Return to Transcripts main page


Fire In Ocean Isle Beach/Autism: Groundbreaking Development

Aired October 29, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, did seven college students have to die?
The latest on the inferno that has two university campuses, a beach town and countless families engulfed in grief.

Plus, autism -- there's a groundbreaking development. One in 150 children has the disease and now a fighting chance. A report just out today tells you what the warning signs are and how to see them in your child.

Could this vital advance and early treatment lead to a cure?

Holly Robinson Peete, Gary Cole and John Schneider -- who have children with autism -- are here with me on what it all means to parents around the world, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Tragedy tops the news. Seven students died over the weekend when their beach house in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, caught fire. Six of the students were from the University of South Carolina. The seventh attended Clemson. Six other students managed to escape in time.

With us, a reporter for WIS. She's in Ocean Beach -- Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, Jennifer Wilson.

In Columbia, South Carolina is Jay Laura, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of South Carolina. Some of the students who perished were affiliated with this and a campus sorority.

And Joseph Muscarella, a friend of one of the victims, who, unfortunately, passed away. Jennifer, what's the latest on this?

What do we know?

JENNIFER WILSON, REPORTER, WIS-TV, OCEAN ISLE BEACH: Well, Larry, behind us you can see the house where the fire happened. Tonight, we're learning more about where the fire may have started. Investigators think it may have started in the back of the house, possibly on a back deck. But we don't yet know a cause for a fire. That could be several days away from now. We do know that 13 college students were staying this house over the weekend -- what was supposed to be a fun getaway at the beach. Neighbors said they heard them having a party on Saturday night. But early Sunday morning they woke up to the sound of sirens, looked out their windows and saw the whole house engulfed in flames.

One neighbor says he was very scared when he saw that because he knew there were college students in there. And looking at that fire, he didn't think everyone was going to be able to get out OK.

When it was all over, seven students were dead -- six from the University of South Carolina, one from Clemson University. But, also, six students survived, including two young men that jumped out of windows to escape and one guy who jumped out of a third floor window all the way into the waterway, which is next to this house -- Larry.

KING: Now, Jennifer, viewing film of it, it seemed to sweep through so quickly.

WILSON: It absolutely did. No one saw the fire start because of the time of day. But you're looking right now at the front of the house, which is very much a shadow of its former self. The back of the house is much more devastated. There's just foundation left, framework, much more charred. But you can tell that the fire did sweep through all of the house. And we think that the students, at the time the fire broke out, were probably sleeping because it was very early in the morning.

KING: Right.

WILSON: Also, in the driveway here, very sad -- the cars of the students who were here just like they had left them. Some of them have Delta Delta Delta sorority stickers on them. Some of the young women who died were members of the Tri Delta Sorority. We've also learned that some of the young men who died were members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

KING: Right.

Jay Laura, of that fraternity, is this a common place for South Carolina kids to go?

JAY LAURA, STUDENT BODY VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: Actually, Larry, we normally concentrate ourselves in the South Myrtle Beach area. Ocean Isle is located in the North Myrtle Beach area. But I've been vacationing over the summer for about 10 to 11 years with a family that I had gotten to know in Charlotte.

KING: What's the attraction?

LAURA: The attraction is Myrtle Beach. And it's also, it's the nature, for people our age. Ocean Isle is a nice relaxing beach community away from the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach, but you're also offered the opportunity to go into town, if you will, if you'd like to do that.

KING: And you say you've done that, right, Jay?

You've gone there?

LAURA: Yes, I've vacationed at Ocean Isle Beach. It's a great place.

KING: Did you ever have a fire fear?

LAURA: No. I've rented multiple houses there with the families that I've been with before and never have I felt in fear of an accident to this magnitude occurring.

KING: Have you spoken to members of your fraternity?

LAURA: Oh, yes, sir. Our fraternity is very strong in our brotherhood. And when incidents like this occur, our first respect is to go to the families and to the members affected most directly. That being said, as fraternity brothers, we are all affected greatly by disasters like this. And I just want all the families that have been directly affected to know that our hearts and prayers are with them and that the University of South Carolina community and SAE is gathering behind them in a large manner.

KING: Did you visit any of the family members?

