One in 68 Children has Autism

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Whitestone Day School’s Vocational Training Program: the Evolution of the Day School Store

February 13, 2017 3:00 pm Published by

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In April 2015, the Day School store opened for the first time as part of the school’s vocational training program. In its infancy, the Day School store offered a variety of snacks, water, and fruit to its customers, mainly Day School staff and school visitors. From the beginning, the school store has been run by Day School students. The students perform a variety of jobs associated with the school store, including but not limited to operating the cash register, attending to customers, restocking merchandise, and taking inventory of store merchandise.

The next step in the development of the Day School store was selling baked goods. With the support of our wonderful Day School staff, students then started baking a variety of goods to sell at the school store once or twice per week. The students learned to look up and follow a variety of recipes to make the baked goods. These bake sales received very positive reviews by school staff, and whenever students baked, school staff were excited to buy at the school store.

This past Friday, students made lunches to sell at the school store and it was a great success! During the past month, students have been working on surveying the school staff on lunch preferences, tallying the results of lunch surveys, making lists of the necessary ingredients, going to the neighborhood supermarket to find materials and ingredients, pricing items, and drawing signs to advertise that lunches would now be available at the school store.

The day before students were to make lunches at the school store, students working at the store visited each classroom and took lunch orders. The items available for lunch included: turkey wraps or a side Caesar salad. The students then tallied the orders to see how many of each lunch choice they had to prepare the next day. The next day, the students then worked on filling all of the lunch orders. With staff support, the students followed the recipes to make the lunches, then labeled each lunch with the staff member’s name. The students that were on cashier duty that day, then rang each order on the cash register as the orders were picked up by the staff.

The students that work at the school store then created a survey to assess whether staff members were happy with their orders and whether they would order again. Survey results were positive, and the students working at the school store will continue to expand on the menu options available. As the school store continues to grow, the students that work at the store will have the opportunity to continue developing their job readiness skills.

 

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Cynthia Martinez, M.S., M.S. Ed., SBL, Senior  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 a Senior ABA Coordinator since 2016.  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.

 

Future Focus on Autism Treatment: Precision Medicine

October 31, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

dna-strain“Personalized Medicine”, “Precision Medicine”, or “Individualized Medicine” is a concept that has modern applications to treatment of malignancies, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, asthma, hepatitis C, alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, among many disease. Jameson and Longo (2015) define precision medicine “as treatments targeted to the needs of individual patients on the basis of genetic, biomarker, phenotypic, or psychosocial characteristics that distinguish a given patient from other patients with similar clinical presentations”. In respect to Autism, our advancements in understanding the disorder has not yet translated to our ability to provide precision medicine. We have amassed a wealth of knowledge of the disorder, but have limited therapies to treat it.

According to a report by Sahin and Sur (2015), the heritability of autism has been estimated between 0.7–0.8%, including de novo mutations and epigenetic and environmental factors configuring complex risk architecture (Frye and Rossignol, 2016). Genome analysis has shown association with autism and 15q11–13, 16p11.2, and 22q11.2 copy number variants (CNV) and single nucleotide variants which some of them are de novo (not found in either parent). In addition, several studies, using whole exome sequencing, have estimated between 400-1,000 susceptibility genes associated with autism (Kim and Leventhal, 2015).

Even though the advances in basic neuroscience and human genetics, according to Sahin and Sur (2015), patients with autism spectrum disorder have limited pharmacological options. So far, the FDA has approved only two drugs to treat irritability and not symptoms domain of autism, Risperidone (dopamine antagonist) and Aripiprazole (dopamine agonist). It is imperative to validate a set of measures, indicators or biomarkers (molecular, imaging and behavioral) to develop medications or a particular treatment which target different autistic phenotypes.

Early diagnosis of subtypes of autism would be important in testing which targeted treatment plans are most effective.

 

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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.

Instructional Fading – A Path to Increased Productivity

October 3, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

At the QSAC Preschool and Day School, we apply proactive strategies to increase prosocial behavior and decrease or prevent the occurrence of problem behavior. The proactive strategies that we implement are part of a system of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a decision making framework that improves staff and student behavior through reward systems, careful environmental manipulation, and the use of evidence based practices and ongoing data analysis to monitor staff and student progress. Our PBIS framework includes 13 proactive/preventative strategies for increasing prosocial skills and improving overall behavior. One proactive strategy that we strive to include is instructional fading. Instructional fading allows instructors to systematically increase response requirements for students, so that students can learn to complete work sessions at a level that is as easy for them, before moving on to more difficult and longer work sessions. This blog post offers a synopsis of the research in instructional fading as an antecedent strategy. It is adapted from Maffei-Almodovar & Sturmey (2013).

