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Autism treatment center opens in metro

Crystal Frost plays with her son, Spencer, who is autistic. A new school for autistic children opened this year in Oklahoma City. Crystal Frost plays with her son, Spencer, who is autistic. A new school for autistic children opened this year in Oklahoma City.

By Mary Joseph, NEWS 9

At four years old, Spencer Frost is learning his numbers. But before he even turned 1, his parents knew Spencer was having development issues.

"He said ‘momma' at eight months old, and ‘dada' at nine months old, and then didn't speak again for quite some time," said Crystal Frost, Spencer's mother.

After several months of testing, this Edmond family's suspicions were confirmed. Doctors diagnosed Spencer with Autism.

"As a mother you just know. You have these instincts and you just know. But when they, when I saw it on the paper, and heard those words, of course I could not do anything but cry," said Frost.

There is no known cure or cause for autism. Two studies from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control assess one in every 150 American children have some form of autism and 75 children are born every day with autism. The silent disease affects four times as many boys as it does girls. Doctors are now recommending two screenings before a child even turns two years old.

Parents of autistic children in Oklahoma now have a new resource-the Camelot Residential Treatment Center. The center just opened in Oklahoma City in April and is the first boarding school of its kind in the state. Taking in children from five to 18 years old, this center helps and houses children with varying degrees of autism.

"Autism varies from child to child dramatically," said Dr. Marcia Meiring, medical director of the Camelot school.

What works for one autistic child, does not work for all of them. For example, Spencer's parents heard putting autistic children on a gluten-free diet can help autistic symptoms improve, but after six weeks the Frosts' have not noticed a difference. Fish oil, rich in omega-three fatty acids, did improve Spencer's condition greatly, however.

Now doctors are also considering an old drug in a new way. At Ohio State University they believe testing Mecamylamine, originally used for high blood pressure patients in the 1950s could help kids with autism.

Because of the varying degrees of severity, symptoms, and different remedies, Dr. Meiring said it is challenging to treat autism, even if their treatment plans are getting better. At Camelot, the staff adjusts the treatment plans for each child.

Kalie was one of Camelot's first students. She shows signs of agitation, which is common with severely autistic kids, but has responded well to her Camelot treatment plan.

"She wouldn't even sit down at the dinner table (before). Now she does, you know, sit down and use manners," said Kalie's mother, Deanna Phillips.

Those are goals for Spencer as well-learning to become independent.  It's a step-by-step journey for this four-year-old, with ups and downs. And although he conquers new tasks everyday, his parents can't help but worry about the years to come.

"It's very difficult to think where is Spencer going to be when he is an adult?  Is he going to be high functioning?  Will he always need our support?  What happens when we die?  That's very tough," said Frost. 

Orignally Aired: Nov. 7, 2007


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