One in 68 Children has Autism

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$300,000 in Grants will Support Expanded Programs for Autism Community

December 3, 2014 9:32 pm Published by

Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a nonprofit serving New York City and Long Island, has received more than $300,000 in grants in support of its training programs to support children and adults with autism.

A $130,000 grant from The New York Community Trust (NYCT) will support the expansion of QSAC’s teacher training program in New York City public schools. The program will provide participating schools with a series of workshops regarding autism and the implementation of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in the classroom. The expanded initiative seeks to increase the capacity of educators to support students with autism in mainstream learning environments. Participating schools will receive 14 hours worth of in-person trainings as well as 6 hours worth of in-classroom feedback. Schools interested in learning more about the training program or applying to be a partner school can visit www.qsac.com/autismedu.

Regarding the grant from NYCT, Lisa A. Veglia, QSAC’s Deputy Executive Director said, “The expanded in-person training program, made possible by the generous support of The New York Community Trust, will help us to reach hundreds of teachers and other educators over the next two years while also providing them with a more comprehensive curriculum. We’re particularly excited about expanding our program to New York City community schools.”

The Heckscher Foundation for Children awarded QSAC a $132,200 grant that will support the development and launch of a new online training platform for educators supporting students with autism. The project will ensure that teaching professionals have access to valuable training information regardless of their geography or their ability to access in-person trainings. The trainings will also be made available to parents and other support professionals working with the autism community. A $15,000 grant from the Frederick S. Upton Foundation will also support the buildout of the online learning platform and the videotaping of the trainings being funded by NYCT.

A $25,000 grant from the Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund (LIUU Fund) has provided the funds needed to launch a new self-advocacy training program on Long Island for young adults with autism. The program will support the development of the skills participants need to effectively advocate for their rights in meetings with elected officials and community leaders. The project is unique in that it seeks to support the program participants in the development of their own policy agenda that they will present in meetings with local and state officials.

QSAC’s Executive Director, Gary A. Maffei said, “We are truly grateful for the generous support of The New York Community Trust, Heckscher Foundation for Children, Long Island Unitarian Universalist Fund, and the Frederick S. Upton Foundation. Their support will enable us to enhance and expand programs that will help to meet the needs of children and adults with autism and their families. By expanding our teacher training program in New York City, and with the rollout of a new online platform, we’ll be able to reach even more educators supporting learners with autism. In addition, the self-advocacy program will help train participants in valuable skills that will empower them to advocate for their rights. These grants will help us further live out our mission of helping children and adults with autism achieve greater independence and realize their full potential.”

QSAC Releases New Multi-Touch Book for Parents and Teachers Supporting Children with Autism

November 21, 2014 7:32 pm Published by
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QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community), a 38-year old New York City-based nonprofit serving children and adults with autism, has released its first book for iPad for supporting parents of children with autism. Bridging the Gap: A Curriculum for Supporting your Young Learner with Autism (http://bit.ly/qsacbook), is currently available as a Multi-Touch Book on the iBooks Store. The book is free on the iBooks Store. Bridging the Gap provides parents with a resource for supporting their preschooler/toddler with autism. Gina Feliciano, Ph.D., BCBA-D, SAS, Director of QSAC’s Preschool, and Melissa Peltz, M.S.Ed, authored the book.

In addition to background information regarding autism, parents of preschoolers and toddlers will find interactive features including helpful videos and featured iOS apps that will help them support their children in improving skills in key domains including: Communication, socialization, academic skills among others. Parents can also test their knowledge regarding autism at the end of each chapter with a brief interactive quiz. The book will also be of interest to educators, behavior analysts, pediatricians, and others who work with and support children with autism.

CoverFinalDr. Feliciano and Ms. Peltz carefully vetted the inclusion of a number of apps, some are free and others require a purchase through the App Store, which will help parents to provide their children with engaging and educational tools. Featured apps include Toby PlayPad, Proloquo2Go, Autism Apps, ABA Flash Cards, Behavior Tracker Pro, and many others. Each app is featured alongside supporting material that has been written by Dr. Feliciano and Ms. Peltz regarding which skill areas the app supports.

“This new Multi-Touch Book is a testament to QSAC’s commitment to the families we serve and to the greater community. Dr. Feliciano, Ms. Peltz, and the creative team behind the book, have created an engaging resource that we’re confident parents, teachers, and others who work with children with autism will find to be helpful. Whether confronting a recent autism diagnosis or seeking a resource for helping their child build critical skills,Bridging the Gap will be a valuable tool for parents,” said Gary Maffei, M.P.A., QSAC’s executive director.