Instructional fading is typically used to reduce problem behavior that functions for escape from a non-preferred activity (Butler & Luiselli, 2007; Horner, et al., 1991; Pace, Iwata, Cowdery, Andree, & McIntyre, 1993; Weeks & Gaylord-Ross, 1981; Zarcone, Iwata, Smith, Mazaleski & Lermanm, 1994) including SIB maintained by task avoidance (Iwata, et al., 1990; Repp, Felce, & Barton, 1988; Steege, Wacker, Berg, Cigrand, & Cooper, 1989).

Instructional fading consists of drastically decreasing the rate or difficulty of instructions identified as antecedents to escape maintained problem behavior and then systematically increasing the rate or difficulty of instructions to a predetermined acceptable level (Horner, Day, Sprague, O’Brien, & Heathfield, 1991; Pace et al., 1993; Weeks & Gaylord-Ross, 1981; Zarcone, Iwata, Vollmer, Jagtiani, Smith, & Mazauiski, 1993). Instructional fading is one way of possibly decreasing the momentary value of escape for a student.

Four studies have utilized instructional fading to decrease dangerous problem behavior (Butler and Luiselli, 2007; Pace, et al., 1993; Zarcone et al., 1994; Zarcone et al., 1993).  These studies were published in English and in peer-reviewed journals, included participants with identified developmental or intellectual disabilities, utilized a reversal or multiple baseline design to allow for Percentage of All Non-overlapping Data calculations (PAND), and targeted a dangerous problem behavior.  Dangerous problem behavior is defined here as a behavior likely to result in injury to the individual or to others in the immediate environment such as various forms of self-injurious behavior (SIB), aggression, elopement and property destruction.

Participants in the four studies (10 total) included seven females and three males aged two to 40 years.  Nine out of ten participants were diagnosed with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities and one was diagnosed with autism.  Experimental settings included a therapy room, two state residential facilities and one private school for children with developmental disabilities.  All 10 participants engaged in escape maintained SIB and one also engaged in escape maintained aggression.  Instructional fading interventions varied across studies to include instructional fading plus extinction (Pace, et al., 1993; Zarcone et al., 1994), instructional fading plus non-contingent escape (Butler & Luiselli, 2007) and a comparison of instructional fading plus extinction with extinction alone (Zarcone et al., 1993).

There were large effect sizes across all four studies, however, since each study utilized a slightly different variation of the instructional fading intervention, effect sizes will be reported separately for each study. Pace, et al., (1993) applied Instructional fading plus extinction to significantly reduce SIB across 3 participants (PAND = 94%.)  Zarcone, et al. (1993) compared instructional fading plus extinction with extinction alone and found that both interventions significantly reduced SIB.  Zarcone et al. (1993), however, also found that extinction alone produced less reduction in SIB (PAND = 85%) than instructional fading plus extinction (PAND = 94%).  Zarcone et al. (1994) also utilized instructional fading only applying extinction (with the rate of instructions held constant) when SIB remained high across 10 sessions.  Effect sizes for Zarcone et al. (1994) were less robust (PAND =  82%) indicating that instructional fading alone may be less effective than instructional fading plus extinction.  Finally, Butler and Luiselli (2007) implemented non-contingent escape plus instructional fading and reduced problem behavior with the most robust effect size (PAND = 100%.)

Experimenters in all four studies also reported increases in appropriate responses to instructions as instructional difficulty and frequency were faded in during interventions.  In this way, studies also reported increases in participant engagement. Instructional fading shows promise as a component in a treatment package to decrease and possibly prevent dangerous problem behavior when combined with either extinction or non-contingent escape.

At the QSAC schools, instructional fading is often included as a proactive, antecedent strategy and as part of a behavior intervention plan for escape maintained problem behavior after functional behavior assessments have been completed. Instructional fading is a tool that allows us to teach ours students to tolerate increasingly difficult task requirements. The ability to complete ever increasing work requirements is a skill that all working adults ideally possess. This is an important skill for all of our students, especially those that are preparing to enter less restrictive learning environments and work sites. Instructional fading is an avenue to increased independence that can help our students to meet their goals as independent working adults.

