Treating Autism: One Child's Story
An autistic child's mom tells WebMD about the strides her son made in the 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.
"You know, I had only had the diagnosis for a month, and the information
was so overwhelming -- those things that say 'autism is forever' -- it was
overwhelming and scary. I threw the books down, I was overwhelmed -- but this
parent training was a hand-holding through this first scary time of 'What is
right? What is real? What do I need to focus on right now?' I can't imagine
where I would have been without that support. For me it was huge.
"At the time Gabe was just a little guy, he had a lot of anxiety, he was
still anxious. I got to observe him through the two-way mirror. I was there all
the time with my nose stuck to the glass, watching how they spoke to him, what
they did, and I learned so much from that. He was in a communication workout
atmosphere where every minute he was working. They were trying to get him to
communicate in so many ways, in ways that did not feel like work for him. He
did not like work at all. Every day he did this one-on-one with a teacher,
every day working on demands. That was his least favorite time, but he got
through it because he knew he wasn't going to sit there forever. Shortly the
bell would ring and he would get to check his schedule and go somewhere else.
So he sat through it knowing it would end soon, knowing he could make it.