LAURA: I haven't had the opportunity to. I was in the upstate of South Carolina on Sunday morning when I received the news and realized my responsibility is back in Columbia. Where the University of South Carolina is located, is where I needed to be.

KING: Joseph Muscarella, we understand you lost a friend in the fire.

Is that correct?


KING: And we're not revealing the name because not all of the kin -- the family kin -- have been informed.

Is that true?

MUSCARELLA: Yes, sir. The names have not been released of anybody yet.

KING: Of anybody?


How were you informed?

MUSCARELLA: By word of mouth, through a mutual friend.

KING: How close a friend was this?

MUSCARELLA: She was somebody that I had taken a course with together and had mutually co-existing friends and had gone out to eat with and had gone to different events together with from time to time.

KING: Did you know she was going on this vacation? MUSCARELLA: Yes, I did.

KING: I'm sorry, I didn't hear your answer.

MUSCARELLA: Yes, sir, I did.

KING: So you did know they were going?


KING: What do you do at a time like this, Joseph?

Do you visit her family?

MUSCARELLA: I -- I wasn't close enough to the point where I would ever want to visit her family, because I didn't know her that personally. And it's not -- it's not my spot. I wasn't a person who would want to deliver any kind of news. It would be something that I would go later on down the road and express sympathy. I believe it's very important for everybody's family to have a time to themselves and a time to each other, to grieve on their own and to not be bothered by any -- any sort of media, any people that weren't truly close and that the family truly knew very, very well.

KING: Was school open today?

MUSCARELLA: Yes, it was.

LAURA: Yes, sir.

KING: Jay, I understand you want to tell me something.

LAURA: Yes, sir...

KING: I keep hearing three people talking at once, so it's hard for me to concentrate.

Go ahead.

LAURA: I have a statement here from the president of the Delta Delta sorority. As was previously mentioned, there was people involved. It states: "There are no words to express the devastation we feel for our fellow students and sisters affected by this tragedy. Out of respect for the families and friends of victims who are grieving this incredible loss, we are focusing our efforts internally and are coming together to support one another through these grave circumstances. On behalf of Tri Delta, I'd like to thank everyone from the community and beyond who has offered their generous thoughts and prayers. Lauren Hodge, Delta Delta Delta chapter president at the University of South Carolina."

KING: Thanks for reading that to us.

And, Joe, thanks for being with us and offering those excellent thoughts.

Jennifer will remain.

So will Jay.

And we'll talk with Chief Robert Yoho, the fire chief of Ocean Isle Beach, and Debbie Smith, the mayor.

That's next.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is scarring. You know, you're going to remember that house. I'll always remember that house burning.



KING: Welcome back to more, as we look at this tragedy that occurred in North Carolina.

Joining us is a reporter for "The State" newspaper, Bertram Rantin.

What have you learned, Bert?

What comes to light today?

BERTRAM RANTIN, REPORTER, "THE STATE," COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I spent a good part of my day, Larry, on the USC campus. My job was to go out and gauge student reaction and those around the campus. And it was obviously somber -- some more affected than others, like the two students you just heard from. But there was really no place you could go on the USC campus where it wasn't evident that people were feeling this loss, even in some areas where people were trying to resume normal activities. For example, at USC, in the Russell House, students were picking up their USC tickets for the upcoming Florida game. But just around the corner, another group of students were huddled around a TV watching news accounts. So it really was everywhere you went.

KING: Jay, were you surprised there were classes today?

LAURA: No. I'm of the belief -- and I'm the student body vice president, also, so I know the administration very well. And I believe they're of the belief that we have to maintain business as usual and that's the best way to get through a grieving process is take necessary time to make sure that the families know that we're with them and then get back to normal business. That's the way we do things here in Columbia.

KING: Jennifer, is there any thought yet or any guess yet as to cause?

WILSON: Larry, right now they say the cause may take a few days to determine. We do know that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have been here looking into that.

So far, all we know is an idea of where the fire may have started. They think the back of the house, possibly near a back deck. But we are waiting to hear more about the cause.

KING: Bertram, have you heard anything with regard to the investigation?

