Tag Archives: Quality Services for the Autism Community

Whitestone students, teachers walk to raise awareness for autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Students at one Whitestone school are showing that you can start giving back to the community even at a very young age.

In honor of National Autism Awareness Month, the staff and students at P.S. 209, located at 16-10 Utopia Pkwy., participated in a walkathon at the school throughout the day on Friday.

Each grade at the school, which goes from kindergarten through fifth grade, went out and walked around the building four times.

Weeks before the walkathon, the school raised money to donate to the organization Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) and its day school, an after-school program located in Whitestone. The school set a goal of $2,500 and as of Friday staff, students and their families raised close to $4,000.

“We have wonderful parents and our students are extremely involved so we’re really proud,” said Jacqueline Diaz Fernandez, assistant principal at P.S. 209. “The principal and I, we really feel that education is not just reading and writing and math. It’s so important that they really are well-rounded and ready to provide the community with extra services. I think we’re living in a society where everything is ‘me, me, me,’ and we want to teach the children that it is ‘us.’”

To raise money for the organization, autism awareness T-shirts were sold to staff members, 600 chocolate lollipops were made and sold, and pledges were made by the families of students.

“Autism is on the rise and we have some autistic kids in our building, and we wanted to donate money to something that directly affects our school and the children around us,” said Maria Sperrazza, a teacher and member of the special events committee that organized the event. “It’s fabulous that we can all come together and we always said P.S. 209 is a family.”

All the money raised before May 1 will go toward providing additional support to families at QSAC’s Whitestone location.

QSAC, which was started in 1978 by a group of parents who felt there weren’t enough services for children with autism, serves about 1,700 children and adults with autism in New York, with about 800 clients in Queens.

According to Pat Barrientos, external affairs coordinator for QSAC, events such as the walkathon help raise awareness for a disorder which a few years ago was found in 1 out of 110 cases, but presently affects 1 in 68 children.

“The lesson being taught here is about giving back, and at a very young age they are being taught to give back to their community and that’s a lifelong lesson that they will take with them — that it’s always good to share,” Barrientos said.

According to teachers, the walkathon served as a moment for the students to become aware of autism and also work together for a cause.

“I want to help stop autism,” said fourth-grader Kevin Bracken, who was named by the school as an autism awareness spokesman. “I think that people should fund and help all these diseases and disorders to help people. I love helping people.”

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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.

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.