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Ean Bezemer, 10, seen with family members by a hot tub, has a history of behavior problems and social difficulties. His mother helped form a support group for parents of special education students after struggling to persuade her Central Valley school district that Ean was autistic.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Ean Bezemer hugs his father, Pieter, at their home while his mother, Pam, sits nearby. Though his school district agrees Ean has autism, his primary designation for special education remains "emotionally disturbed." Pam Bezemer says: "He is a little boy who is loved very much by his family. And he has a lot of difficulty, especially in the social area."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Ean Bezemer works at the Central California Autism Center in Fresno. In California, the cost of state-funded developmental services for people with autism has climbed more than 300% over the last decade, to $638 million a year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Ean Bezemer and his mother, Pam, play with the family dogs at their Central Valley home. Some parents in the region say getting an autism diagnosis for their children is too elusive, putting treatment out of reach for their youngsters.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Special education students Moses Vang, left, Guadalupe Galvez and Joseph Gutierrez wait by the door at the end of the school day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Joseph Gutierrez, 13, who is practically mute, watches cartoons at home. He has been diagnosed with mental retardation but his mother, Maria, thinks he is autistic. "I believe if I have [an autism] diagnosis, it would help me understand the way he is and how can I help him," she said.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Maria Gutierrez tries to calm down her son Joseph. He bites and pinches and shoves when he gets frustrated. Maria Gutierrez thinks her son is autistic, but the school apparently ruled it out because Joseph likes being around people.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Joseph Gutierrez climbs a fence at his home. He frequently paces the backyard and obsessively presses the garage door opener.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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