Tag Archives: Autism

Experts say Asperger’s syndrome has no ties to violence

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome had no link to shooting suspect Adam Lanza’s decision to kill in cold blood, experts said.

“The eyes of the world are on this wrenching tragedy,” said Dr. Valerie Paradiz, director of Autistic Global Initiative. “With 1 in 88 now diagnosed, misinformation could easily trigger increased prejudice and misunderstanding.”

Lanza had been reportedly diagnosed with Asperger’s, a high functioning form of autism that is characterized by well-above average intelligence and social awkwardness.

While individuals with Asperger’s may have trouble reading social cues, experts said the condition has no ties to violence and should not be used to explain why the troubled teen chose to massacre 26 children and adults at the Connecticut elementary school last week.

“A typical person with Asperger’s wouldn’t have the tendency to pick up a gun and shoot anyone, let alone go to ongoing target practice, which this individual did,” said Gary Maffei, executive director of Quality Services for the Autism Community.

Professionals in the field warned the public not to point to the lifelong brain disorder as a scapegoat.

“Autism is no excuse or explanation [for] evil,” said Autism Rights Watch, a nonprofit group. “Being ‘autistic,’ ‘odd,’ ‘awkward,’ ‘camera shy,’ a ‘nerd’ and ‘uncomfortable with others’ does not cause a person to become a mass murderer.”

Instead, the organization said Lanza’s easy access to weapons in the household is “the most solid contributing factor” for his murderous rampage.

The 20-year-old also likely suffered from other mental health issues, whether he was diagnosed or not, experts said.

NYFAC car wash most successful ever

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


It was a win-win for anyone looking to get his car washed last weekend in Howard Beach.

The Sixth Annual New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC) Car Wash raised money to go toward programs that help people with autism and to educate parents and relatives.

For just $10 apiece, volunteers, including children with autism, their family members and friends, scrubbed hundreds of cars.

Andrew Baumann, CEO of NYFAC, said at the middle of the day he had seen close to 150 cars — the most since the fundraiser was started.

“It’s the best we’ve ever had,” he said.

To lend a hand, the All American Car Club and East Coast Car Association held a car show across the street, with a $20 entry fee for each vehicle.

Local politicians visited throughout the day to show their support of the community’s efforts, including Assemblymember Philip Goldfeder.

“The car wash is just another way for the community to work together with NYFAC and support a great organization and its cause,” Goldfeder said.

NYFAC is expected to open a new facility this September, which will have programs in art, music and speech therapy, along with parent training and support groups.

Group home for individuals with autism coming to Bayside

| mchan@queenscourier.com

A proposed group home in Bayside that will house eight individuals with autism was unanimously approved by Community Board 11 last week.

Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC), a non-profit organization, is set to purchase the home at 78-42 Springfield Boulevard. QSAC — which has 21 facilities in Manhattan, Bronx, Queens and Nassau County — provides educational, residential, therapeutic and family support services to more than 2,700 people each year, officials said.

“The individuals that will be moving into this community all live in Queens,” said Cory Polshansky, the organization’s deputy executive director and CEO. “We’ve been searching for a house for a very long time. The house and the location were consistent with the needs of the individuals moving in.”

Polshansky said QSAC had first projected the home to be in Bellerose — but the proposal, he said, was shut down by Community Board 13.

“Rather than fight the community board, we decided to look for another house,” he said.

According to Polshansky, the Bayside facility will have 24-hour supervision. He said the eight residents — who have already been selected and range in ages between 20 and 22 — will be assisted with activities. Staff members, he said, will also teach them independent living skills. Polshansky said they have not yet closed on the contract, but the organization expects to shell out an estimated couple hundred thousand dollars in renovations.

Book sales to benefit Autism Speaks

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Now you can cook for a cause.

Employees of Keil Bros. Garden Center & Nursery have compiled a “collection of local recipes from . . . families and friends” to benefit Autism Speaks, an international advocacy organization.

Their involvement stemmed from the company’s desire to honor the autistic great-grandson, Alex Keil, 17, of their founder, Henry Keil.

Keil Bros. Friends and Family Cookbook was published in April for Autism Awareness Month. Organized by Lynne Buckley and Kathie Kosky, two longtime employees, the book is a “collection of local recipes from our families and friends of ours,” said Russ Bodenhorn, general manager. “It is a collection of things homemade.”

Kosky describes that process of gathering the recipes as a simple matter of the culinary community.

“We have a lot of good cooks, people who like to cook, so we had them send in their recipes,” she explained. “Most recipes are probably cakes and other treats… as you can see, most of us have a bit of a sweet tooth.”

The $10 cookbook is filled with unique dishes ranging from apple brownies and Polish pound cake (the local favorite) to specialty chicken and chickpea entrees.

It is also filled with historical photos documenting the growth of the Keil family and their garden center.

All proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will be donated.

The cookbook is sold at all times at Keil Bros., located at 210-11 48th Avenue in Bayside. To find out more, call 718-224-2020.


Car Show for a Cause

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The East Coast Car Association, which is famous for its annual Toy Run, in conjunction with Knights of Columbus #569, hosted a car show for Autism on Sunday, April 29 at Flushing’s P.S. 177, the Robin Sue Ward School for Exceptional Children.

With hot rods and classics, as well as face painting, music by “Mike the D.J.,” a flea market, blood drive, raffles, barbecue, and even a 50/50, the day’s events raised $5,700. The FDNY Fire Saftey Unit was also on hand, as was the Flushing Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the a Child ID unit.

