The World Within: The edge of the spectrum



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Posted on December 29, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Five year-old Alyssa Grube runs through the alphabet with ease. She knows all her letters, even words.

She's a smart little kid, and as we witnessed earlier, an energetic, little girl recently diagnosed on the edge of the autism spectrum.

"When she's basically excited, it takes a lot to calm her down. She has a lot of energy," said dad, Edward.

As soon as the Grubes suspected autism, they began helping Alyssa, especially at school.

"She's getting more help through school, she's actually, before she was just sent to a morning class. But, now that we have an autism diagnosis she goes full day and they really work with her one on one," said mom, Molly.

Edward and Molly now notice a positive difference in Alyssa's speech and social skills.

To see what doctors think they return to Seattle Children's Autism Clinic for a follow up with Dr. Charles Cowan.

"So overall, I would still say although she has autism, she has one of the milder forms and really has made huge progress as a result of all the intervention you guys have put together," he said.

Dr. Cowan advises the Grubes to continue with their daughter's special education and speech therapy. 

"Mom and dad are the key, but the fact that she's getting an extended school year is a huge plus," said Dr. Cowan.

Not only is it working, it could eventually erase "autism" from Alyssa's diagnosis.

"As time goes on, maybe her autistic symptoms will actually disappear," said Dr. Cowan. "There are some kids we re-categorize as they get older and we say they are no longer autistic. Therapy does work, at least it works for some kids."

Not all children with autism response to therapy as well as Alyssa. 

"Why" is another mystery surrounding the disorder.

"Big debates of how much therapy, big debates of what do for kids that don't make much progress," said Dr. Cowan.

The unanswered questions leave many parents lost in the dark, searching for what the Grubes now see - hope on the horizon.

"I see her going to college and stuff, maybe she might not be a teacher or something like that, but she will definitely be doing something else," said Molly.

Seattle Children's Autism Center will help the Grubes look for additional ways to strengthen Alyssa's speech and social skills.
Molly says she wants to enroll her in a dance or play group.