As part of the requirements for completion of her doctoral degree in psychology at Hofstra University, Ms. Juliana LaRossa worked with DDI families while conducting her dissertation research. A summary of her results follows: Previous studies demonstrated that parents of children with ASDs report significantly higher levels of parenting stress compared to parents of children with other disabilities and parents of neurotypical children (Hall & Graff, 2011). Therefore, the current study aimed to learn what factors may worsen reported levels of parenting stress experienced by families of children with ASDs and what factors may lessen the levels of parenting stress experienced by these families. With further understanding of what these factors may be, interventions can be developed, standardized, validated and then implemented to lessen the levels of stress experienced by parents of children with ASDs. These interventions can also serve as a means to strengthen and bond the relationships of parents of children with ASDs and this may also indirectly lower levels of parenting stress.


The relationship between early intervention (EI), communication skills, conflict resolution skills, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, family cohesion and parenting stress were examined in the current study. Different hypothesized and modified path analysis models were tested using a statistical program called AMOS in order to identify the model that best accounted for the relationship among these variables and parenting stress in couples who have children with ASDs. Repeatedly across the various models, the statistically significant relationship between communication skills and conflict resolution skills was supported. This consistent finding strongly suggests the strength between the variables of communication skills and conflict resolution skills. When couples report higher levels of communication skills, they are better able to resolve conflicts as they possessed communication skills that allowed for the effective communication and resolution of problems.


The relationship between high levels of family cohesion and lower levels of parenting stress was also found, if the couples also reported higher levels of communication skills, conflict resolution skills and marital satisfaction. When couples reported higher levels of connectedness and bond, they are more likely to also possess greater abilities to communicate and resolve conflicts with one another. With the ability to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in an adaptive manner, couples feel more satisfied in their marriages, as there are no unaddressed topics or issues that cause tension within the couple. Couples who reported higher levels of marital satisfaction also reported lower levels of parenting stress as marital satisfaction protects against high levels of parenting stress as higher levels of marital satisfaction are associated with happiness and stability within relationships. When the marital satisfaction between the parents of children with ASDs suffers, this has been found to be related to distress and more negative parent-child interactions (Stoneman & Gavidia-Payne, 2006).


These findings demonstrate the areas that interventions need to be developed and implemented in families and couples of children with ASD's. These interventions should aim to improve the communication skills, conflict resolution skills and family cohesion of these couples which would in turn increase marital satisfaction which would lower levels of parenting stress.

Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI) is pleased to offer customized educational opportunities for service providers, families, and members of the community who are seeking knowledge in the principles and practices of applied behavior analysis. Our training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was developed by a team of experts in the fields of autism and applied behavior analysis, including professionals who have achieved the prestigious board certification in behavior analysis.  Applied Behavior Analysis is the leading evidenced-based approach for treating the learning and behavioral challenges associated with autism and related disabilities. ABA has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General and the New York State Department of Health, as it has hundreds of peer-reviewed empirical studies supporting its efficacy.


Experienced professionals will introduce participants to the principles and practices of Applied Behavior Analysis and its application to socially significant behaviors for the purpose of facilitating positive quality of life. DDI’s training in Applied Behavior Analysis offers an extensive curriculum that is both comprehensive and flexible.  Instruction may be held at virtually any site including but by no means limited to our many Long Island locations. Training can be tailored to meet educational and scheduling needs,at an affordable price.


Training in ABA is ideal for: school district teachers, Para-professionals, and administrators; afterschool program staff, respite workers, coaches; daycare employees; employment supervisors and families.


View Brochure here!

For more information


Dr. Michael Romas

Training Coordinator

99 Hollywood Drive

Smithtown NY, 11787

(631) 366-5875

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Little Plains CRP epansionDDI will soon be serving 24 additional residential school students in our Little Plains campus in Huntington.  Four big new beautiful classrooms are being added to our school in Huntington where the children’s residences are also being built.  The new wing will include separate boy’s and girl’s training lavatories, a training laundry room,  a new playground and a large office space for some of our additional staff, such as behavior specialists.    Pictures of the new residences and school wing under construction are attached.