The Multi-Touch Book can be downloaded on the iBooks Store by visiting http://bit.ly/qsacbook.

About the Authors

Gina Feliciano is the Director of the Preschool at QSAC and has been in the position since 2012. Gina is responsible for the overall operation of the preschool. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (Doctoral level) as well as a certified New York State Special Education Teacher and School Administrator. Gina received her Doctorate (Ph.D.) from Columbia University in Special Education and Behavior Disorders in 2006. Her previous professional experience includes being appointed as Director of Clinical Services, Director of ABA Services, and years training staff and education professionals as a Behavioral Consultant. Gina has held academic positions as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, Pace University, and Queens College teaching courses on behavior management, classroom management and education psychology.

Melissa Peltz has been working with children since 2007. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Queens College in Elementary Education and Sociology and her master’s degree at Queens College in Early Childhood Special Education specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Since 2011, she has taught a diverse group of children, including those with disabilities in various public, private, and special educational environments. She is also a member of a team that was instrumental in reforming a school supporting children with autism in Beijing, China and is currently in the process of publishing a book on evidence-based practices to be used at the school.

EFFECTIVELY GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS

September 24, 2014 2:16 pm Published by

When I was younger I would throw temper tantrums and rebel when things would not go my way. I also had a number of anxieties and overcoming them was difficult for me. These were some of the ways I communicated to people as well my peers. Whenever I felt a certain emotion I had a challenging time expressing them, because of those things I was envious of my peers.

Often if I contacted someone and they would not return my call I would worry excessively and contact them over and over until I would hear back from them. Also when I would do something wrong by acting impulsively I would lie or mislead people to try to get myself out of trouble. At this stage in my life I need prompting to remember to do things. Routines have become very important for me.

Having mentors and other peers in my life that set great examples have been beneficial to my growth. If I could advise anyone, I would say to effectively communicate with people,  learning self-awareness is key.  Self awareness is important for setting boundaries and making your needs known.  Setting boundaries also allowed me to see that I needed patience in all situations.

 

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Danielle Lazzara
 serves as the Development Assistant in QSAC’s Development Department. In her role, she makes calls to parents and supporters about upcoming QSAC events. In addition, Ms. Lazzara works closely with QSAC’s special events team on soliciting items for our annual silent auction. As a woman on the autism spectrum, she is an active self-advocate for the autism community having presented at an array of community-based events including QSAC’s Bridges to Transition on April 2, 2014.

DEALING WITH SENSORY OVERLOAD AND STRESS

May 5, 2014 10:59 am Published by
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Danielle LazzaraWhen I was younger all of my behaviors were due to the stress around me. Today when I don’t manage things effectively I become stressed out and confused. My environment then becomes an issue which can be both good and bad. During those times it’s as if my mind goes blank and I have difficulty concentrating. This is why structure is an important factor in my life. I work best when my schedule is planned out and I manage to abide by it. Having a place to relax and just sit and think can be helpful. There are some things that I do that can relieve my stress and could help you relieve yours too.

Having a sense of humor is important because it enables one to laugh at things instead of being sad about them. Noticing your breathing is also quite important. Writing your feelings down can be a way to get things off of your chest instead of holding them inside. Listening to music allows you to escape from your reality. Getting your rest is essential. Taking breaks and naps can be a way for your body to relax.

Our seven senses and sensory overload

It is important to be aware of all of your senses.  It is also important to know when your senses are being overloaded and how this affects your body. We are all born with seven senses: Sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, balance ( vestibular), and body awareness (proprioception). People with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be over-sensitive as well as under-sensitive in all of these areas. There are some ways that can really help an individual experiencing this. The three points to remember are :

1. be aware: look at the environment to see if it is creating difficulties for people with an ASD. Can you change anything?

2. be creative: think of some positive sensory experiences

3. be prepared: tell people with an ASD about possible sensory stimuli they may experience in different environments.

Researching is also important so that you can be aware of new treatments for sensory overload and stress. Watching videos on Youtube showcasing other people who also have ASD has been very helpful. It shows that you are not alone in your experiences and that if we share our experiences, we will be able to help each other more effectively.

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Danielle Lazzara
serves as the Development Assistant in QSAC’s Development Department. In her role, she makes calls to parents and supporters about upcoming QSAC events. In addition, Ms. Lazzara works closely with QSAC’s special events team on soliciting items for our annual silent auction. As a woman on the autism spectrum, she is an active self-advocate for the autism community having presented at an array of community-based events including QSAC’s Bridges to Transition on April 2, 2014.

