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Special Report: A Family's Fight Against Autism

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Autism is affecting children at an alarming rate. The most recent studies show about one in 150 children has the disorder, and boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Despite no definite cause or cure, doctors say it's possible for these children to grow up and lead normal lives. One Cedar Rapids family is literally doing everything it can to defeat the disorder, including quitting work and traveling hundreds of miles for doctor's visits. It's a true family fight for a four-year-old son.

"Ethan is what we call around here our special project. God sent us a special gift," says Chris Martin, Ethan's father.

A special gift living with a brain development disorder.

"He progressed normally up until 18 or 19 months, then he regressed," says Ethan's mother, Dawn Martin.

Those steps backward ended with a devastating diagnosis.

"Last January 9th the official diagnosis was he had autism," says Chris.

"We knew in our hearts he was more than likely autistic, but when you hear the words and see it on paper, it's very emotional," says Dawn.

An emotional adjustment for every member of the Martin family. 4-year-old Ethan is the youngest of three boys. 16-year-old Dillan and 6-year-old Colby are his big brothers.

"There are times they don't understand why he does certain things, none of us do," says Dawn.

That uncertainty has mom and dad, or Dawn and Chris on a mission for answers about autism.

"Just to say hey, this is your son, go home and enjoy him, that wasn't good enough for me. I had to find out what was going on," says Chris.

For starters, they wanted to find out what could have caused Ethan's autism.

"His immune system I believe is low and through the intervention of vaccines and other elements in the world, we have no control over affected him," says Chris.

Unable to control the past, the Martins are now looking at ways to hopefully reverse the affects of the autism.

"Research, what we needed to do to think outside the box," says Chris.

That "outside the box" approach took them outside of Iowa, and even compelled Chris to resign from work and devote his days to research.

"We just want to do what's best for him. We want to be able to talk to him and have him talk back," says Dawn.

Have him carry on a conversation with the rest of the family. Right now, Ethan only says about five words.

"He says mom and dad...sorry I get emotional," says Dawn.

Just as emotional is Ethan's inability to focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes. As is common in kids with autism, Ethan's always on the go. Tonight's routine is typical. He sees a few scenes in front of the T.V. Next, he parks it at the play-dough station for a quick moment with mom. Then he bolts for his bouncing routine.

"He's just another kid, he's special," says Dillan Martin.

A special gift giving this family reason to battle the disorder and seek out unconventional treatments. But they believe their fight is for every child with autism.

Monday night on the TV 9 News at ten, we'll tell you where the Martin's research has led them, what treatments Ethan is using, and what advice they have for other families. Also Monday night after the 10 pm newscast, join Chris and Dawn for a live web chat. Just go to kcrg dot com and click on the live chat icon.

The Martin family would like to thank their family and friends who have helped them get through the initial period of research and trying to find answers about autism.

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