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Treating Autism: One Child's Story

An autistic child's mom tells WebMD about the strides her son made in the Early Achievement program.
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"The response I got was -- nobody really believed me. So I insisted they get him tested anyway, and finally a psychologist came to my home and tested him. That's when we first heard the term 'mild autism.' He was diagnosed as high-functioning mild autism. Once she gave me her findings, this is when we turned to the Kennedy Krieger Early Achievement program.

"At the bottom of the stack of forms the psychologist gave me was an ad for Dr. [Rebecca] Landa's research study. I applied and got wait-listed -- but it was the first time someone did not accept a placement, and we got it, and it was a real gift. There was only a month between the diagnosis and starting the program, in June 2005. He was 2 1/2 years old.

"I knew about Kennedy Krieger and had heard about this program on TV without realizing it -- I'd seen Dr. Landa on the Jane Pauley Show. The only reason I know now is that it re-aired. I had heard of Kennedy Krieger and knew their reputation, and initially I was told the study was full, so I asked if Gabe could be in the control group, because at least I wanted the assessment and opinion of experts. But there was a strange turn of events and they found a match for him and got him in the study.

"It started with orientation. All the parents were sitting around the snack table, and the teacher told us what we would be doing in the class. I remember her saying the kids would transition themselves from one activity to another by checking their picture schedule and singing a little song. All the parents were nodding and I nodded, too, but inside I thought, 'There is no way he will do this.' My son screams any time a demand is 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.

"Within the first two weeks the doors opened, and we were picking up our kids, and the teacher said, 'Gabe checked his schedule, all by himself.' I knew then I would never say 'No way' about Gabe again, because he has continued to amaze us. They offer us a parent program that does not get enough credit.

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