this is "nightline." >> tonight, silent killer. he found his parents dead in their home after a tragic accident, poisoned by carbon monoxide after they forgot to turn off their engine. in a car with keyless ignition. now he's pointing the finger at manufacturers, saying there's an easy fix. could your own car be putting you at risk? plus, when he was a toddler, he was diagnosed with autism. now he's headed off to college. his struggles a distant memory. tonight, some children are making remarkable recoveries thanks to early therapy. but can it work for everyone? and "love myself." hailey steinfeld's catchy song becoming an anthem for a nationwide fight to stop bullying. the campaign to choose kindness. ♪ i love my
running with some keyless ignition systems. they've played a role in a number of deaths by carbon monoxide, which in some cases can kill you after a handful of breaths. tonight, abc's alex perez finds out if your own car can put you at risk and how to stay safe. >> we're going to go down, we're going to mask up on the floor. >> reporter: firefighters armed with masks and safety gear. they approach cautiously knowing this garage is filled with deadly concentrations of carbon monoxide from the exhaust of this car left running. it's a frightening demonstration, but in real life it can have tragic results. investigators have confirmed 12 deaths since 2009 that are linked to carbon monoxide poisoning from cars with keyless ignition that had been accidentally left running. recently among them pasquale and rina fontanini of illinois. >> i'd sit here, my mom would sit here, my dad would sit here. >> reporter: they were found by
their son cesar during a routine morning visit after he finished his shift as a firefighter. >> i saw my dad laying about four feet down on the main entrance by the garage door. >> reporter: in that moment you must have wondered what's going on. >> i thought my dad had cardiac arrest. >> reporter: pasquale had collapsed from carbon monoxide poisoning. upstairs rina in the same condition. hours earlier they had accidentally left their car running in their attached garage. >> to walk in and have to deal with that, to see that? >> it's etched in your brain for the rest of your life. >> reporter: the 2013 lincoln mks had a push-button, or keyless ignition. police say rina put the key fob in her purse and left the car with the engine still running despite an audible warning likely made by the car. officials say the carbon monoxide from the engine built up in the garage and seeped into the house, eventually killing them both. >> i was unaware there was a problem until this happened to my parents. >> reporter: he and his family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ford, the maker of lincoln.
his lawyer joined us for this interview. >> somebody said this is someone who's trying to sue the big manufacturers, this is about money, what do you say to those people? >> that's just not true. the fontaninis would give up all the money in the world to have their parents back and they were robbed of this because of irresponsibility by car manufacturers. >> reporter: ford says the keyless ignition system has proven to be safe and reliable. they add many of their current models with keyless ignition do have an automatic shutoff feature. the fontaninis' vehicle did have an audible alarm but critics say this wasn't enough to save them. >> when someone leaves their car running in the garage and there's a carbon monoxide death the initial reaction is accidental death, it's the driver's fault, and it's essentially unreported. >> reporter: noah kuszlewski is a lawyer who represented several victims and their families. >> once we know there's a mistake that a user is making, that a driver is making and we know it's a mistake that's going
to be made again and again and again, you no longer can push the responsibility of a person making a common mistake. new keyless cars also feature quieter engines, so it's easy to exit the car without hearing it still running. to find out how quickly the carbon monoxide fumes in a running car can turn deadly, abc news conducted a demonstration. working with carbon monoxide expert tom fiereseier. the bayshore fire department on long island, new york, there to help keep us safe. the car a 2013 chrysler 300 one of many on the market with keyless ignition and no automatic shutoff. this garage freestanding. we covered the exterior vents to mimic what could happen with many attached garages. after our producer exits the car without shutting it off, he hears no alarm outside the vehicle. we leave the car running. then a check every 30 minutes for the level of carbon
monoxide. 2 1/2 hours into our demonstration, co levels are rising quickly. >> we're currently at 890 parts per million. and that could be potentially lethal. >> reporter: then at almost 4 1/2 hours in the co level is at 4,350 parts per million. lethal levels. >> if you were to go inside this garage right now and close the door you would probably lose consciousness within five to ten minutes, and death would follow shortly thereafter. >> reporter: at this point the fire department too worried about the danger to continue. so we stopped the demonstration. >> we see things up in the high thousands, you're talking about 4,000 ppms, that's such a small area too, it would be sudden onset of symptoms, and you'd be in death within minutes. >> reporter: for the chrysler in our demo there are alerts inside the car, but critics say that's not much use if no one is in the car. chrysler tells us its cars meet
or exceed all applicable safety standards. most cars do have some kind of visual or audible alert when you leave the car, and some like this newer lincoln 2015 mks have an automatic shutoff. critics say that's what all cars should have. >> if you know it's a safety risk and you have an easy way to fix the problem, then why wouldn't you do it on all cars? >> reporter: the national highway traffic safety administration has proposed a rule providing a brief but piercing alarm not automatic shutoff. the alliance of automobile manufacturers which represents 12 automakers has been opposed to the proposed nhtsa rule saying after it was first introduced in 2011 that no rationale has been offered for concluding that the proposed audible alarms would actually reduce the identified risks of carbon monoxide poisoning or rollaway. they now tell us that auto safety is their top priority and they're working to further develop best practices. nhtsa says it is reviewing public comments and will issue a
final rule in february. with their lawsuit against ford pending the fontanini family hopes for changes that will put an end to what critics call a silent killer. >> the whole reason we're doing this is to prevent that from happening and hoping that my parents are the last of accidents that happen. the consequence for a consumer mistake shouldn't be death. >> reporter: for "nightline" in chicago, i'm alex perez. up next, you might never guess it, but this college-bound student was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. tonight, how early therapy transformed his life. ansformed his life. plus, actress and "pitch perfect 2" star hailee steinfeld is encouraging acceptance, urging kids to love themselves. ♪ i don't need anybody else is encouraging acceptance, urging kids to love themselves. ♪ i don't need anybody else kind of medicine that lowers blood sugar.
