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Finding the Right Autism Treatment

Early, intense therapy works, but hundreds of other treatments being used are untested.
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Earlier Autism Treatment Is Better Autism Treatment continued...

Behavior therapy targeted to the individual child's needs is at the forefront of treatments researchers are trying today with ASD kids. Of all the treatments that parents try for their child, behavior therapy is the only one scientifically shown to help children with autism.

"Nobody responsible in the field say this cures autism, but many of these children can be improved substantially, dramatically, and some -- a very small percentage -- improve to the point you could not differentiate them from typical individuals," says Laura Schreibman, PhD, director of the autism research program and distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, San Diego.

In Landa's program, it focuses nearly as much on parent and family training as it does on the child with autism.

"When you first get a diagnosis of autism, you are not ready for that. Your world is shaken. And suddenly your child is not who you thought they were. 'How do I play with my child?' 'How do I understand who my child is?' 'What do I do about it?'" Landa says. "We teach them the beauty within their child."

Every week the parents have to tell the class something wonderful about their child. At first, most parents cant think of anything.

"A week or so later, they can't wait to come in and tell us what wonderful thing their child did last. This lets parents focus on what is good, instead of something panicky," Landa says. "We teach them how to interact with their child in helpful, fun ways. We take care of the whole family and it is very powerful."

Debbie Page and her son Gabe enrolled in Landa's experimental program. Gabe had been diagnosed with "mild" autism -- but when Page heard what Landa expected the kids to learn, she was more than doubtful.

"I remember her saying the kids would transition themselves from one activity to another by checking their picture schedule and singing a little song," she says. "All the parents were nodding and I nodded, too, but inside I thought, 'There is no way he will do this.' My son screamed any time a demand was placed on him -- he didn't even respond to his name. I thought we'd be the first ones to get kicked out of the study."

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