Long term follow up: An interview with a formerly autistic child

Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci was diagnosed with severe autism and retardation before she began Reflective Network Therapy (RNT), three decades ago, at age three. RNT was then called The Cornerstone Therapeutic Preschool Method or simply “Cornerstone.”

In this video of a follow up interview with Gilbert Kliman, MD, Dorian remembers feelings, images and concerns she had as an autistic child and the unique treatment that helped unlock her potential. She recovered from near total emotional isolation to become emotionally rich and empathic. Today Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci is a successful professional writer, happily married and raising two daughters. She has no symptoms of autism.

Part 1

Part 2

Reflective Network Therapy commonly produces marked IQ rises, averaging 12 to 24 points. Dorian is one of over sixty well-studied preschoolers treated by Reflective Network Therapy who have been followed and shown to have sustained IQ rises and mental health gains. Dorian’s IQ rose from untestable at age three years to 80 at six years and then continued to rise. When tested at age 12, Dorian’s IQ was 149.

Over the last four decades, the Reflective Network Therapy in-classroom method has been applied by at least two dozen teams of teachers and therapists with more than 1,500 preschoolers in a broad range of community settings, including private therapeutic preschools, public school special education and homeless shelter classrooms.

Dorian credits her recovery from autism to Reflective Network Therapy:

Now that I’m an adult, it’s almost funny to tell people that I was once diagnosed as autistic. They always look at me incredulously. “You, autistic?” they ask. “What kind of quacks were these doctors?!” Once I tell them the story of how Dr. Gilbert Kliman and the Cornerstone [Reflective Network Therapy] staff helped me to recover and become a happy, thriving child and adult, they’re moved beyond belief, especially the parents of children diagnosed with autism.
As I remember it, Cornerstone’s treatment style focused on giving each child many experiences of being thought about, talked about, and invited to process emotional and verbal communications about himself or herself. The children’s playtime is interpreted by the doctors and described to the teachers and child by the child’s therapist when the twenty-minute session is over. Often a parent is present, and participates in the treatment. That way, a series of reflections occurs, often with a lot of emotional content that the child has to learn to process. This may be especially good for autistic children, who need lots of practice in processing emotions.
The method may be a powerful means of rehabilitating children with autism spectrum disorders, since their difficulties result from their brains responding to interpersonal stimuli by avoiding emotions rather than feeling and processing them. I know it worked for me, and I wholeheartedly recommend the method for treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

—Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci