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Special Report, Part Two: A Family's Fight Against Autism

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CEDAR RAPIDS - One Cedar Rapids family is facing a fight many think is unbeatable. Their youngest son has autism, but the family is not calling it quits on his condition. Rather, they're challenging the disorder to a duel, a duel the Martin family believes it can win. They think a low immune system, a childhood vaccine and environmental conditions contributed to Ethan's autism. Knowing they can't change the past, this family is now putting together a game plan to hopefully defeat the disorder.

If the Martin family had one wish, one hope, the youngest child, 4-year-old Ethan, would live without autism. After months of research, they're convinced that hope can happen.

"You do learn it's treatable, are children coming out of autism, and living normal lives," says Dawn Martin, Ethan's mother.

For Ethan, the road to recovery starts at Hoover Elementary School, where he spends five full days with other autistic children. While Ethan's learning in the classroom, his parents, Dawn and Chris, are doing their work at home. Chris quit his job just to research autism.

"You have to fight for these kids," says Chris.

It's a fight that took the Martin family all the way to Missouri.

"Unfortunately we had to go outside the state of Iowa to find the right medical doctor," says Chris.

A costly doctor not covered under their insurance plan, but one that specializes in the disorder affecting Ethan and his classmates.

"A DAN doctor stands for defeat autism now," says Chris.

Now they're spending thousands of dollars simply to see inside Ethan's body.

"This is basically the make-up of how his body is working on the cellular level," says Chris.

Pages of information indicating Ethan's acidic levels, as well as a nutritional evaluation.

"We've had some lab work done, blood drawn, urine testing," says Dawn.

Tests to figure out what toxins are in his body, toxins the Martins, with help from the DAN doctor are trying to get out of Ethan's system.

"There's like 9 or 10 different supplements he takes," says Chris.

"We use Epsom salt in his bath," says Dawn.

"He had to go to a gluten-free, casein-free diet," says Chris.

Also on the list are antibiotics and shots. It's a rigorous routine for a four-year-old who doesn't even know what it's all for.

"It's pretty overwhelming," says Chris.

But Ethan's parents say the process is paying off.

"He's becoming more social with people he does know, so we're seeing improvements," says Dawn.

Improvements the Martins say take family time and teamwork.

"You have to start doing research, talking to other parents who have autistic children," says Dawn.

And because there's different degrees of the disorder, the Martins believe it's best to custom fit a plan for each child.

"You just have to try different things and see what works best for your child," says Dawn.

For Ethan, the battle is just beginning, but the Martins hope that road ends in Ethan's favor.

"I do think we are going to get there, take time and patience but do think we're going to get there," says Dawn.

Get that wish, that hope, the Martin family made for Ethan....a life without autism.

The majority of the scientific community does not believe there is a link between autism and vaccines. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics says while gluten and casein free diets are popular, the effect on children with autism is not clear and it says more studies are needed. While non-traditional methods of treatment are gaining in popularity, doctors urge parents to work with a child's pediatrician in conjunction with such efforts.