Most of the treatments we tried seemed to help for a little while. Then, the improvement seemed to ebb and slow. Then we'd try something new (while also continuing with the whole battery of therapies offered free of charge by the school district).
All the while, Tom continued to grow and thrive. He learned to read and write. He became potty trained. He learned to dress himself, take his own bath, add, subtract, and multiply. He stopped bolting out of rooms and flinging toys at other children. He began asking contentful questions, and expressing empathy for others. He started playing the clarinet and the piano, and performing in recitals. He joined a bowling league and won a trophy. Of course, Tom is still autistic. But without a doubt, he has come a long, long way.
The big question is - why? Did any of these therapies make the big difference? If they did, then why does Tom continue to grow and thrive even without them? Would he have done just as well if we'd simply parented him well and homeschooled him - or would he be doing much better now with a different approach?
Just yesterday, I read an article in which parents attributed their child's amazing success to a combination of chiropractic manipulation, hippotherapy (horseback riding) and homeopathic detox. So far as I know, no credible source supports the idea that autism can be effectively treated by a combination of these interventions - and it's very, very hard for me to believe that they had much impact. But the child improved - radically. And his parents are sure they know why.
I don't know this family or their practitioners personally. But unless they are most unusual, I doubt that they spent the time or money to hire a professional team of evaluators to benchmark each area of ability and then retest after each therapy to check on progress. In fact, as the article describes, "After six months [of chiropractic and homeopathic treatment], the Smiths saw major improvement and a glimmer of Colton coming back. “He would come and sit on your lap and look at you. It was huge because he hadn't been doing that at all...” Were six months of chiropractic and homeopathic treatments really behind these changes? Or was Colton just developmentally ready to connect with his parents?
It seems like a no-brainer that the vast majority of children with autism grow, develop, and build skills over time. But the question of just why any individual child progresses - over any particular period of time - is often quite mysterious.