 

 

LMaffei-Blog-BubbleLindsay Maffei-Almodovar, MS Ed, MA, BCBA, has worked in the field special education since 2001. She joined Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) in 2011 and is currently the ABA Training & Development Coordinator. She is responsible for designing, evaluating and monitoring staff training initiatives at both the preschool and Day School programs. Lindsay is a certified New York State Early Childhood General & Special Education Teacher and a Licensed Behavior Analyst. Lindsay is also a doctoral student in the Behavior Analysis Training Area of the Psychology Department at Queens College and The Graduate Center City University of New York (CUNY). Her research focuses on efficient methods of training staff members in evidence based behavior analytic procedures.

 

 

 

References

 

Butler, L.R.  & Luiselli, J. K. ( 2007). Escape-maintained problem behavior in a child with

autism: Antecedent functional analysis and intervention evaluation of noncontingent

escape and instructional fading. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 9, 195

202.

 

Maffei-Almodovar, L., & Sturmey, P. (2013). Evidence-based practice and crisis intervention. In

D. D. Reed, F. D. DiGennaro Reed & J. K. Luiselli (Eds.), Handbook of Crisis

Intervention and Developmental Disabilities (pp. 46-69). New York: Springer.

 

Pace, G. A.,  Iwata, B. A., Cowdery, G. E.,  Andree, P.J., & McIntyre, T. (1993). Stimulus

(instructional) fading during extinction of self-injurious escape behavior. Journal of

Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 205-212.

 

Zarcone, J. R., Iwata, B. A., Smith, R. G., Mazaleski, J. L., & Lerman, D. C. (1994).

Reemergence and extinction of self-injurious escape behavior during stimulus

(instructional) fading. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 27, 307-316.

 

Zarcone, J. R.,  Iwata, B. A., Vollmer, T. R., Jagtiani, S., Smith, R. G. & Mazauiski, J. L.(1993).

Extinction of self-injurious escape behavior with and without instructional fading.

Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 26, 353-360.

Obesity and the Autism Population (An update on Mo’s Progress)

August 8, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

A few months ago, the After School program introduced everyone to a young man, affectionately known as Mo. Mo was assigned a personal trainer through Title Boxing Club Forest Hills in order to help lose weight and become physically fit. In addition, the ASP designed a weight loss program to help teach him healthier eating habits, such as portion control and increasing his fruits and vegetables, while decreasing foods with high sugar and saturated fats. Mo began to track the foods he ate with the help of his family and the ASP. Mo has learned to make healthier choices, such as lean proteins and green vegetables. In addition, he has become much more active at the gym. Mo began by working out twice a week and has recently started working out three times a week. He is now able to hold a push up position for 1 minute intervals, he can walk 2 miles on the treadmill without stopping or holding on, and he can lifts weights to name a few things. Mo has now been on his weight loss journey for about 5 months and has lost a total of 48 pounds and 6% of his body fat.

Mo enjoys going to the gym and working on his eating habits; his motivation to work hard is visible and has grown steadily. Mo has become very independent with making appropriate food choices and is independently disciplined.

Below are pictures throughout the last few months. We will continue to track his progress and journey in the months to come.

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    When Mo lost 35 pounds he proudly held up a 35 pound weight with his trainer to              show how much he had lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mo before and after. The shirt and shorts on the left were form fitting when Mo first started. Now they are too big for him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mo at his current weight loss…48 pounds down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Work in Progress: Ensuring Procedural Integrity within the QSAC School Programs

May 16, 2016 3:00 pm Published by

Procedural integrity is the extent to which an intervention is implemented as intended (e.g., Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007). There are a few other terms that have been used interchangeably with procedural integrity including treatment fidelity, treatment integrity and procedural fidelity. All of the above terms relate to the same basic theme: evidence based interventions should be applied as written to the greatest extent possible in order to achieve desired outcomes.

At the QSAC Day School and Preschool we prioritize the procedural integrity of our teaching procedures as part of our schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS). Our PBIS framework includes 13 evidence based proactive/preventative strategies for increasing our students’ prosocial skills and improving overall behavior. Procedural integrity of teaching procedures may be the most important of these strategies. In order for our teaching procedures to be effective, they must be implemented correctly. In order to ensure this, we employ Behavioral Skills Training (BST).

