Fighting Autism: A Mother's Story

When dealing with autism, "you're talking about a wide spectrum," he said. "There's more and more literature that says early diagnosis and early intervention and treatment can lead to improvements."

He also cautioned, however, that "all children will not respond the same way." His advice for parents was to look for signs of autism early. Those signs include failure to make eye contact, lack of vocabulary and repetitive movements.

"Those are signs that you should bring to your doctor," he said.

Other Experts Weigh In

Autism researchers said that for a precious minority of autistic children, such intensive therapy can lead to improvement. Dr. Lisa Shulman, developmental pediatrician and autism researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., said her research suggested that only about 25 percent of autistic kids could be helped by such interventions.

In other words, most parents who make the same sacrifice as Scott are not likely to reap similar benefits.

"We would concur that for a minority subgroup of children with a particular profile ... intensive services initiated as early as possible can make a diagnostic difference," she said.

Dr. Isabelle Rapin, a child neurologist at Albert Einstein who has researched and edited two books on autism, added that even for those kids who improve, some evidence of autism would likely remain.

"Behavioral intervention will help virtually any child improve somewhat, but many will not achieve a level of improvement that will enable them to function in the real world without assistance," Rapin said. "Many 'cured' children are markedly improved and can function with minimal assistance, but they still have symptoms that place them in the gray zone between normal and mild impairment."

Others still hesitate to attribute Roman's improvement to this intensive therapy without more evidence.

"While it is great news that this child is doing so well, this is still an anecdote and the proof that the intervention was the main determinant of the outcome is limited," said Dr. Max Wiznitzer of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

So there may be debates among the medical community as to if overcoming autism is possible, and there is certainly a widespread consensus that there is no such thing as a "cure," but to one vibrant young 8-year old and his mother, it certainly does feel like it.

"This must be what it's like for an Olympic athlete to win gold. This is the gold for my child's life," said Scott.

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