Higher autism numbers create need for more treatment programs

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The number of children diagnosed with autism keeps rising. One in 68 has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It's unclear whether it's becoming more common or is simply more recognized.

The higher numbers are creating a need for more treatment programs. Children's TLC has helped little ones in Kansas City with disabilities since the 1940s. Recently, it added an autism program for children as young as one-year-old.

When Gabriel Rosario was about two, he stopped using words.

"He made only one sound -- eeeee --- and he would use it all day for everything," said his mother, Charity Goodwin Rosario.

Gabriel wouldn't turn around and respond to his name being called.

"He's my first child, my first-born child. So some things you think well, you don't want to get overreactive," said Rosario.

But their pediatrician encourage testing, and that led to the diagnosis of autism, and treatment for it starting last fall at Children's TLC in midtown Kansas City. Gabriel, now three, is one of the first kids in the autism program there.

"We work with 12 months on up to 5-years-old because if we can get that earlier detection as well as early intervention, we can be more successful with them," said Amy Bruscato.

Bruscato uses ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis, which is the gold standard in autism therapy.

"What do you want to do?" she asks Gabriel.

ABA involves one-on-one teaching of specific skills with a big focus on imitation and communication -- whether it's pointing, gesturing, signing or speaking.

"Now Gabriel has something to say and there are lots of different vocalizations. It may not be a word completely yet, but he's making lots of new sounds," said his mother.

She says his tolerance is a lot higher now, too. She's not letting autism put any limitations on him.

"I'm just looking forward to him being able to communicate, share his emotions, feelings. Wherever he wants to go, I believe the sky's the limit for him," said Rosario.

She believes early intervention is the key.



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