BST is an evidence based practice for disseminating behavior analytic skills to caregivers of varying backgrounds and experience levels (Dib and Sturmey, 2007; Ryan, Hemmes, Sturmey, Jacobs, & Grommet, 2007; Sarokoff and Sturmey, 2004; Seiverling, Pantelides, Ruiz, & Sturmey, 2010; Ward-Horner & Sturmey, 2008). BST packages generally consist of four components: 1) instructions, 2) modeling, 3) rehearsal, 4) feedback. At the QSAC schools, we are continually in the process of creating BST packages in order to effectively train our staff members to implement teaching procedures correctly. This process involves two basic steps. First, we break down each of our teaching procedures into multi-step behavior chains. The process of breaking down chains of behavior into their component steps is called task analysis. The task analyses developed make up the “instructions” component of the BST package. The next step in the creation of our BST packages involves the creation of a model for each teaching procedure. We typically create video models by recording experienced staff members implementing procedures correctly with our students. We then edit these recordings by adding freeze frames and embedded text to highlight important aspects of the models and make it easier for staff members to match what they see in the model with the task analyzed instructions. These recordings make up the “model” component of the BST package.

Once the necessary materials for the BST package are complete, training for a targeted teaching procedure can begin. At the QSAC Day School, our Director and our ABA coordinators train all new staff members to implement our teaching procedures using BST packages. At the QSAC Preschool, our teachers use BST to train their new teaching assistants to implement these procedures, while our Director and ABA coordinators train only new teachers. Training begins when the trainer provides the trainee with the task analysis for the targeted teaching procedure. The trainer then provides the trainee with a model of the procedure either by presenting a video model, or by performing a live model. The trainee checks off the steps of the teaching procedure on his/her task analysis as they watch the model. The trainer then observes the trainee rehearse the teaching procedure several times and provides the trainee with immediate feedback on their performance errors. These rehearsal and feedback sessions continue until the trainee meets a predetermined competency level and is able to implement the procedure independently. At both QSAC school programs, we manage an extensive database of each staff member’s training and his/her competency levels in implementing our teaching procedures. Staff competence is an important measure of school program quality. At the QSAC schools we strive to maintain a high quality program by ensuring the procedural integrity of all of our teaching procedures as part of our schoolwide PBIS system.

 

LMaffei-Blog-BubbleLindsay Maffei-Almodovar, MS Ed, MA, BCBA, has worked in the field special education since 2001. She joined Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) in 2011 and is currently the ABA Training & Development Coordinator. She is responsible for designing, evaluating and monitoring staff training initiatives at both the preschool and Day School programs. Lindsay is a certified New York State Early Childhood General & Special Education Teacher and a Licensed Behavior Analyst. Lindsay is also a doctoral student in the Behavior Analysis Training Area of the Psychology Department at Queens College and The Graduate Center City University of New York (CUNY). Her research focuses on efficient methods of training staff members in evidence based behavior analytic procedures.

 

References

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E, and Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (2nd Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Dib, N., & Sturmey, P. (2007). Reducing student stereotypy by improving instructors’
implementation of discrete-trial teaching. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 40, 339-343.

Ryan, C. S., Hemmes, N. S., Sturmey, P., Jacobs, J. D., & Grommet, E. K. (2007). Effects of a
brief staff training procedure on instructors’ use of incidental teaching and students’ frequency of initiation toward instructors. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2,28–45.

Sarokoff, R. A., & Sturmey, P. (2004). The effects of behavioral skills training on staff implementation of discrete-trial teaching. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37, 535-538.

Seiverling, L., Pantelides, M., Ruiz, H. H., & Sturmey, P. (2010). The effect of behavioral skills
training with general-case training on staff chaining of child vocalizations within natural language paradigm. Behavioral Interventions, 25, 53–75.

Ward-Horner, J., & Sturmey, P. (2008). The effects of general-case training and behavioral skills
training on the generalization of parents’ use of discrete-trial teaching, child correct responses, and child maladaptive behavior. Behavioral Interventions, 23, 271–284.

Dealing with a Crisis Situation

December 28, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

When a family who has a loved one with a developmental disability is in a crisis, the last person they think to turn to for help is their Medicaid Service Coordinator. Sure, the MSC can help individuals with developmental disabilities obtain and maintain supports and services, and monitor the individual’s overall well-being, but how are they able to help a family in a time of crisis?

