San Antonio medical experts are uniting to improve treatments for children diagnosed with autism.
"She's very creative, caring, intelligent…she's my angel. She's a blessing. She is a blessing," said Pamela Nueman when describing her daughter Rachel. "Her birthday, she's 9 and a half years old, cognitively about 4 or 5.
Nueman said early on she noticed her daughter was missing her milestones.
"My mother had asked me when Rachel was like 11 months old, 'Rachel doesn't smile, does she?' I just started crying," she said.
At four, Rachel was diagnosed with Duplication 15 Q.
"It's a very rare genetic disorder, and underneath that most of the children have autism," Neuman said.
From there, she did her homework to get Rachel help.
Thanks to a joint initiative between UTSA, the Children's Hospital of San Antonio, and the Autism Treatment Center - Rachel and other kids are getting help while helping, too.
The San Antonio Applied Behavior Analysis Project allows students and hospital residents to cross-train for a more complete view of autism treatment.
Studies suggest 1 in 79 people in San Antonio are on the autism spectrum.
"So that's a huge amount of our childhood population here. We're working really hard to match our quick diagnosis of these children with rapid treatment in these behavior programs so we can improve their behaviors and help them get better without medications if possible," said Melissa Svoboda, M.D.
"If they're really into Thomas the Train, we talk about Thomas the Train. If they're really into trampoline, we spend a lot of time on the trampoline," said UTSA Assistant Professor Leslie Neely.
Here, it's all about the individual. Just as no two kids are the same, neither are two cases.
"The struggles and challenges these children face are a huge spectrum as well," Svoboda said.
"The earlier we can intervene with these children, the better chances they have for going into typical kindergarten for getting a job when they graduate, for being able to function in society," Neely said.
As for Rachel, all the extra help at home and in school seems to be paying off.
"She's going on the potty. We are doing the potty dance. (These are) things that we took for granted in general period," Neuman said.
Pamela says those things that mark improvement can't always be measured or recorded, but instead seen and felt.
"I want joy for her. I want her to just be happy. I want her to take as much as she can from life, the positive," Neuman said.
Along with the studies that suggest 1 in 79 people in San Antonio alone fall on the autism spectrum, other research indicates that Hispanic children are another one of the fastest growing populations for autism disorders.
Experts say they believe it's not because there are more incidents, but that this particular group has been under-diagnosed in the past.