To learn more about the East Coast Car Association, which will host the Toy Run on November 18, visit www.eccatoysfortots.org.

YouTube video sparks Autism fundraiser

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Sandra Constantino

Several Lindenwood residents are raising money for Autism awareness, sparked by one young girl’s YouTube video.

Sixteen-year-old Shyanna Constantino created an online video about her younger sister, five-year-old Kaylene Vazquez, who suffers from Autism. A friend’s mother saw the video, called “Happy Hope for Autistic Children,” on YouTube, and thought it would be a great way to raise money for the cause.

Shyanna, along with her mother Sandra Constantino, friend Lisa Tazeras and her mother Drena Muniz, who originally spotted the online video, sold chips, cupcakes and toys to attendees at P.S. 232 Park in Lindenwood on Saturday, April 14. Several families with Autistic children came to the event, happy to see the great work being done by the local philanthropists. Cookie Monster and the blue Care Bear came to the event as well, making children smile while posing for pictures.

Over 70 children also participated in a basketball tournament to raise money for Autism awareness, held at the same time. Organized by Constantino’s son, kids donated $5 each to participate in the afternoon’s athletic competition.

According to Constantino, 100 percent of the proceeds are going to help build New York Families for Autistic Children’s (NYFAC) new recreation center in Howard Beach. They were able to raise $1,200 during the fund raising event that took them less than a week to put together.

NYFAC is a non-profit organization that provides various services for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities throughout Brooklyn and Queens. Headquartered in Ozone Park, NYFAC’s most recent undertaking is the construction of a center in Howard Beach.

A mother’s story: The challenges of living with Autism

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Edna Luna’s curly-headed, big-eyed little boy was always a little different.

The way he related to the world, his cognitions, were unlike those of other children.

Concerned, Luna took her toddler-aged son, Winter, to see a doctor, who diagnosed him with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) – a nebulous term for any delay in progression.

Displeased with the doctor’s unspecific diagnosis, Luna’s desperation took her to the Internet, searching through countless testimonials of parents in similar situations.

“My child doesn’t respond when spoken to.”

“My child is hypersensitive to noise.”

“My child doesn’t interact with other children.”

The screen said “Autism.”

Luna is a single mother living in Flushing with her two sons, nine-year-old Winter and 19-year-old Nathaniel (Nate), both of whom are Autistic.

She too is Autistic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one percent of all children are classified as living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Parents of one child with ASD have a two to eight percent chance of having a second child who is also affected.

For Luna and her two sons, routine is essential.

Winter awakes at 6:30 every morning. He attends third grade at Robin Sue Ward School, after which Luna picks him up and the pair run errands or walk the links at a nearby golf course. Wherever they go, Winter needs fair warning. There can be no surprises.

Some nights, Winter wakes up at 3 a.m. Through the wall, Luna hears her son reciting lines from movies or conversations he heard throughout the day. She says it’s his way of making sense of the world.

“At the end of the day you’re exhausted,” said Luna. “A lot of the things you feel during the day you had to keep to yourself. Just connecting to the world is a challenge.”

And other people aren’t kind.

“They see you reprimand your child and people get rude,” said Luna. “Sometimes people talk to him and he won’t talk back. If it’s too loud, he won’t sit still. Sometimes he just gets frustrated and has a meltdown.”

Luna wishes others could relate and that people understood ways to connect with affected children.

There are days when Nate refuses to leave his room, spending the entire day playing computer games.

An interest in computers evolved into expertise. Nate can take apart and reassemble hard drives, motherboards and monitors. He also taught himself how to build guitars.

“Anything he gets into, he’s an expert,” said Luna.

Constant teasing in school caused Nate to develop anxiety – occurrences unnoticed until students showed up at Luna’s door to tell her what had been happening.

Edna says Nate can appear angry and disrespectful, even lazy. Luna feels he needs constant supervision.

When Nate was 11, he expressed his struggles to his mother – the frustrations of social interaction, resorting to mimicking the actions of his classmates.

Luna justified his behavior. After all, it had been how she acted in school.

As her own Autism diagnosis, unseen for almost 30 years, became clear, she questioned life-long mannerisms previously perceived as normal.

As a child, Luna arranged her mother’s bobby pins in a long, straight line across the dresser, a compulsion she continued for years. When overwhelmed, she repeatedly flapped her hands at chest level — a practice she would later discover was called stimming. At night, Luna opened the window to her fifth-floor Astoria apartment, sat on the ledge and dangled her feet outside. She felt no danger, no fear – a symptom, she now knows, of Autism.

Luna also admitted that her childhood had been rather friendless.

“I never spoke to anyone,” she said. “I was a loner.”

Now Luna works as a part-time makeup artist and occasionally sings at restaurants around the borough. Several health issues make it difficult for her to hold a full-time job and her sons could need her at any minute.

Her passion, however, lies in her charity work. Budget cuts to local programs have driven her to work even harder.

My Charity 4 Kids, an organization in conjunction with Savannah’s Family Workshop and Volunteer One, assists children afflicted with Autism, Asperger Symdrome and blindness. Luna hopes to create workshops for parents, helping them adjust to raising a developmentally-disabled child.

While she admits to not being an expert, Luna says there’s a certain knowledge you gain from raising an affected child and from living with Autism yourself.