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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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"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.

"I didn't think there was any way he was going to be able to do this, but it was such a natural setting. At first he did not know how to play with toys. He would just kind of wander in the little play area and didn't know what to play with -- he didn't understand what play was. Six months later he was engaging in play with other children.

"Those six months my father describes as a light switch being turned on. He went from little scripted sentences to speaking in three- and four-word sentences. Originally I kept a list of everything he could say -- he only got up to 30 things. But after a few months, I had to abandon the list because he had an explosion of language. And I believe it was the program making a difference. We didn't do anything else. We did not have time to save money for private therapies. A speech therapist would come to the house a couple of times a month, because it was free, and I appreciated it, I was grateful to get even that, but that was pretty much all we were doing.

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