, QSAC released a free ibook specifically designed to support families.  In this engaging, interactive ibook, Chapter 3 is dedicated to helping families manage home life specifically through the use of visual supports.  There are many examples of visuals in the chapter,  as well as apps and websites to help you organize the worst of snow days.  If you have an Apple computer or Ipad click to download for free


Don’t have an Ipad?  No worries.  Check out another great website with FREE printable resources such as calendars, sticker and job charts is


Take a deep breath…. winter can’t last forever.  In the meantime use these free resources to help get you through those snow days.  Chances are you will keep them in place because they really do help.




Some considerations when working on improving communication deficit

November 18, 2013 2:21 pm Published by

Children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder have persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts as one of the symptoms. This impairment is usually manifested in lack of social-emotional reciprocity, poor integration of verbal and nonverbal communication and difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts. Delays in communication usually vary in severity ranging from monotone speech about preferred topic to a total absence of verbal communication. Often individuals with ASD do not effectively perform the single most important task of communication and language, and that is expressing their wants and needs (i.e. making requests, exhibiting mands) and, as a result, they have very little control over what happens to them in their daily lives.

Further, multiple researches has shown that communication impairment is correlated with an increased risk of challenging behavior and reduced opportunities for community involvement and therefore it is understandable why a huge amount of intervention research has focused on developing successful procedures for improving communication skills of individuals with ASD.

 In most cases, the traditional developmental model of language represents the basis for teaching communication and language skills, however in this model, the primary unit of communication and language is the word and words, signs, pictures, or symbols are taught without much regard to the circumstances present during instruction. For example, some expressive language is taught as “labels” (“car”, “table”, “spoon”), some as “answers to questions or responses to statements” (“more”, “fine”, “please”, “hello, my name is___ “) and some as “generalized requests” (“eat”, “drink”, and “break”). For children and adults with ASD, the words, signs, or pictures they learn in one circumstance, don’t tend to occur in other circumstances without additional instruction. In many cases, this result in little to no expressive language or communication responses that are useful or important to the person, in other words, the person does not learn how to make specific requests (i.e. “no mands”).

Very often, this also results in problem behaviors. Individuals begin to communicate by screaming, dropping to the floor, hitting, spitting, kicking, biting, etc. and, if these behaviors result in what the individual wants, even intermittently, these same behaviors function as either specific or generalized requests (“problem mands”) and tend to occur again and again…Then, usually a clinician is asked to conduct a functional assessment in order to develop a plan to reduce the frequency of the problem behaviors and replace these behaviors with more appropriate alternatives. Often, these “replacement” behaviors are either a limited array of receptive skills (following directions or completing assigned tasks) or “generalized requests” for attention, escape, or access to categories of preferred items and activities (i.e. eat, drink, play, more, please, etc.)

When the only “replacement” behaviors are receptive skills, we are teaching poor speakers to be better listeners and when the “replacement” behaviors are generalized requests, we are teaching poor speakers to be non-specific speakers.

Neither is adequate…

Ideal practice should include teaching individuals to make specific requests (SPECIFIC MANDS) and expanded array of receptive skills (following directions, completing assigned tasks, waiting, sharing, and accepting no) (GENERALIZED COMPLIANCE).

In other words we should be teaching poor speakers to be effective, specific speakers who have more control over what happens in their daily lives while also teaching them to be good listeners in a wide variety of commonly occurring situations. Under these circumstances we could expect to see that when individuals have more control and power over what happens in their daily lives they tend to exhibit far lower rate of problem behavior.

Nevena Savic, MA


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.    

Who needs an iPad? Alternatives to the iPad for your child with Autism

March 19, 2012 5:02 pm Published by
If you thought that the iPad is the only device available for your child with autism and you’re prepared to stand on line for hours for the new iPad 3, you may want to take a moment to consider some of the comparable Android tablets in the market. Whether the expense of dishing out 500+ dollars for the iPad hurts to even think about (Don’t forget to include all the accessories too!) or you’re just inherently against all Apple products, the latest Android tablets out today is much easier on the wallet and an excellent competitor to the iPad.

Main points you should know:
Android tablets operate on an open source platform, in other words, developers are able to change, modify, improve and create their own software, which means greater flexibility and more apps to choose from. However, although there are many Android apps available, some of the popular apps for children with special needs are currently only available for the iPad. For example, Proloquo2go, one of the leading communication apps out there, was developed for the IPhone, Itouch and IPad only and according to their website, they’re not intending to develop their app for the Android system in the near future. Nevertheless, as more and more affordable Android tablets surface, its popularity will continue to grow as will the demand for compatible apps. Below is a brief list of currently popular Android tablets and apps.

Android Tablets
(Below based on 16 gb)
1. The EEE PAD Asus Transformer was considered the best tablet on the market in 2011. Although a newer version has since come out, the original can be found for as low as $337.
2. The Kindle Fire has a smaller screen but can be purchased for approximately $200.
3. The Galaxy Tab is another popular tablet out on the market and can be found for as low as $329.
4. The Toshiba Thrive can be found for as low as $330.
Android Apps
1. Although Proloquo2go may not be available, a similar app to use for communication is JabTalk. This app is easy on the wallet compared to the nearly $200 price tag on the Proloquo2go app; in fact, it’s free! This app allows the user to directly download pictures off of Google Image Search or add your own images from your camera. You can directly record your own voice to match the icons or use their text to speech option and the navigation system is easy to use.
2. Type and Speak makes your tablet say whatever you type out loud
3. Alexicom AAC for Android may be similar in its design as the Proloquo2go. Communication pages can be saved and shared across devices as well.
4. First Then Visual Schedule (also available on the iPad) allows customizable activity schedules to help with daily tasks and/or routines.
5. DTT colors or DTT Shapes (also available on the iPad) teaches colors and shapes using Discrete Trial Teaching (DTT)
6. EasyKidTokens provides a virtual token board system to use on the go.
7. EasyKidTimer allows your child to visually see the passage of time.
8. Kids Connect the Dots can be used to teach number sequence while connecting the dots to reveal a picture.
9. 123 ABC’s Handwriting Fun will teach your child to trace letters and numbers.
10. IstoryBooks is a free read aloud app that publishes a new book every 2 weeks.
There are a large amount of apps available for the Android on Google Play, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always create your own!
While there may be a great deal of benefits using an iPad with a child with autism, the iPad is not the only option available. If you are looking for something more affordable that your child can use, whether it be for communication or the many educational tools available, Android tablets may be a perfect alternative.


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.