 

Many individuals and their advocates who receive Medicaid Service Coordination are surprised to find out just how valuable of a resource their MSC can be during unexpected, and often daunting, difficult situations. The role of the MSC goes far beyond helping with services and supports. QSAC’s MSC department takes great pride in ensuring that the family, as a whole, has their needs met. We believe that if there is a crisis situation involving a family member, such as facing eviction or illness, this will have a significant impact on the individual that we support in MSC. Therefore, when we find out that a family is in the midst of a crisis, we work closely with that family in order to problem solve, and move forward with more effective options for the future.

 

There are a number of crisis situations that an MSC is able to assist a family in dealing with. When a family is facing eviction, or is having trouble paying their rent, we are able to utilize resources that assist the family in finding appropriate housing options, using government assistance programs such as a “One Shot Deal”, and finding agencies that may be able to assist financially. We work closely with the family to ensure that there will not be further issues going forward. Although we are able to help with temporary fixes to the problem, we also are able to help in finding a permanent solution for the long-term. This includes working on increasing benefits, such as SSI or Food Stamps, to make sure that the family avoids a similar situation in the future, and can live comfortably. We are also able to help find clothes, or even food, when families may be struggling to afford these necessities.

 

Sometimes, a family member becomes ill, or even passes away. In the event of an emergency such as this, where the family member may need extra support in caring for their loved one, the MSC is able to work on finding people to help care for the individual with the developmental disability, or even places to go (should the family need to go away to see an ill family member for an extended amount of time, for example). We are also able to help obtain emergency funding for these sudden illness and death situations.

 

The aforementioned crisis situations may have a great impact on the individual with the developmental disability. They may demonstrate new maladaptive behaviors, and have difficulty coping with the emotions that come from these stressful situations. In MSC, we are able to help obtain additional behavioral supports, that will help the individual manage their behavioral needs more effectively. In addition, we are also able to help obtain counseling, such as grief, sexuality, or even family counseling.

 

In times of crisis, it is important to keep in mind that your Medicaid Service Coordinator is there to help guide you through difficult circumstances. We are able to utilize a number of resources and supports to assist individuals with developmental disabilities and their families when they are in need. If you or your loved one has an MSC, please keep in mind that we are always here to help, and we will always work with you to ensure your needs are met.

 

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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 to Help Get Through the Holiday Season

November 16, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

The 2015 holiday season is officially here! And we begin our preparations to spend time with loved ones and partake in holiday events. The holiday season can be a stressful time of the year for everyone, but it can be especially challenging for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder. A little advanced planning and the following proactive strategies can help to decrease a loved ones’ anxiety and enhance their holiday experience with the whole family.

  • Keep the individual’s behavioral and sensory profile in mind when planning holiday events. For example, how will they respond to specific traditions? How long can they tolerate being seated at the table? Will they be able to tolerate noise levels? Do they have any sensitivities to specific foods, sounds, people, pets, etc.?
  • Prepare for the environment where the event will take place. If the event is outside of your home, consider designating a specific area for them to use in case they need some time away to decompress. Holiday events can be overwhelming and there may be too much sensory stimulation for the individual.
  • Prepare family members, especially children, of the individual’s needs and what they can do to help. Teach them some easy communication strategies. Communication is key!
  • Prior to any holiday event, set aside some time to practice sitting at the table as it would be the day of the gathering. This can include adjusting the lighting of the room, playing music, etc. If the individual uses a schedule, begin to incorporate a picture or text of the holiday event into their schedule during practice time. Make sure to provide reinforcement during and right after practice time.
  • Expose the individual to holiday food before the family gathering, in order to see what they do and do not like. This allows the individual to become more comfortable with the food offered the day of the event. Provide reinforcement if they try any new foods (e.g., a piece of their favorite food for trying a new food). Be prepared to bring or make foods which the individual enjoys so they can still participate at the table with the rest of the family in the event that their food repertoire is limited.
  • Set aside some activities that the individual likes if you know they will find the holiday event unpleasant, and/or if they have a short attention span. If the individual cannot tolerate loud noises, consider allowing them to wear headphones or build in breaks away from everything throughout the event.
  • When decorating your home for the holidays, consider doing so in gradual steps. Individuals with autism often thrive in predictable environments, and may not transition well when there are sudden changes in their routine and/or environment. Changing your home’s appearance in one day may be overwhelming to some. Give the individual an opportunity to help by allowing them to manipulate the decorations (as long as it is safe to do so) and help put them up. You can also give them an activity, such as stringing popcorn, together to hang on the tree.
  • Think about the individual’s sensitivity to lights if they have one. You can take them to a holiday themed store prior to decorating your home and observe their reactions. If the lights seem unpleasant, think about alternative decorations.
  • If the individual is at risk for putting things in their mouth (e.g., pine needles) or breaking ornaments, consider alternatives such as an artificial tree, placing the tree out of reach, plastic ornaments, etc.
  • Keep in mind the individual’s fine motor skills and practice opening presents if necessary. Use pictures on the gifts instead of name tags to recognize who the gift givers are.
  • If the individual comprehends the use of a calendar, use this as a tool to countdown the days until the event. This will offer greater predictability in preparation for the event.
  • Make sure to reinforce appropriate behaviors throughout the event!
  • If the individual uses an augmentative form of communication (e.g., iPad or PECS book), make sure they have it with them at all times. Communication is very important! Also, reinforce spontaneous attempts to communicate.
  • Schedule an early dinner or eat before the event if this will assist the individual.
  • Assign activities and tasks that the individual can handle so they can participate in some way (e.g., setting the table, cleaning up, playing with other children if age appropriate).
  • Keep an eye on precursor behaviors that may lead the individual to engage in maladaptive behaviors and intervene accordingly. For example, ask them if they need a break or take them for a walk.

