AUSTIN, Texas — Little by little, Carter Phelps is learning. The 21-month-old is connecting with his parents in ways he never has before.

"There are certain milestones you sort of expect the child to reach such as gesturing and drawing attention," said his mother, Christina Phelps.

Carter was not reaching them. Two months ago he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 

"No parent wants to know that their child has a neurological disorder that really impairs communication and socialization, so we’re just lucky to have all these resources," she said.

One of those resources is Project SKILLS at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin. The free, 8-week program pairs parents with clinicians, who teach them how to teach their children language and communication skills.

"We just had a little breakthrough while we were playing with him. My husband was able to elicit a two-word prompt or phrase from him," Christina Phelps said. "He was able to say 'More, Dada.'" 

"It has been really helpful in being able to communicate and interact with him and have him less frustrated," said Christina's husband, Evan Phelps.

Armed with new strategies, these families are envisioning a brighter future for their kids.

"He’s still your son and you love him and you just keep following that path, it might be a little bit different, but you just look forward," Evan Phelps said.

"It’s going to get better, there's hope out there and things can be very bright for your little one," Christina Phelps said.

Last year, Project Skills helped 100 families across Texas. This year, UT is hoping to reach even more, especially with the expanded online training. Therapy is also available in different languages.

For more information contact or call (512) 471-2014.