This Picture Gives Hope to All Parents of Autistic Children; Mum's Joy as Miracle Treatment Transforms Danielle and Shaun.(News)

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DANIELLE and Shaun McLernon cuddle up, giggling, as they pose for our picture. "See those smiles," says mum Sue, "Those are miracles."

Incredibly, a little over three years ago, Danielle and Shaun were living in their own autistic world, completely unresponsive to those around them.

Now Danielle, 10, takes classes in a mainstream school and even attends Brownies - unheard of for a child who once could not interact with other children.

In fact, to look at her, no one would suspect there was anything wrong with this vibrant young girl.

Shaun, 13, whose concentration span was once zero, enjoys doing 200-piece jigsaws and listening to CDs like any other teenage boy.

Their progress is thanks to Son-Rise, a programme developed in America by the parents of an autistic child who were told he had no hope of a normal life.

That boy, Raun Kaufman, is now 29 and a graduate of biomedical ethics at an Ivy League university. He is coming to Scotland this week to deliver a lecture on the treatment which transformed his life.

His parents came up with a series of exercises in stimulation that began with copying his repetitive behaviour, such as spinning plates on the floor. This let them to enter his world and gradually draw him out.

Raun is what every parent of a special needs child dreams of - but doesn't dare hope for. He has made a full recovery and has no trace of autism.

The founders of the Autism Treatment Center of America, the Kaufmans and their staff teach Son-Rise to parents and carers from across the world.

They don't promise miracles and some respond better than others, but most improve.

There has been a record 22 per cent rise in autism among Scots primary school children in just one year.

In total, 653 Scots children were found to have developed the condition in 2001.

It is the third most prevalent developmental disorder in the world, more common than Down's Syndrome. Danielle and Shaun's improvements came about after a trip to the Son-Rise centre in America.

Sue, 39, of Leith, Edinburgh, a secretary for Hibs junior members club, was distraught when first Shaun, then Danielle, were diagnosed autistic at just four years old.

Apart from being provided with a speech therapist, and advice on special schools, Sue was given little information and no reason to hope that her children could ever do what other kids their age could.

"I was told it was unlikely Shaun would ever read or write," says Sue, who is separated from the children's father Greg.

Shaun made little eye contact. Danielle none whatsoever. …