In most developed countries, children with autism are usually sent to school where they get special education classes. But in France, they are more often sent to a psychiatrist where they get talk therapy meant for people with psychological or emotional problems.

Things are slowly changing, but not without resistance. A report by France's top health authority concluded there was no agreement among scientists about whether psychotherapy works for autism, and it was not included in the list of recommended treatments.

That provoked an outcry from psychiatrists. "The situation in France is sort of like the U.S. in the 1950s," said Dr. Fred Volkmar, a U.S. expert who directs the Child Study Center at Yale University. "The French have a very idiosyncratic view of autism and, for some reason, they are not convinced by the evidence."

Behavioral methods, which focus on helping autistic children communicate with others and develop social skills, are the norm in Britain, Canada, Japan, the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe. But they're seldom used in France which has long been criticized for its approach to treating autism.

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