RANTIN: No more than what Jennifer has told you, is that it's believed to be accidental. But we're still waiting to get details, as they will surely come down the road. But the emphasis of our coverage, like at USC, has been focusing on those students and others in the community who are dealing with this right now, because the details will take care of themselves. But at this point, we really don't know much more.

KING: The campus mood pretty bleak?

RANTIN: Absolutely. You walk around campus and you see people -- you don't have the normal smiles on their faces that you see and people are on cell phones and you can kind of pick up on the chatter. And, at the same time, people are doing the best they can just to try to resume -- you know, not resume, but to carry on their normal lives. You see people throwing frisbees in the common area and consoling each other. But, clearly, those who were affected directly and even those who were not affected directly, they're feeling this. But this is a very caring community and people tend to respond to tragedy, even when it's not their own tragedy, to help those who are going through it. So I expect that's what Columbia will do.

KING: Here's the 911 call -- there may have been others, but here's one that we got that was placed reporting this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brunswick County 911.

What is your emergency?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see if I can help these people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you get the fire department here?


What's the address, sir? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure. Scotland Street. They'll see it.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, wait a minute. I need something better than that. I'm not familiar with the area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I'm looking for an address.


What's wrong?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I didn't know that, sir. You didn't tell me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be Unit 1, Ocean Isle Beach. House Number 1, Scotland Street.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is anybody there, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you ask anybody if they can give me an address?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trapped in the house, lady.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, sir. I mean you're telling me.

But how can I send somebody if I don't know where to go?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I told you, the address is Number One Scotland Street, Ocean Isle Beach.


KING: One of the -- I think -- what would you call that, one of the weakest 911 calls?

Boy. What we have here is a lack of communication.

Anyway, Jennifer Wilson, where do we go from here?

Do you expect a full investigation?

WILSON: Of course. We are waiting to find out more about the cause of the fire. Also, the names of all the victims have not been released yet. They also have to identify the bodies of the victims. They are at the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill. And once that happens, they are going to see -- on the University of South Carolina campus -- if families would like, there will be a memorial service on the USC campus. And people from here in Ocean Isle Beach say they would like to attend the memorial service and pay their respects to those students.

We've been camped out here for two days now. We've seen a number of people from Ocean Isle Beach come by, take a look at the house. And a lot of them are parents themselves and they said they knew there were college students in this house and said it could have been anyone's child in this house.

KING: Yes.

WILSON: And so they said they're grieving right along with these families and send their condolences to the families.

KING: Thank you, Jennifer Wilson and Bertram Rantin, and, also, our friend from the -- Jay Laura from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon, who has a certain leadership role to play.

And when we come back, encouraging news for parents of toddlers who might have autism.

Holly Robinson Peete, actor Gary Cole and performer John Schneider, along with some experts. We'll talk about it next.


KING: Welcome back.

Help could be on the way for moms and dads who have worried their child may have autism. Two groundbreaking reports that could help diagnose it earlier were released today by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group is making its strongest push ever to have all kids screened for autism by age two. It also details warning signs that parents should watch for, the goals and earlier diagnosis, and more effective treatment.

There is no cure for autism, but experts say an early treatment can lessen its severity.

Our panel members are Gary Cole, the multi-talented film and TV actor. His teenage daughter, Mary, was diagnosed with autism when she was 18 months old.

Dr. Ricki Robinson, M.D., pediatrician, founding member of Autism Speaks, co-founder and director of the Descano Medical Center for Development and Learning.

Holly Robinson Peete -- a return visit for Holly, the actress. Her oldest son, R.J., diagnosed with autism in the year 2000, when he was three. She and her husband, the former NFL quarterback, Rodney Peete, went public with their son's story this summer. She is founder of the HollyRod Foundation.

John Schneider, the actor and singer. He performed the national anthem before last night's NASCAR race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. His teenaged son, Chasen, has Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form or a part of the autism spectrum.

And in Boston is Nancy Wiseman, the founder and president of First Signs, a nonprofit national organization dedicated to educating parents and professionals about the early warning signs of autism, the author of the book "Could It Be Autism?: A Parent's Guide to the First Signs and Next Steps."

Nancy, what do you make of this report?

NANCY WISEMAN, AUTHOR, "COULD IT BE AUTISM?": Larry, I think it's very exciting news. I think this is a long time coming.

