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For 8-year-old Ryan Mohar, an elevator isn't just an elevator. He spends hours pressing the buttons and riding up and down, preferring this to the slew of alternatives that his teachers offer -- even candy.

Ryan is one of many American children with autism, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors or limited interests, and difficulties with communication and social interactions.

At the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Ryan and other children with communication and behavior difficulties get help through a rigorous empirical method called Applied Behavior Analysis.

"Decades of research has shown that that is the treatment of choice, and results in the best gains in terms of skill acquisition and behavior problem reduction for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities," said Alice Shillingsburg, program coordinator of the center's Language and Learning Clinic.

The effectiveness and nature of ABA is particularly relevant as many parents fight for insurance companies to cover it and other autism treatments. The organization Autism Speaks has endorsed bills in 25 states that would require private health insurance policies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders for anyone under the age of 21. The legislation would specifically be targeted at ABA and other structured autism therapies. Only eight states have autism insurance reform, according to Autism Speaks. Read full article »

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