04/10/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
Leimbach's autistic son Nicholas, now 9, is talking—and going to school, playing the guitar and keeping Leimbach and her family in stitches. "He has a fantastic sense of humor," Leimbach says. Like Daniel's heroine, she forged her own path in treating her child, using an amalgam of behavioral therapies and well-informed winging it. Her message to others in her shoes: There are no miracle cures, but make sure to get educated, reach out to fellow autism parents, "and don't believe your child's fate is sealed at 3."