Adult Independence

April 22, 2014 9:44 am Published by
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By Catherine Falleo, M.S.Ed., SAS, SDA, and Anya K. Silver, M.A., BCBA

For typical developing children, the process of reaching independence in adulthood seems to come naturally. However, this is not so for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As children with an ASD develop and grow into adults with an ASD, the idea of college or job training, a career, and living on their own comes with an overabundance of uncertainty. For many individuals with an ASD, they do acquire and demonstrate a wide range of skills, but often during transitioning to adulthood, when levels of support begin to fade and independent use of these skills is expected, generalization of skills becomes challenging. Independent functioning may be difficult for adults with an ASD due to the core deficits of the disability.

Adults with an ASD, in order to achieve independence, should develop the necessary skills and supports to be advocates of their own lives and to be free to make things happen for themselves without an inappropriate amount of assistance from others.  Achieving this requires a strong adaptive behavior repertoire. These are the daily living skills that most typical individuals seem to learn naturally, but must be systematically taught to many individuals with an ASD.  The term adaptive behavior refers to the skills or abilities that people need to function independently at home and in the community and includes everything from interacting and communicating with other people to shopping, budgeting, cleaning, eating, dressing and grooming, following directions, completing tasks, getting to work on time, reading, computation, being responsible for oneself, and becoming financially independent. Reaching true independence for adults with an ASD means developing meaningful friendships, being competitively employed, and living independently.

QSAC has four Day Habilitation (DH) Programs and three Day Habilitation (DH) WOW (Without Walls) Programs. Developing meaningful friendships for our consumers is an essential aspect across all of our programs. Our goal is to foster friendships among the consumers we serve as well as their ability to develop new friendships in their  communities.

We have assisted our consumers in developing several social groups based on their common interests, passions, hobbies, and experiences. We facilitate a monthly Gamers Club where consumers across all of our DH programs who have shown an interest in gaming come together to share games while also playing games and comparing strategies together. The supervisors of the program work collaboratively with the staff and consumers in developing the monthly Gamers Club agenda so to ensure that it incorporates important social, communication, and adaptive skills throughout the event.

Another development has been the Spa/Wellness Club for our female consumers across programs who have shown an interest in the area of beauty, specifically with regards to hair, nails, makeup and fashion. Some consumers are interested in learning how to apply makeup while others specifically want to create their own fashion designs. The supervisors of the program work collaboratively with the team to incorporate into the Spa/Wellness Club agenda the opportunity to work on health awareness, specifically exercise and nutrition.

Additionally, due to our large number of comic book enthusiasts and those interested in anime, a Comic Book Club was developed. The supervisors of the program worked collaboratively with the staff and consumers to incorporate within the monthly agenda topics such as character discussions, character drawings, and comprehension of material read. In addition to our social clubs, our consumers participate in talent shows where they get to showcase their wonderful abilities from singing to dancing to stand up comedy, which offers the opportunity for our consumers to cheer on their friends, and for some, learn to be supportive of others.

In addition to developing meaningful friendships we are also committed to providing opportunities for our consumers to prepare for work environments and become competitively employed. For many of our consumers, we are providing formal curriculum programming to prepare them for these environments. Some of the program goals our staff are assisting our consumers with are within the areas of vocational tasks, schedule following,  clerical skills,  computer data entry, appropriate social behavior in the community, problem solving, communication skills, behavioral self-monitoring skills, self-care skills, budgeting, completing work applications, travel skills, and cleaning. Four days per week our consumers have the opportunity to generalize these skills to a vocational setting in the community. Some of our volunteer training sites include but are not limited to clothing stores, shoe stores, furniture stores,  pharmacy/drug stores, preschools, colleges/universities, pet stores, senior centers, supermarkets, churches/community centers, non-profit organizations, book stores, food carts, and preparing food/deliveries and office/clerical environments. We have the opportunity to observe our consumers in these settings and further develop and enhance their skills by addressing any areas that require further development and practice by providing on the job support, discussing areas of skill development with the consumer, their family, and team of professionals, so that goals can be modified and future goals developed.

