Subj: ALERT! Autism Therapy is Effective, But Rare (October 22, 2002)
Date: 10/22/02 10:02:15 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: (Wrightslaw)
Reply-to: (special-ed-advocate)
To: (special-ed-advocate)

Are you the parent of a child with autism? Are you battling with your child's school for appropriate special education services for your child?

Are you a teacher of children with autism? Are you a special ed teacher who does not have the training, time, and support you need to do your job? Are you an adminstrator who wants to educate your school board about
special education costs?

Are you an attorney or advocate who represents a child with autism? Are you an advocate who helps parents negotiate for appropriate special education services?

Are you a legislator who wants to improve special education outcomes? Are you a special ed consumer or provider who is concerned about the special ed law?


If you want to educate others about early intervention, ABA therapy or special education issues, download "Autism Therapy is Called Effective, But Rare" by Laurie Tarkan (New York Times, Oct 22, 2002).

Ms. Tarkan describes the problems parents face in getting appropriate services for their children with autism, including the failure to use effective methods to teach these children. She concludes, "A vast majority
of children with autism are not getting the intensive early intervention that experts say is both essential and effective."

IMPORTANT! Before you can download articles from The New York Times site, you must register and get a password!

We are making this article and supporting info available on the Wrightslaw site (link follows). However -- you should get the original New York Times article -- the NY Times has far more persuasive clout than Wrightslaw!



"No one has found a cure for autism, the neurological disorder that leads to lifelong impairments in a child's ability to speak, respond to others, share affection and learn. But there is a growing consensus that intensive
early intervention is both effective and essential the sooner after diagnosis, the better."

"Yet the success of early intervention is posing a painful predicament for schools and families a predicament made more immediate by a rising tide of diagnoses of autism. Last week, researchers reported that the number of
austistic children in California had risen more than sixfold since 1987, and other states and the federal government have also noted sharp increases." (See "A Mysterious Upsurge in Autism," NY Times Op-Ed Article, October 20, 2002)

"By federal law, public schools must provide appropriate education for children with disabilities, starting at age 3. But the treatment is so expensive averaging $33,000 a year, according to research published in the journal Behavioral Intervention that many families cannot persuade their school districts to pay for it."

"Brian and Juliana Jaynes of Newport News, Va., can testify to that. As a baby, their son, Stefan, developed normally, if not ahead of the curve. By age 2, his vocabulary was well over 100 words. He knew his address and his
colors, and he spoke in short sentences. But soon after his second birthday, he started to regress, forgetting the words he once knew."

"His parents suspected a neurological disorder. A specialist confirmed their suspicions, telling them Stefan was severely autistic and urging them to get intensive therapy for him."

"Instead, school officials placed Stefan in a special-education preschool, where, the Jayneses say, he rapidly regressed. (The school district says the placement was appropriate.)"

"After the neurologist told the frantic couple that their son might have to be institutionalized, they removed him from the preschool and began 40 hours a week of behavior therapy at home."

"It cost them more than $100,000 over three years. Today, Stefan, 11, attends a school for autistic children and has vastly improved his language, social and self-help skills . . . The behavior therapy, his father said, 'has brought about an awakening in this little boy's personality that is truly a miracle.'"

"In recent years, four leading institutions the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Surgeon General and the National Academy of Sciences have called for
early intervention, including one-on-one therapy, for children with autism. A panel of experts convened by the academy last year recommended a minimum of 25 hours a week, 12 months a year."

"But Dr. Catherine Lord, the panel's chairwoman and a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, estimates that fewer than 10 percent of children with autism are getting the recommended level of therapy."

"Autistic children lose the ability to learn by observation, something other children do constantly. Behavioral therapy is aimed at teaching these children how to learn."

"The federal education law leaves decisions about therapy to professionals and parents. But administrators say parents often demand far more therapy than the experts recommend. 'Is the school system going to override
teachers, and substitute the teacher's decision with the parent's decision?' asked Bruce Hunter, associate executive director for public policy at the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington,

"Many experts believe society would pay less in the long run if children received appropriate early intervention. An article in Behavioral Intervention in 1998 found that if 100 children were given early intensive intervention and 40 of them had only partial improvement, the public would save $9.5 million over their school years, ages 3 to 22."

"Yet another obstacle to early intervention is delayed diagnosis. Autism is most commonly diagnosed at 20 to 36 months, but experts say the signs often surface earlier. Many families experience delays because
pediatricians often dismiss their concerns."

"The growing awareness of autism may ease that problem. (Autism is now diagnosed in 1 out of 600 children, by most estimates.) But without appropriate therapy, early diagnosis does little but create frustration for parents, as Stefan's mother, Juliana Jaynes, recalled recently. 'I had the doctor telling me that every moment counts,' she said. 'There's that horrible feeling of time slipping away and nothing being done.'"




To read the New York Times article by Laurie Tarkan, an article and the decisions in Stefan's case, and get more info about ABA Lovaas therapy, please go to --

Read "Anatomy of a Special Education Case" about Stefan's case at:

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Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
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