I'm very excited that the American Academy of Pediatrics is now publishing strong pediatric guidelines. This is something that's been needed for a long time and we need to do.

KING: You're the doctor on the panel, Dr. Robinson.

What do you make of it?

DR. RICKI ROBINSON, DECANSO MEDICAL CENTER, MEDICAL ADVISER, AUTISM SPEAKS: Well, I'm also very excited by this. This really will open up a whole new era in the identification and treatment of children with autism. It calls for universal screening of all children two times before the age of two, at 18 months and 24 months. But even more critical than that, autism, at its core, is a severe developmental delay that is characterized by the inability for relating and communicating. And the report asks all pediatricians now, at very early ages, for all kids, to look for those signs.

KING: It won't help all parents, Gary.

Won't help you, this report.

GARY COLE, DAUGHTER HAS AUTISM: Well, maybe not, you know, in the traditional fashion. But what it does do is, it opens -- it shines a light on and opens the door to early detection and early intervention which is...

KING: Which will help others.

COLEMAN: ...which is -- yes. And which is very critical, because the earlier that anything having to do with the spectrum disorder can be identified, the more effective the treatment is.

KING: Holly, it's not going to help your boy.

HOLLY ROBINSON PEETE, SON R.J. HAS AUTISM: No, it isn't. I'm extremely encouraged by this report, but it's so long in coming that it almost makes me a little frustrated.

KING: Why?

Because they should have known this before?

ROBINSON PEETE: Oh, this is so -- I'm not trying to be the Debbie Downer on the panel, but I'm just saying this is so long over due. And I'm also just thrilled that a parent right now, thinking their child might have some of these issues they say to watch for, may now get respect, because we spent a year when my son was two trying to convince my doctor there something was wrong. And that's a year that we lost in a crucial window of time in early intervention.


KING: John?

JOHN SCHNEIDER, SON JASON HAS ASPERGER'S SYNDROME: Well, I think that -- that perhaps it will help -- Chasen is 15 years old. He's a great guy. He was diagnosed in San Antonio. San Antonio is mentioned in here -- by a pediatrician. Dr. Frosty noticed chase was either not interested or unable to tell the difference between the red balloon or the yellow balloon. And he said you need to -- you need to take Chasen and him checked for autism.

And, of course, that was -- we thought, oh, my gosh, this is terrible. But with this report, with this sort of screening going on, I think that perhaps people 15-years-old might not be looked upon as being quite so strange as they may have.

KING: Let's run down the red flags that the research indicates the child may have. And maybe the parents could comment, and Nancy and the doctor, as well.

We'll put them up on the screen.

No babbling or pointing by 12 months.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, pointing especially.

KING: No single words by 16 months.




KING: All these (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Unless it's echolalia...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...which, they'll repeat words.

ROBINSON: Right. What you're looking for are meaningful words -- words that are used for a purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Hungry -- they want some hunger.

KING: No brief phrases by 24 months.


ROBINSON PEETE: Yes. And I would also add that there were some gastrointestinal issues with my son -- you know, a bloated belly and he was having trouble sleeping, as well.

KING: And...

COLE: And some of these milestones -- I just wanted to point out -- in our case, was that -- that they could have been -- she was achieving some of them and then lost them.

KING: Oh...


COLE: So that's also a possibility to look for.

ROBINSON: Yes. A huge red flag is any loss of any language or the ability to interact at any age.

KING: Yes, that's the fourth thing -- loss of language or social skills.

COLE: Yes, that's a big one.



KING: All right.

We have a video we're going to show. When it comes to detecting autism in a child, it's more effective to show rather than tell. We'll look at a video of a typical child. This is from the Web site,




Mmm. Oh, for Big Bird. He likes that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, so that's for mom, too.


Mmm. Oh, for Big Bird.


KING: Nancy Wiseman, that child -- what was the matter with that child?

WISEMAN: Well, if you look -- I didn't get to see the video clip, so Ricki may...

KING: It looked normal to me.


WISEMAN: ...Ricki may have to comment on that, because I didn't see the clip.

KING: All right.

Ricki saw the clip.

It looked normal to me.

ROBINSON: That was a typical child.