Lastly our adult programs are committed to further developing the skills of our consumers to be able to live independently.  We have introduced The Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)TM by James W. Partington and Michael M. Mueller to our program. The AFLS is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills tracking system. It provides information regarding a learner’s skill set and provides a curriculum guide that can serve as a basis for developing learning objectives. We use the AFLS with our consumers at DH to assess skill levels and develop functional, practical, and essential skills of everyday life. The domains covered within this guide are basic living skills, home skills, community participation skills, and school skills.  The types of goals our staff have generated for our consumers to strengthen living independently include but are not limited to: dressing, toileting, grooming, bathing, health, safety and first aid, preparing meals, leisure, cooking, learning to physically navigate safely around sidewalks and streets, safety signs, strangers/people encountered while walking or while being transported in the community, basic mobility, shopping, money management, phone use, time, social awareness, and manners.

Independent functioning may be difficult for adults with an ASD due to the core deficits of the disability, however, reducing their dependence on assistance will lead to greater independent functioning and greater levels of social acceptance within the community.

About the Authors: Catherine Falleo M.S.Ed., SAS, SDA, serves as the Director of Clinical Services for QSAC’s Day Habilitation Programs; she can be reached at cfalleo@qsac.com. Anya K. Silver, MA, BCBA, serves as the Assistant Clinical Director  for QSAC’s Day Habilitation Programs; she can be reached at asilver@qsac.com.

This article originally appeared in QSAC’s print newsletter for Spring 2014.

QSAC Featured on NBC 4 New York

April 8, 2014 11:42 am Published by
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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.

CDC reports autism rates climb to 1 in 68

March 27, 2014 3:26 pm Published by

Dear Friend,

Earlier today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that autism diagnosis rates had climbed 30% over the past two years from 1 in 88, to 1 in 68 schoolchildren. The report issued by the CDC also mentioned that diagnosis rates among boys is now 1 in 42 boys compared to the earlier statistic of 1 in 54 boys.

With today’s news, I wanted to take a moment to share with you an article from CNN regarding the CDC’s new report: “CDC: 1 in 68 U.S. children has autism.”

As we reflect on the CDC’s new report, please know that QSAC has programs and services for families in need of support. In fact, for more than 36 years we have been providing person-centered educational, residential, habilitation, and support services for children and adults with autism throughout New York City and Long Island. In light of the CDC’s recent report, it’s clear that our mission is more important now than ever before.

If you know of a friend or family member who may be seeking services or supports, please encourage them to visit the “Our Resources” section of QSAC’s website to learn more about our support groups, parent trainings, and other community-based programs.

With the CDC’s new report, I hope you’ll join me and others in expressing the continued need for critical programs and services to support the autism community. As diagnosis rates continue to rise, so too will the need for support services.

Thank you again for your support of QSAC and our programs for the autism community.

Kind regards,
Gary Maffei
Executive Director

Council Member Johnson Visits QSAC

March 4, 2014 11:59 am Published by

Earlier today, Council Member Corey Johnson visited QSAC’s Day Habilitation Program in his district in Manhattan. The Council Member had an opportunity to meet with program participants and staff while also learning more about QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community throughout the borough and the city. Council Member Johnson represents Manhattan’s West Side (District 3) and serves as the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Health.

Council Member Johnson shakes hands with a participant from QSAC's Day Habilitation program.
Council Member Johnson shakes hands with a participant from QSAC’s Day Habilitation program.
Council Member Johnson and a member of QSAC's Day Habilitation staff discuss the impact of our programs.
Council Member Johnson and a member of QSAC’s Day Habilitation staff discuss the impact of our programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News Release: Sprint to Receive Change Maker Award at QSAC’s Gala for Commitment to Accessible Mobile Technology

February 27, 2014 10:00 am Published by

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Feb. 27, 2014 – Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a New York-based charity supporting children and adults with autism, has selected Sprint (NYSE: S) as the 2014 recipient of the Change Maker Award for its commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities. Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO, will accept the honor on behalf of the company at QSAC’s annual gala taking place on Tuesday, June 17, at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers (West 26 Street and West Side Highway) in New York.

Each year, QSAC’s Change Maker Award recognizes a company that has made a meaningful commitment to supporting the needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Sprint is being honored for delivering innovative accessible solutions that empower individuals with disabilities.

Sprint offers a variety of products and services, including unique, accessibility-themed ID packs for select Android™ devices that are designed to accommodate various ChangeMakerAwardSeal-2014Recipientaccessibility needs. Sprint’s Accessible Education ID pack, among other services, assists individuals with autism who are working to improve their socialization and communication skills.

