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Compassion and Confidence

Reaching the Child with Autism

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bigstock-Autism-symbol-design-isolated--34107074CJ will interview Dr. Suzanne Goh and Susan Deland on the Spectacular Bond Program developed by faculty at Columbia University.  You’ll get information on a unique home-based, parent-led behavioral intervention designed for children with autism, where parents are seeing results in a few weeks.



Show Summary

  • Segment 1: An introduction to Autism and its diagnosis, symptoms and causes.
  • Segment 2: Developing an effective treatment plan.  What is a rational approach in developing a treatment plan? Who should you reach out to?
  • Segment 3: A high level look at the Spectacular Bond Program and why it targets 2-6 year old. What kinds of changes you can expect in a 3 mos period, and why?
  • Segment 4: What are realistic expectations for parents with autistic children? How does the Spectacular Bond program differ from other programs out there?

Video from the Spectacular Bond Program

Blog Post


 Susan DelandTODAY contributor

Susan Deland and daughter Diane

Courtesy of Susan Deland
Susan Deland and daughter Diane

I took my 13-year-old daughter, Diane, to a Chinese restaurant the other day for lunch. We usually go to the take-out place in our town, but this time we went to the fancier sit-down place that we had never been to before.

Several years ago, I would never have attempted such an outing. The potential for disaster was too great. Diane is on the autism spectrum, and for much of her early life, outings were fraught with tantrums or meltdowns, either because she wanted to be left alone or because she couldn’t handle the assault on her senses that so many places gave her.

Since then, her progress has been amazing, and new experiences are now opportunities for fun and enjoyment.

We walked into the serene restaurant where an enormous tank of koi fish was close to some of the tables. Expecting Diane to be afraid of them, I started to choose a table far from that tank, but she asked to sit at the table nearby. She was mesmerized watching the fish, and she also respected the sign that read, “Please Do Not Touch.”

The waitress brought over a pot of Chinese tea and two little cups and saucers. I said, “I would love to have some tea,” and waited. Diane picked up the pot by its handle and poured us both some tea. It was fragile, heavy, and steaming — difficult for just about anyone to maneuver, and particularly difficult for someone like Diane who has problems with motor movements and coordination. But she handled it ever so carefully without a spilled drop.

The meal progressed with shared steamed shrimp and vegetables and a delightful conversation about family plans, school field trips, and Diane’s favorite Katy Perry songs.

At the end of the meal, the waitress brought us fortune cookies. Diane started to eat her cookie, and the slip of paper fell out. She picked it up and read:

Things usually do not happen overnight. It takes time and hard work.

Hearing that message read so deftly by my daughter — after having finished such a lovely lunch date — was a dream come true.

I closed my eyes and cupped the warm teacup in my hands. I gave a silent prayer of thanks for this remarkable progress.

On the way home I thought about the first steps that we had taken back in 2003 that set us on this path to success. We’d had the incredible good fortune to have a sister-in-law in the medical profession in New York who steered us to Columbia University for Diane’s initial diagnosis and treatment. It was there that we were introduced to Dr. Marion Blank, and her behavior program for young children on the autism spectrum. It is this program, now known as Spectacular Bond, that helped me to become a more effective parent for Diane and for Diane to emerge from her isolation.

At age 3, Diane never responded when I called her name or had any interest in doing things with me. She would chew on a stiff rubber dog toy to calm herself. She would knock over her brother’s Lego creations when she barreled into his room in a frenzy of over-stimulation or anger. Her muscle tone was so weak that she had trouble descending stairs. Through the Spectacular Bond program, I developed a new parenting relationship with Diane, and she began to feel much more calm, to look at us, to sit quietly at the dinner table, and to seek us out for guidance. Over time, she developed friendships, engaged in group activities, and had learned to read at the age of 4. The happiness quotient for our whole family grew exponentially.

A word about koi fish. I happen to be strongly attracted to them too and recently found this description of them:

“The Japanese associate koi with perseverance in adversity. Because of its strength and determination to overcome obstacles, it stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals.”

Coincidence that Diane and I feel an attraction to koi fish? Not at all.

Susan Deland is the mother of 14-year-old Alex and 13-year-old Diane, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Susan is co-author of the new book, Spectacular Bond: Reaching the Child with Autism, with Dr. Marion Blank and Dr. Suzanne Goh. 

About our Guests

suzanne gohSuzanne Goh, M.D., is a pediatric neurologist and neuroscience researcher. She has served as Associate Research Scientist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology in the Division of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University. She is former Co-Director of the Columbia University Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program for Autism and Related Disorders. Her research focuses on metabolic disturbances in autism and on the use of brain imaging to identify differences in brain circuits in autism. A Rhodes Scholar, she graduated from Harvard University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. She has published research articles in numerous journals, including Neurology, Annals of Neurology, Pediatric Neurology, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, and Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.


Susan DelandSusan Deland is the mother of 13-year-old Diane and 14-year-old Alex. She is a Certified Public Accountant and has had a career in finance in New York City. Diane was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of three. After that diagnosis, Susan’s primary focus was on finding and implementing the interventions that would give Diane the best chance at a rewarding future. This led her to Dr. Blank and the Spectacular Bond program.