TODAY

TODAY   |  December 09, 2013

Parents fight to keep unusual therapy for autistic son

After years of therapy for J.J. Hart, a three-year-old boy diagnosed with autism from Debary, Florida, his parents finally found a way for him to connect to the world with the help of chickens. Now the couple is fighting to keep the chickens, and maintain the progress their son has made, after local officials ruled that they were violating a city ordinance.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back with the young boy with autism, the unusual therapy helping him, and his parents struggle to keep him. here's kerry sanders .

>> reporter: meet 3-year-old j.j.hart. he loves to run around the backyard. but something that sets him apart is he has autism. he used to stare off into space, barely speak, and have temper tantrums.

>> he has been in therapy from the age of 14 months up until six months ago. he was getting physical therapy , occupational therapy and speech therapy .

>> with all limited success. they wanted to find something more natural for j.j. they brought home chickens hoping their eggs would help. that's when something remarkable happened. j.j. connected with the chickens and a whole new boy emerged.

>> as unconventional as that sounds and i know it does because we're not chicken people. it worked for him.

>> reporter: but now they're facing a terrible dilemma. the city where they live says they have to get rid of the chickens. city ordinances don't allow them. it's a small residential security about a half hours drive from orlando. it's website says it's known for its warm and friendly hometown atmosphere. a community that emphasizes quality of life . a year ago the harts went to the city council and asked to be able to keep their chickens and they were encouraged when the council said yes. sort of adopting a year one pilot project.

>> the motion on the floor is to extend the pilot program for two years.

>> reporter: but last week that program came up for another vote.

>> i support this 110% and i support j.j. 100%.

>> this is not about j.j. this is about chickens.

>> reporter: the proposal failed.

>> no longer are you allowed to have chickens in the city of debary.

>> reporter: they're devastated but they will continue to fight so that j.j. can keep his beloved birds.

>> he has a great personality and now he has a personality we never thought we would see. people can support us or they can criticize. that's fine. but we know that we're doing what's best for our son and we're going to fight for him.

>> reporter: for today, kerry sanders , nbc news, miami.