WISEMAN: OK. All right.

ROBINSON: So what you notice


KING: That was an autism child?

ROBINSON: That was a typical child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a typical child.

ROBINSON: So what you notice in that is the child's ability to interact in a very non-verbal way.

KING: That was a typical -- I see.


KING: I thought it was an autism child.

WISEMAN: Larry, what we have -- First Signs developed this autism video glossary in collaboration with...

KING: I've got it.

WISEMAN: cooperation with Autism Speaks and Florida State University.

KING: All right. Now -- I see. I led into it wrong by saying -- here's the follow up tape of an autism child. And we will see the difference.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, time to eat. Here, mom, I'm going to give you some and you can just model eating. And I'm going to take this away, just so that it may not be as much of a distraction.




Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp.


KING: John just said familiar.

What's familiar?

SCHNEIDER: What's familiar is that -- that little fellow is not -- is not aware of anything except what he's focused on. You could see repeatedly the parent or the people around him trying to get his attention with different things, and he was focused only on the bowl.

When someone tried to take the bowl and replace it with a block, he grabbed the bowl and put it back down.

And why this is so important is later on, as children, it's fairly obvious. But if you don't detect this and you don't do something about this and teach children social skills, there could be a perfectly wonderful -- it usually is a perfectly wonderful, incredibly bright human being in there. But the signals that they're giving as they're 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 are that they're mean or they're uninterested or they are just sometimes nasty people who are socially misdiagnosed over and over and over again. And that leads to a very bad life for someone who just has something that should have been -- could have been addressed when they were two.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll pick up in a minute.

Back with more on autism. As we go to break, Jenny McCarthy talks about her son's autism diagnosis from her appearance here last month.


JENNY MCCARTHY: Basically, what I noticed when I backtrack, at about 18 months or so, Evan started to have loss of eye contact, loss of speech, hand flapping -- a lot of hand flapping, social -- his social communication, he just didn't -- he didn't even notice his friends when they would come over and play. Those were the little tiny signs when I look back I saw developing.



KING: This groundbreaking report today on earlier detection of autism in which they are now suggesting every child, that's every child, be tested. Nancy Wiseman, are children with autism less bright?

WISEMAN: Absolutely not true. There are kids on the autism spectrum who are extraordinarily bright.

KING: So that's a misconception.

WISEMAN: Big misconception.

KING: When they get older, John --


KING: What happens to them in school?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they've learn how to express themselves. I found that many children with autism are -- they just have an inability to express themselves the way that we would like them to, the way that we understand it.

I've had Chasen early, early on when a teacher was calling one dinosaur by the wrong name, and he corrected him, but he didn't say, excuse me, sir, I think you meant to say a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He said, no, T-rex, which was abrupt. But he was right. He had processed the information and determined that it was incorrect. So he was not bright. He was just unable to say it in a way that was palatable for the teacher.

KING: Gary, what's the toughest part for the parent?

COLE: Well, I mean, early on, obviously, it's the not knowing where to turn and what this all means because it's such a -- you know, in a lot of ways it's an intangible and very murky condition that you're dealing with, and there's a lot of land mines ahead of you that you don't even know what to look for necessarily how to look for them.

But as -- that's why I was very fortunate, my wife and I were very fortunate that we did get early -- an early diagnosis and early treatment and she began to close those gaps. Over time, the progress she makes, that she made and still makes is amazing.

KING: What was hardest for you, Holly?

ROBINSON PEETE: Well, the hardest thing for me was having to navigate the diagnosis with my husband. I'm so glad to see some dads here because some of the dads get bad raps that they don't stick around and the divorce rate is so high.

KING: Really?

ROBINSON PEETE: Yeah, the divorce rate is at least 70 percent, 80 percent.

KING: Why?

ROBINSON PEETE: Because you're, like, losing your child in a lot of ways. There's a lot of blame that goes around. But the dads I know, there's two here who are fully engaged.

And my husband, you know, macho football player, his namesake, he's not going to be on the football field. There's a lot to deal with and grapple with.

But I think the hardest part is coming really now and trying to get the word out about other treatments that are out there. And I think the AAP, I'm so excited about this report. They said a couple other things in there about celebrity diets, and I think they were sort of talking about me and Jenny that I'd love to address at some point.