Most importantly have fun and enjoy the holidays!!!!!!!

 

 

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Rocio Chavez, MA., MSEd., LBA is currently the Assistant Director for the Quality Services for the Autism Community’s (QSAC) After School Programs. She also facilitates a social skills group for children with high functioning autism and a sibling support group. Rocio holds a Master’s degree in Clinical Behavioral Applications from Queens College, and a dual master’s degree in General and Special Education, Birth-Grade 2 from Touro College. Rocio is also a licensed behavior analyst. She has provided clinical consultations in school and home based settings, and most recently provided consultation for the Broadway play The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Nighttime. Rocio has also assisted in designing staff training and student curriculum and has co-authored a chapter in the book Behavioral Detectives: A Staff Training Exercise Book in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has presented on various topics including stimulus-stimulus pairing and reinforcer assessments at The New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA) convention as well as The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) convention. Rocio has conducted research on self-management training in preschoolers with autism and stimulus-stimulus pairing. She has worked with children and young adults on the autism spectrum for over ten years.

QSAC Sibling Support Group Celebrates its 10th Year!

October 5, 2015 3:00 pm Published by

QSAC’s Sibling Support Group entered its tenth year in July of 2015. The program is open to any family with a child on the autism spectrum. There is a Support Group for siblings, Respite supervised by QSAC staff trained in ABA, as well as an optional Parent Support Group. The program was a 5 week experience, held once a week in the evenings at the QSAC Preschool.

QSAC’s team of facilitators included: to Dita DeSena, Director of After School, Rocio Chavez, Assistant Director of After School, Nevena Savic, Assistant Director of Family Education and Training, Ana Lopez, Staff Trainer, and , Madelyn Wolfin, Social Work Coordinator.

QSAC’s Sibling Support Group provided an opportunity for brothers and sisters of children with autism to obtain peer support and education within a recreational atmosphere. The 2015 siblings ranged in age from 5 to 14 years old, and met for a series of 5 weeks. The children were grouped according to their age, and participated in fun and creative small group exercises. Each meeting was focused on a different theme, designed to elicit an open expression of feelings in a warm, non judgmental environment.

While the children were engaged in Sibling Group and Respite, the parents were invited to participate in a Support Group as well. Although the program was pleased to welcome several new families, a considerable number of participants continue to return year after year. The 2015 Sibling Support Program had 48 participants in total, with 16 children attending the Sibling Support Group, 13 children in Respite, and 19 parents in the Parent Support Group.

 

ThUntitled1e final meeting of the summer traditionally ends with a party for all. This “Bring a Dessert Party” is a time where parents and children join together to eat and share their experiences. It was fun and rewarding for everyone involved. In response to the requests of the participants, QSAC will be offering a series of sibling special events throughout the year. The first meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday October 21, 2015 at 6:30PM at the QSAC Preschool in Douglaston. Feel free to contact Madelyn Wolfin at (718) 728-8476 x 1519 or Mwolfin@qsac.com for further information.

A special thanks to all of the families who participated in the program. They were instrumental to the program’s success, and we look forward to many rewarding years together in the future!

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

ABOUT US

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.