The story

The Bilson family is like many other families: three kids, a cat, and a small, lovely home with lots of family photos and carved wooden wall signs with sayings like "Live, Laugh, Love."

But step inside their house after 4 p.m. most weekdays and you'll want to cover your ears because of the noise -- the screaming, to be exact. These are not the shouts of sibling rivalry or parental annoyance. This is the high-pitched, ear-shattering sound of a 13-year-old girl. More accurately, it is the sound of a frustrated, irritated, very loud teenager with autism.

Marissa, the middle Bilson child, was diagnosed with autism when she was a toddler. Her mother, Mary, a nurse, knew something wasn't right early on, when young Marissa's tantrums were off the charts and seemingly unwarranted.

But during the first few years, doctors told Mary Bilson that her daughter was fine and this behavior would eventually pass. They were wrong on both counts.

Marissa's behavior has not passed; it has, in fact, become worse. According to Bilson, Marissa and her tantrums rule the household. "I don't want to hear her screaming and tantruming, so we pretty much let her do what she wants," Bilson says. "We" means Mary, her husband, John, and their two other children, Brittany, 15, and 6-year-old Brendan. Read full article »

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