Research video of Ashton Faller shows the autistic 20-month-old not speaking, or making eye contact.
That will slowly change during a groundbreaking study at the University of Washington determining if autism can be prevented or reversed with early intervention.
"Well, it's a process and we do know quite a bit about what helps children with autism," said Dr. Annette Estes of the University of Washington.
Dr. Estes is involved in the long-term study of therapy that painstakingly rewards a young child's eye contact and slightest verbal communication.
"What we think is that early on the brain is developing very quickly, and if we can intervene at that time, we can stop some of the downstream effects of autism and maybe stop it before it really takes hold," said Dr. Estes.
Nine months into the intense therapy, Ashton begins to communicate and interact. And, after two years he shows fewer signs of autism.
The progress of the 4-year-old amazes his mother, and researchers find it promising.
Parental involvement is an essential ingredient to the success of the early intervention.
Researchers also point out that it doesn't work for every child.