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Intensive, Early Therapy Helps Children with Autism Improve Communication Skills

The disorder remains a medical mystery with no cure in sight, but some existing therapies produce lasting benefits, and more are on the horizon

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When Adrianna and Jermaine Hannon's second child, Jayden, was 14 months old, the California couple began to worry that something was wrong. The child became preoccupied with toy cars, turning them over and rolling their wheels ceaselessly at an age when most other toddlers flit from one activity to another. Jayden would also line up cars, magazines or blocks on the floor or a table in as straight a line as he could make, never stacking objects as other kids would.

At 16 months, Jayden began to stop blurting the short phrases he had been using for four or five months—“Up, Mom,” “Picky-up” and “Abby,” his big sister's name—and he rarely looked toward family members when they called. One day around that same age, a large pot dropped by accident near to where Jayden was sitting, but the toddler did not respond at all. The pediatrician told Adrianna not to worry about Jayden's behavior, because child development tends to occur in bursts, especially in boys, and speech often develops later than in girls. At the pediatrician's request, Adrianna and Jermaine took their child to an audiologist to test his hearing, which turned out to be normal.

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