We will be welcoming two groups of students to our DDI family.   Some of the 24 residential school students will be coming home to New York from facilities out of NY State.  Others are At Risk of a placement out of NY State due to their educational needs.  We’re excited about providing the opportunity for these students to receive outstanding services right here, closer to their families.  We are working to finalize our student census, so interested School Districts and families should contact us now if interested in this program.  Questions related to student intake can be directed to Nicole Coppack, at 631 366-2916 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The agency is also in the process of adding additional staffing for these new students.   Our program is growing by 4 teachers, 12 teaching assistants, 2 MA level Little Plains Schol ExpansionBehavior Specialists, 1 BA level Behavior Support Staff, as well as speech, OT, PT, phys Ed, technology, music, art, transition specialist and a PhD psychologist.    We are also actively recruiting community instructors, applied behavior specialists, assistant residential managers and other staff for the residences.    We are very busy filling these new positions, as well as gearing up for many additional staff training opportunities such as our teaching strategies,  applied behavior analysis, and positive behavioral interventions and supports.    If you are interested in joining our team please contact Angele at 631 366-2955 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


We are eager to share our expertise in providing a coordinated residential school with our newest students and are passionate about our mission to implement outstanding and innovative individualized programs to all we serve.

Autism Sibling


Are you a mother of a child or teen with an ASD?


Do you also have at least one other child or teen who does not have an ASD?


At the Stony Brook University Social Competence & Treatment Lab, we are conducting a research study on how various aspects of family life may affect kids and teens that have a brother or sister with an ASD.

We are currently seeking mothers to volunteer to complete an online survey.


This study might be right for you if…

✔ You are the biological mother of one child or teen aged 6-17 who has an ASD and at least one typically developing child or teen aged 6-17

✔ You and your children live in the same home

✔ Your children do not have any chronic medical illnesses


The potential benefits of the study are…

·      The results may help us learn about the unique experiences, needs, and successes of siblings of children with autism!

·      You will be entered into a raffle with a 1/10 chance of winning a $200 giftcard!

For more information, and to learn if you may quality for this study, please visit

And click on “Stony Brook ASD Sibling Survey Study”

You may also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.with any questions. Thank you!

 Learn About the Revised DSM-V



     In May of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the 5th version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM’s primary focus is to provide standard criteria for the diagnosis of psychological disorders.  The DSM-5 presents 2 substantial changes to the diagnostic criteria for autism.


     First is the collapsing of several related diagnoses into one disorder.  In the DSM-IV, there were 5 diagnoses under the Pervasive Developmental Disorder category (Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rett’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-NOS).  The DSM-5 integrated 4 of these diagnoses (all but Rett’s Disorder) into one diagnosis – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The collapsing of the 4 disorders into one was based on the lack of a consistent body of research to support the diagnostic distinction between these disorders. Distinctions in the presentation of autism symptoms across individuals will now be expressed by rating the level of support the individual needs in each of the affected areas. For example a child with ASD may be described according to the DSM-5 as requiring very substantial support with social and communication difficulties but requiring only substantial support with restricted or repetitive behaviors.  Rett’s Disorder was removed from ASD because individuals with this genetic disorder do not always present with the symptoms of Autism. However, those children with Rett’s who do develop all of the symptoms of ASD would receive the diagnosis.


     A second important area of change in the DSM-5 is the criteria itself.  In the DSM-IV, individuals had to meet criteria associated with 1. Impaired social interactions, 2. Impaired communication, and 3. Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behavior.  The DSM-5 combined the first two criteria into one (deficits in social communication and social interaction).  Additionally, the DSM-5 requires more symptoms to be displayed in order to meet the criteria for restricted, repetitive behavior. Moreover, lesser forms of social and behavioral impairment are no longer sufficient to receive a diagnosis, as was the case with the DMS-IV’s Pervasive Developmental Disorder (NOS).  These last two points suggest that some individuals with less severe forms of autism may no longer meet the criteria for ASD and research has indicated that this is the case.  As can be seen in the table below, six studies completed to date indicate that only 60% to 91% of children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder met the new criteria for ASD. 




