Life-Changing Autism Intervention

Sterling Heights, Mich. Ivanhoe Broadcast News —

The most recentstatistics show as many as one in 200 children have a condition that fallsunder the category of autism. There are many drugs for the behavioralsymptoms that come with these disorders, but new research shows you may notneed them. Now a drug-free treatment may change lives.

When you see 5-year-old Sarah Beard today, you’d never guess that ayear ago, her life was filled with tantrums and rituals — methodicallylining up toys and spinning in circles. She’d scream at her own birthdayparties if anyone sang happy birthday.

Today, that old Sarah is hard to find. “Myself is something who is thepersonality, and I am a special person of ‘anality,” she tells Ivanhoe.

Sarah was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome — an autism spectrumdisorder — at two. Mom Colleen says that early diagnosis changed her littlegirl. “The amount of progress she has made — she’s a different girl todaythan she was 14 months ago,” Colleen says.

Autism expert and psychologist Catherine Lord, Ph.D., says earlydiagnosis leads to life-changing interventions.

“It’s been truly wonderful to see how many things people with autismcan do and things that we would not have probably dreamed about 20 or 30years ago,” Dr. Lord, of University of Michigan Autism and CommunicationDisorder Center in Ann Arbor, tells Ivanhoe.

Therapy focuses on completion of tasks and social interaction. Expertsbelieved half of autistic kids would never speak. With early intervention,Dr. Lord found only 14 percent won’t.

She says, “It’s not what you have done in a day — but what you know– it leads into something that is really going to change children’s lives.”

Sarah remembers how she used to behave. “It feels like I screamed alot.” But this little girl doesn’t dwell on it. “I’m not afraid anymore,”she says. And this year, she even let her family sing her happy birthday.

Doctors used to believe autism could not be accurately diagnosed untilthe child was 4 or 5 years old. Dr. Lord’s research shows children canreliably be diagnosed as young as 2, which, according to her, is the key tosuccessful treatment.

Since autistic behaviors vary, the intervention is targeted to each specific child to help them overcome their own obstacles.

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