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Severe Autism Recovery Story

Feeding Program

At age 8, Ethan went through a specialized program for children with autism, due from severe behavioral problems and feeding problems. Ethan would only eat foods that he wanted such as french fries, crackers, chips and Reese's candy bars. If you tried to bring any new food item to the table he would have severe behaviors such as extreme hand biting until he drew blood, head banging and aggressive behaviors. These behaviors would last any where from 5 minutes to one hour. As time went on, and Ethan got older remaining on his rigid diet that he would eat. Ethan began spitting and vomiting food during all meals. We had to keep a bucket under the table where he would do this behavior.

Ethan was recommended by the Center for Disabilities in our state medical university (autism project) by their child developmental specialist. She recommended Ethan to a university-based feeding program. Ethan and I were admitted for a 3 week evaluation and treatment program. They determined that Ethan's problems were all based from behaviors.

They used an ABA program with DTT approach and a very structured feeding and behavioral program. Ethan was offered preferred foods during a meal and allowed to watch his most favorite video (very high motivator) only during meal time. He had no access to food or video at other times. Only during scheduled meal and snack times. He was given one minute viewing of his favorite video. The video was then set on pause, and he had to take a bite of a non-perferred food item, whereupon he would regain his favorite food items and video. If Ethan engaged in any behaviors such as hitting or biting, the meal was ended and he had to wait until the next scheduled meal time, where the same structure was offered.

It took Ethan three days of not eating anything and 7 practice sessions per day, until he finally began eating non-preferred food items. Two years later, Ethan has somewhat the same structure during meals and he is eating steak, hamburger, chicken, pork chops, green bean, corn, carrots, pancakes, pizza, drinking milk, orange juice to name a few. Ethan no longer engages in severe behavior problems, and is very compliant with any demands within reason. Ethan is being homeschooled by me and making huge leaps and bounds in gaining new skills.


Ethan was removed from School by exemption from public education May 31, 2001. The school district was suppose to attend training, but cancelled at the last moment. Training was offered by film presentation and by our autism director for the Center of Disabilities for a half a day session to our school district. Ethan was returned to school February 1, 2001 and the few months he spent there he regressed severely after we had obtained successful cooperation in his feeding program and reduction of severe behaviors. I observed the classroom and found that the school district was not using appropriate modifications and specific supports. After a major battle with the school district, and these issues which I brought to their attention were now being refused by the school district, and their uncooperative manner, I pulled him out of public education by exemption application to homeschool him.

I can not believe the difference in Ethan since I began homeschooling. I never realized that this was an option and suffered beyond belief with our public school. I knew they were making Ethan worse, and no matter how hard I fought them, Ethan kept falling father and farther behind. This is my second year at homeschooling. When I first started all Ethan could do was write his first name. He was not able to tie his own shoes, or do anything without assistance! The school district pulled all academic away from him and were only going to give him functional daily living skills. His 3 year evaluations stated no progress in three years whatsoever.

Today, Ethan is writing his entire name independently, taking his own shower, shampooing his own hair, towel drying himself and dressing independently, even tieing his own shoes. He is almost making his own lunch, adding and subtracting with a calculator, and can recognize the value of each coin and tell you the amount. And he is reading/recognize 150 words! He is making his own bed, washing dishes and folding laundry. Ethan also has a picture grocery list that he takes grocery shopping and pushes the cart throughout the store, placing items into the cart (matching them with his picture groceries list). For the first time in his life he is calling me mom.

He is not completely verbal, and still having problems putting words together in making complete sentences, but what he is able to say is functional. I have taken more workshops in communication/socialization, and now using alot of those techniques in which I am very impressed with new success emerging for Ethan in those areas.

We just finished his 3 year re-evaluations and for the very first time they were able to accomplish standardize scores on him. Where before he was totally untestable.

Woodcock Johnson-III (WJIII)
Ethan's overall academic skills range K.3 (age equivalent 5.7)
Letter word indentification at a K.4 Level (age equivalent 5.8)
Gilliam Autism rating scale: 127 (97%)
Vineland Adative Behavior scale: scored 26 (age equivalent 2.8)
ABES (adaptive Behavior standard score 56

Social skills rating scale 55 (rs)
Standard score 55 (L2%)
Receptive and expressive scores are 1 year and 9 months.

Ethan is a very disabled individual and even though these scores are very low, this is a tremendous accomplishment for Ethan and I am very proud in how well he has done under standardized testing, being in a new building and having new people work with him and able to get some reading on him.... is huge!

Ethan is now 11 years old. His seizures have stopped and he has not had any seizures in over 9 months now. Homeschooling is the very best thing I have ever done for Ethan.

[my thanks to MC for allowing me to use her son's story on my site]

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