One in 68 Children has Autism

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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


Sports Column: December Highlights [Guest Blog]

December 12, 2012 3:15 pm Published by
by Mike Seligson, QSAC client

MLB: David Wright agrees to a 7 year, $138 million extension with the Mets. Bad news for the Yankees, they will be without Alex Rodriguez for 4-6 months.

NFL: The Patriots clinch the AFC East for the fourth straight year, and ten of the last twelve, due to a win in Miami, 23-16.

Rex Ryan and his Jets won 7-6 over the Arizona Cardinals, thanks to a brilliant move of putting in third string quarterback Greg McElroy, who threw the game-winning touchdown, and benching Mark Sanchez.

It was a not so good game for the New York Giants who played the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. In RG3’s MNF debut, the Redskins pounded the ball for over 250 rushing yards, though a positive for the New York Giants is they are still a game up on the Washington Redskins.

NBA: Good news for New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets fans: The 12-4 Knicks are perfect at home and 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn Nets are 11-5, 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

NCAAF: Notre Dame and Alabama will face off in a clash of the #1 and #2 titans, at the end of a whole month of college bowl games.

NCAAB: The Indiana Hoosiers and the Duke Blue Devils are #1 and #2 in the country. Kentucky took a big nose dive and is out of the top 25 for the first time in the John Calipari era.


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.