KING: Did they attack them?

ROBINSON PEETE: They did. Like we're pushing Trim Spa or something. This is not a celebrity-endorsed diet. I'm not getting any money to tell people what's worked for me.

KING: Did they say the diet was faulty?

ROBINSON PEETE: They said there's no proof. And I'd love them to come to my home and see proof. And I'd let them talk to hundreds of parents I know. And we're not talking about some insane diet. We're talking about removing some things that some children are sensitive to in their diet.

So I was a little disappointed with that part of it. And I feel like this report is great because essentially it says listen to the parents because we know. It's saying pay more attention to the parents. I think they need to take that a step further and possibly do some studies with families like ours.

KING: Dr. Robinson, do all pediatricians know how to treat it?

ROBINSON: I would say not yet. I think that all pediatricians are becoming very aware of autism being out there. But the good news about the report that came out was that there's two parts to it.

The first is on the identification, but the second is on the management. And in the management, it documents and outlines for the physician systematically how to put a program together and how to support the parents and what one needs to do to be a case manager to get the parents through and the family and the child through all of these different things.

And I will say - I want to answer, Holly, because I think it's a very important point. As pediatricians, the first thing we're taught is to listen to the parents. And I hear her story and I hear these stories every single day of my career. And I think that if we keep that attuned, that we listen to the parent, that we will be much more broad-based in our approaches.

And so we will start looking at the medical issues that she dealt so long, and it was such a long search for her. The good news is that with organizations like Autism Speaks out there, we're now funding research into the diet. We're going to know how to pick a diet.

ROBINSON PEETE: And that's good, there are 700 doctors that work for defeat autism now that do some amazing work.

KING: Nancy, do you agree diet is also part of the answer?

WISEMAN: I think diet can be an important part of a child's treatment program, but we have to remember that no two kids are alike. So each child has to be treated with an individual approach based on their unique profile. What works for one child may not work for another. I have a child who is on the spectrum also, and she has had intensive intervention from the time she was two with dietary and nutritional interventions, and it's worked exceedingly well with her.

KING: Let me get a break. Tomorrow night, the famed magician/illusionist Criss Angel will be with us. Thursday night, Jerry Seinfeld will be aboard. We'll be right back.


MCCARTHY: He was diagnosed at almost 3, but what really woke me up was the first seizure he had -- actually, the second seizure he had.

KING: They get seizures.

MCCARTHY: Almost 30 percent of children with autism suffer from seizures. So on top of autism, we have seizures, and it is debilitating. I mean, it still brings me to my knees, thinking about what Evan had to go to with the seizures. In one of the seizures, he went into cardiac arrest in front of me. His heart stopped.



KING: We're back. So much to learn about this. What's the autism spectrum?

ROBINSON: Well, autism is a disorder that is characterized by four main things. And the four things are a delay in the understanding and use of language; the delay in the development of typical social skills; having repetitive behaviors that get in the way of getting things done. And the fourth thing is having an unusual response to sensory stimuli. Now, a spectrum means that you have to have all four in order to be diagnosed. But how you're challenged in the different ones is how you get on the spectrum.

KING: Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman," that was not autism, was it?

ROBINSON: Yes, it was.

KING: A severe form.

ROBINSON: Actually, it was probably a more mild form because he had language, he was very high function. He had language, he had a savant skill.

KING: He kept repeating things.

ROBINSON: But he had many skills that in today's world we can use to help the kids grow.

KING: Singer Toni Braxton's youngest child has autism. Toni joined us on a show we did earlier this year. Gary Cole was with us then too. Toni got very emotional when Gary talked about his daughter's experiences in school. Watch.


KING: Toni, is it frustrating?

TONI BRAXTON, SINGER: Yes, as a parent sometimes it can be, because you want the best for your kid and you don't know what to do sometimes. When I heard of his daughter being in school, it made me so excited because I think of my little boy. He's in a special education program and I think of the road to recovery. And when you have kids, you just -- I want the best for him, so when I heard his story, it was so uplifting for me. So I thank you for that so much.


KING: It's good when you can help somebody.

