Here is short article about Sally Rogers' Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). Children with autism who are not typcially diagnosed until age 2.5 can stagnate and miss fertile developmental opportunities. In fact, we know how to diagnose at much earlier ages (there are at least two methods for making a diagnosis at 6 months) and so have a window of opportunity to work with children at a much earlier age.
Dr. Rogers and her colleagues have developed an intense program that combines Play, Behavioral Therapy and Relationship Therapy to help children make gains at 18 months. Her team at the Mind Institute in Sacramento is seeing tremendous results that include speach gains. In fact, 90-95% of children coming through the Mind Institute's program begin speaking at age 3 - 3.5.
Here is the transcript of a PBS interview with Dr. Rogers.