Shameless tabloid headline! Supernanny tames autistic 3-year-old

December 1, 2005

You may not be up on the ABC Network's hit television show, "Supernanny," but it's a certain bet that many parents in your practice are. Watching how British nanny Jo Frost socializes the most unruly child is fascinating-and never more so than last month when she tackled a problem that defeats many parents: an autistic 3-year-old boy, lost in his world of spinning and turning and totally out of touch with his parents and siblings.

You may not be up on the ABC Network's hit television show, "Supernanny," but it's a certain bet that many parents in your practice are. Watching how British nanny Jo Frost socializes the most unruly child is fascinating-and never more so than last month when she tackled a problem that defeats many parents: an autistic 3-year-old boy, lost in his world of spinning and turning and totally out of touch with his parents and siblings.

Supernanny had help from Dr. Lynne Koegel, developer of an approach to working with autistic children that she calls pivotal response training, or PRT. Together, Supernanny and Dr. Koegel successfully drew the little boy into a relationship with his family and had him using a 20-word vocabulary-apparently, within one week.

The enterprise seemed almost too good to be true, and many experienced early intervention educators think it probably was. Treatment programs that succeed in modulating autistic behavior require intensive work over many weeks and months; there are no quick fixes. Dr. Koegel's technique is described in Pivotal Response Treatments for Autism: Communication, Social, and Academic Development, published last month by Brookes Publishing.