% with PDD-NOS who received ASD



McPartland, Reichow, & Volkmar


Sensitivity and specificity of proposed DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for AUTISM spectrum disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Apr 2012; 51(4):368-383.

Worley & Matson


Comparing symptoms of Autism spectrum disorders using the current DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria and the proposed DSM-V diagnostic criteria. Research in AUTISM Spectrum Disorders. 2012; 6(2): 965-970.

Matson, Kozlowski, Hattier, Horovitz, Sipes



DSM-IV vs. DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for toddlers with AUTISM. Dev Neurorehabil. 2012; 15(3):185-90.

Gibbs, Aldridge, Chandler, Witzlsperger, & Smith


Brief Report: An Exploratory study comparing diagnostic outcomes for autism spectrum disorders under DSM-IV-TR with the proposed DSM-5 revision.J AUTISM Dev Disord. Aug 2012; 42(8): 1750-1756.

Huerta et al.


Application of DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorders to three samples of children with DSM-IV diagnoses of pervasive developmental disorders. Am J Psychiatry. Oct 2012; 169 (10):1056-1064.

Young-Shin Kim et al,


  A comparison of DSM-IV and DSM-5 ASD prevalence in Epidemiologic Sample. J of the Acad  Child and Adolesc  Psychiatry. (In Press).


     The question that remains is what will happen to this large number of children who would have been diagnosed with one of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders under the DSM-IV, but will not be diagnosed with ASD under the DSM-5.  The answer may lie in a newly added diagnosis called Social Communication Disorder (SCD). SCD is diagnosed when there is a deficit in social communication without the presence of restrictive, repetitive, or stereotyped behavior. A brand new study is consistent with this idea (Young-Shin Kim et al, In Press).  In this study, of the children who received a PDD-NOS diagnosis, 63% met the ASD diagnosis and interestingly 32% met the SCD diagnosis.  A great deal of research is needed to identify what supports at what intensity children with SCD require to make improvements.


It should be noted that in order for a diagnosis of SCD to be given, a child must show a deficit in relatively sophisticated language (e.g., impairment in the ability to change communication to match context).  Thus, SCD is rarely diagnosed before age 4.  Therefore the addition of this new disorder does not help identify those children under 4 with severe social communication deficits but who do not have restricted behavior. Given the assumption that the most intensive Preschool Special Education is often reserved for children with specific diagnoses such as Autism, the question remains – what will happen to children under 4 years of age who display severe social communication deficits but who do not have restricted behavior?  Many or all of these children may still qualify for services under early intervention or Preschool Special Education if they demonstrate a deficit in one or more of the 5 domains assessed during the early intervention or preschool evaluation (i.e., social-emotional, language, cognitive, motor, or adaptive domain). If you think that your child displays symptoms of AUTISM, regardless if they would meet the new DSM-5 criteria of AUTISM spectrum disorder, it is recommended that your child receive an evaluation.  Evaluations are funded by Nassau and Suffolk Counties and New York State, at no cost to you. If your child is under three years of age contact:


1.      Nassau County Department of Health – (516) 227-8661


2.     Suffolk County Department of Health – (631) 853-3100



If your child is between the ages of 3 and 5, Contact:


The Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) in the school district in which you reside.


Starting Early Program, DDI is an approved evaluation site, by the NYSDOH and NYSED for children aged birth to 5,

Expert diagnostic teams perform multi-disciplinary evaluations in your home, in your child’s preschool/ day care or at Starting Early locations in Huntington and Ronkonkoma. Click here for information on scheduling an evaluation.