The number of children diagnosed as autistic has jumped significantly. In California alone, the incidents have increased more than six fold in the last 15 years.

Different explanations could be offered, from diet to environmental pollution. But the most likely explanation of the increase in autistic population is that people realize great progress can be achieved if the disease is diagnosed early in life and treatment applied in time. Another reason for the jump in number is the heightened awareness of developmental problems and language malfunction in children, forcing society and schools to deal with the affliction. In this sense, the increasing prevalence of autistic children represents a healthy attempt at helping children.

The most effective treatment is still behavioral therapy based on functional analysis. Many studies now indicate that autistic children undergoing consistent and well design- ed behavioral intervention at a young age can often make tremendous strides. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in calling for early intervention, recommends a minimum of 25 hours a week, 12 months a year, of individual behavioral therapy.
However, in addition to intensive one-to-one therapy (the quantity issue), the quality of treatment is just as essential. Actual progress can still be elusive if the following ingredients are lacking:

1. a thorough and logical analysis of the autistic child's needs and functioning level (Ah, don't we know the individual differences!);

2. skillful application of the principle of applied behavior analysis in designing the treatment,

3. staff training to carry out the treatment,

4. careful monitoring of progress (and non-progress), and

5. timely modification of treatment procedures.

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