“Sprint’s efforts to expand access to technology embodies our hope for more tools and resources to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving greater independence, empowering them to contribute more meaningfully to their communities,” said Gary Maffei, executive director of QSAC. “By recognizing Sprint, QSAC hopes to encourage others to actively support Sprint and similar efforts to expand access to technology for children and adults with autism.”

“At Sprint, we recognize how making wireless technology more accessible can reduce, and perhaps eventually eliminate, the communication barriers faced by individuals with disabilities,” Hesse said. “We embrace this challenge and we are proud to receive the 2014 Change Maker Award.”

Past recipients of honors from QSAC have included Pfizer and PIMCO. Each year, QSAC’s gala brings together more than 500 people to increase autism awareness while raising funds to support QSAC’s programs and services for the autism community of New York and Long Island.

Additional details regarding the gala are available online at www.qsac.com/gala. Current sponsors include Accenture, Astoria Financial Corporation/Astoria Federal Savings, Koeppel Auto Group, and Sprint.

Sprint’s corporate responsibility program, Sprint Good WorksSM, is guided by the principle that doing the right thing is good business. More than a statement, it’s also a belief: Good does indeed workSM. That’s why Sprint is committed to anticipating the needs of customers and making award-winning services accessible to all. By empowering seniors and people with disabilities through accessible technology, Sprint is demonstrating how good technology works as a positive force in society.

Download the Press Release (02/27/2014)

Download the Sponsorship Packet for the Gala

Propranolol as a Novel Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder

February 10, 2014 3:03 pm Published by

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been redefined as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairment in social communication and social interaction and restricted behavior (DSM-5, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). From the clinical point of view, ASD is a very complex condition commonly associated with psychiatric, medical, and behavioral comorbidities (e.g. seizure disorder, anxiety, mood and sleep disorders, eating and behavioral problems) which have been referred to as “challenging behaviors” (Durand, 2014).

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and antipsychotic and anticonvulsant mediations have been used extensively to treat the “challenging behaviors” in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (e.g. irritability, impulsive aggressive behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors). Unfortunately, evidence-based research of anticonvulsant, Lithium, and antipsychotic medications is limited (Rajkumar, 2012), and there is no FDA approved medication to treat these behavioral problems in autism.

Beta-adrenergic receptor blockers (Propranolol, Nadolol, and Pindolol) have been used since 1977 in the treatment of violent behaviors in psychiatric patients (Silver, et al. 1999). In particular, Propranolol is a non-selective beta-adrenergic antagonist that reduces sympathetic nervous system activity. Recently, Propranolol has been used successfully to treat impulsivity, aggressive behaviors, hyper-arousal, and self-injurious behaviors in individuals with autism and intellectual disability. The mechanism of action of Propranolol is not clear, but may involve central Beta-adrenergic blockade, peripheral effects on the sympathetic nervous system or serotonergic blockade (Weinstock, 1980). Beta-adrenergic receptors are wildly distributed in different regions in individuals with autism such as frontal, parietal, hippocampus, midbrain etc. Genetic studies have identified several factors linking Beta-adrenergic receptor blockage to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013).

According to Bodner and colleagues (2012), in a study, which compared individuals with autism and non-autistic individuals on a working memory test, using Propranolol and the ASD group performed significantly better than the placebo group (non-ASD). It has been hypothesized that Norepinephrine (NE) levels are increased in individuals with autism, which may play a role in cognitive impairment associated with ASD. Recent research evidence suggests that Propranolol in doses (< 520mg/qd) improves impulsive aggressive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, and some aspects of learning in individuals with autism and intellectual disability (Lurong and Nguyen, 2013; Rajkumar, 2012; Fleminger, et al. 2008; Simeon and Hollander, 2001; Shroeder, et al. 2002.).

At the 2013 Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego, David Beversdorf’s group at the University of Missouri, Columbia, proposed that Propranolol was better than a placebo in enhancing functional connectivity between certain brain regions and in improving verbal fluency, verbal problem-solving, and non-verbal behaviors in individuals with autism (Zamzow, et al., 2013; Beversdorfd, et al. 1999, 2008). In addition, according to Beversdorf and colleagues (2011), Propranolol has some language benefits and performance on tasks involving cognitive flexibility of access to networks (Narayanan, et al. 2010, Hecht, et al. 2014).

Further studies are needed to evaluate the non-genomic mechanisms, neurobiological mechanism of Propranolol in context-specific anxiety, and cognitive flexibility and functional connectivity.

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.