COLE: Well, you know, I sat right where she was. You know, people did the same and had the same reaction to me. I think that snowball of people reaching out to each other that have had the same experience causes things like this to happen. So now we're getting a whole lot more information than we used to.

KING: Are there groups, parents groups?

ROBINSON: Oh, yeah.

COLE: All around there's parents groups. You can find them on the Internet.

ROBINSON PEETE: And I believe that we need to pay more attention to the parents groups because that's where I found out a pediatrician didn't tell me to have my child checked for allergies, for instance.

And that's how I found out that he was allergic to wheat. Never heard of a wheat allergy before. So we pulled him off of wheat, not because somebody said try this crazy controversial diet, but because he was actually allergic. By having him off wheat, his language opened up, his social skills opened up. It really helped.

Like the doctor said, it's not a one-size-fits-all scenario. And what might work for one child might, but I think it's important for the AAP to listen to doctors who have done research with these children for a long time.

KING: Anderson Cooper is off tonight. John King, our buddy, sits in for Anderson. He will host "A.C. 360". John, what's up?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, thank you. A fascinating program tonight - a "360" investigation has uncovered something every family should know. It's about a massive meat recall and what our investigation into the government's response uncovered. The stunning admission told first to "360." We're keeping them honest.

Also tonight, shocking charges against the clothing company The Gap. The retail giant accused of using child labor, kids as young as ten. We'll have new details on this disturbing story.

Also, new poll numbers from Iowa show some surprises may be in store. That's right, for the candidates we call the front-runners. "360" at the top of the hour. Now back to Larry.

KING: Thanks, John. That's John King, always on top of his game at 10:00 Eastern and 7:00 Pacific. We'll be right back.


KING: Coming up tomorrow night --


KING: Illusionist and world-famed stunt artist Criss Angel. You've got to see it to believe it. It's tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.



KING: We're back. We'll get in a couple calls. Pleasantville, Pennsylvania for Gary Cole, Dr. Ricki Robinson, Holly Robinson Peete, John Schneider and Nancy Wiseman. Hello.

CALLER: Hi yes, I was wondering if any of the panel has noticed a change in their children or, like, an advancement when they're around animals. We recently got a service dog for my son. He's three-years-old and it has made amazing differences. As soon as we got his dog, we started getting kisses and hugs that we never got before.

ROBINSON: We all agree.

KING: Yes, yes, yes, explain it.

SCHNEIDER: Well, there's an affection, somehow. We saw that video over there of the child, they put a puppy in there. I feel quite certain that the child would have identified with that puppy more than with the mother at that point. Then through that relationship, believe it or not, more readily relate with the mother.

ROBINSON PEETE: We just got a giant Newfoundland puppy. It's the biggest dog ever. So and he has really responded to this dog.

COLE: We have a service animal as well. And one of the reasons we got one is because we noticed very early on that when she had a delay in language and a delay in interaction and comprehending and all those things, you put an animal in front of her and immediately spontaneous language that had never occurred before began to happen. She talked to the dog. She talked at the dog. She ordered the dog around.

ROBINSON PEETE: It's a good question.

COLE: And it was great fuel for those kinds of things.

KING: Nancy, does that surprise you?

WISEMAN: No, not at all. I've seen it with my own daughter. She loves horseback riding. They're just somehow able to communicate. Also with dolphins, I've seen it firsthand.

ROBINSON: Yeah. I think what happens is that these children just don't have the ability to do these things when they have to do it at our pacing and timing. So there must be something about the pacing and timing with an animal because across the board, it works this way. It's all nonverbal. So we use horse riding and dogs across the board.

COLE: The animal doesn't care if they have autism spectrum disorder.

KING: Stockbridge, Georgia, hello. Stockbridge, do you hear me? We lost them. Do you think there's going to be a cure, doctor?

ROBINSON: Well, certainly, we have held out hope that there's a cure.

KING: Is it logical?

ROBINSON: It's very logical. The research needs to be done so we can do all the steps to get to one. But we have to plan for the children now that are -- that our goal is to help them have the most useful and interactive lives that they can possibly have. That's where tailoring the program to the child can lead us down the path to get to that end point.

KING: The earlier we know, the better why?

ROBINSON PEETE: Because that's when you can get intervention in there, you can start pulling the children out of this window. We talked about that the last time we were on the show, this window of time that's very crucial.

WISEMAN: And the brain is much more malleable at an early age.

ROBINSON PEETE: That's correct.

KING: So the testing at two is a good idea.

ROBINSON PEETE: This is awesome.

KING: Testing every child.

ROBINSON: And not only that, these red flags that start as early as six months of age. It's not uncommon for me now to see children at six, seven, eight months who have fallen off the developmental trajectory who we start early intervention with.

KING: How are they tested, Nancy, what's the test?

WISEMAN: There are developmental screening tools that can be used. In fact, they can go to our Web site at and download some of them. These are some validated, accurate screening tools. They are screened that way. But they're diagnosed with other diagnostic tools.

ROBINSON PEETE: I was just saying John and I were talking earlier about how hard it is for some of these people in the country to afford to live with autism. It's an egregious cost. Since we're pushing our Web site, I wanted to just promote this bracelet that I'm wearing. It's an autism bracelet, where money goes to help people be able to afford and live, all the therapies and all the things that are so expensive. So we're raising money to get people some help that they really need.

KING: Go ahead, Nancy.

WISEMAN: Larry, one of the important things is that 70 percent of kids are not being diagnosed before school age and they're missing out on all opportunity for any kind of early intervention. We have to get these kids screened early. Parents need to ask their pediatrician for developmental or autism screening.

KING: So under these recommendations, does this mean the pediatrician now will say when your child is two, bring him or her in?

ROBINSON: Actually sooner. It's the pediatrician's court. The AAP said universal screening, so it must be done. And that hopefully will lead to the insurance companies paying for it to be done. But at 18 months and 24 months, so there will be two screenings before age two. But clearly, the pediatricians need to be asking the questions of the parents, how are you feeling about the interaction?

SCHNEIDER: Like ours did.

ROBINSON: What's going on?

SCHNEIDER: It's a simple procedure, like as simple as looking in ears. Unless there was one right here, it is so difficult to explain. Kids who have it, to us, obviously have it --

ROBINSON: We could clock it.

SCHNEIDER: Right away. So doctors will know right away.

ROBINSON PEETE: We're ringing a bell as a parent. This hopefully will allow pediatricians to listen.

ROBINSON: This is an alert. It's as serious as any other condition.

KING: Do you all have other children?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, yes.


KING: And they're OK?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, yes.

KING: Thank you all very much.

ROBINSON PEETE: Thank you, Larry.

KING: I salute the American Academy of Pediatrics for coming out with this today. A little late, but still salute them. Back with some final words in a moment. Plus, a special preview of a magical show we've got planned for you tomorrow night. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Sue Reuben (ph). I'm 26-years- old. I've written these thoughts about my life because I don't really talk. This is not my voice, but these are my words. I have autism, and until the age of 13, everyone assumed I was also retarded. Now I live on my own with assistance from others.

All right.




KING: Before we go tonight, a preview of what you can expect tomorrow night. In a word, the unexpected. Criss Angel, Las Vegas and television's hottest illusionist/mentalist. My crew goes to him in Vegas for some amazing demonstrations and then he comes here to talk about an unbelievable career. Now, take a look at just some of what you can expect tomorrow night.


ANGEL: I just think magician pigeonholes you. I like to think of myself as an artist. I actually coined the term "mind freak" because I wanted to find a new breed, which embodied mentalism, escapes, performance art, a bunch of different things, so I wouldn't be pigeonholed. A magician - you think of magician, you think of some guy with a hat shoving girls in leotards in boxes. And magic for me is a beautiful art. It needs to be provocative. It needs to be popular culture. And most of all, it needs to connect with them.

As you can see Larry, I have a little craving for sugar. So the good news is that they're free -- requires no quarters at all. And I think we got a red gumball. I'll let you actually get your own when you get here, but for now, this red one is going to be for no one, because it's really not there. It's back in the machine. That is a Larry King exclusive right here for you Larry. Hope you enjoyed that.


KING: It's a fascinating hour. You'll see it tomorrow night. John King, happy tonight -- smile through the whole program. The Red Sox are world champions. John and "A.C. 360."