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the two young men you're about to meet were both diagnosed with autism when they were children, and both given early intensive therapy. for over a dozen years we've followed their intimate, at times harrowing stories. and tonight, abc's john donvan is there as one heads off to college after an amazing recovery. but as you'll see, the therapy is far from a magic solution. >> reporter: the other day a teenager named jake exkorn completed a rite of passage. >> i feel good. i'm really excited. >> reporter: leaving home for college. >> moving in. >> reporter: and why is this remarkable? because it's what you don't know about jake's early childhood. what he wrote about himself in his essay to get into college. >> this is my college essay.
"between the ages of 2 and 4 i had autism." >> reporter: that's right. autism. what jake had when i first met him 15 years ago and introduced his story then like this. this little boy is named jake. he's being asked to do what for most kids comes naturally. making eye contact. he could not talk. he could not follow an instruction. as his mother told us back then. >> it was like his circuit breaker's just -- like he had them on and they just one by one just clicked off. >> reporter: and then at his second birthday they began to see the telltale signs. >> come on, jake, ready to go? >> all the kids were playing and laughing and he was supposed to have his birthday cake and i couldn't find him. and i went up and i found him lying face down in the driveway. and at that point we just said all right, there's something wrong with our kid. >> turn around. >> reporter: these are not the sorts of home movies that a parent ever dreams of making. but they show what jake's
toddler life turned into soon after his diagnosis. the downstairs room at home became a school room for what at the time was a relatively unknown program of therapy called a.b.a., applied behavior analysis. the basic principle you can see at work here. jake is not capable of waving good-bye, so he is trained into it. literally rewarded with a favorite food, treat, or a toy or some stickers. >> wave bye-bye. >> reporter: for repeating even a part of the gesture. so that he'll do it again. >> wave bye-bye. >> we all functioned based on a series of things that happened, behaviors we engage in and reinforcers that happen afterwards. it's the same sequence. and it's just a matter of providing a lot more opportunities for children with autism. >> turn around. >> reporter: over and over again. more than two years of it. but at the end -- >> yay! >> reporter: -- on the day jake and i said so long to each other, this kid was connected again. >> see you later, alligator.
>> see you later, alligator. >> reporter: we checked in with jake five years later, when he was 9, and now he had real friends. and then just the other day, just before jake left for college, i went to see him again. >> hey. >> hey. >> hi. jake. >> john. >> you recognize me? you actually remember me? >> honestly, no. but i know who you are. >> reporter: it's been so long that jake hardly remembers having autism. >> my memories are pretty limited. i remember there would be story time. >> excellent. >> i would be read this story, and then i would have to tell them what the story was about. >> reporter: and they haven't let go of a certain reminder of how far he's come. >> this is the chair where jake was reborn. even -- >> hours and hours and hours and hours in this chair learning. learning how to learn. >> reporter: together we watched a clip from that "nightline" show. >> moon, ball, star. >> i think that part of our lives was so intense and the
therapy was so intensive and we were -- it was like we were living in this snow globe. that the rest of the world didn't exist. i mean, we barely -- i barely left the house during those two years. >> reporter: jake, what do you do with your autism? is it something that you talk about? is it something that you don't want to talk about? >> i don't say hi, i'm jake, i used to have autism when i was little. but if it comes up, i'm more than happy to tell them about my past. >> reporter: do you have moments anymore where you think back and say it could have turned out very differently? >> i have moments where i have what i would call gratitude attacks. >> reporter: gratitude attacks. >> gratitude attacks, where watching him get his diploma at graduation, it was -- you know, people talk about living beyond their wildest dreams. i mean, watching him put on his tux and get ready for prom. >> reporter: somebody else dropped by for our union. >> oh, my god. you're enormous. >> reporter: julie fisher ran jake's home a.b.a. team of
therapists. >> hi. >> reporter: today she runs an entire school for kids with autism using a.b.a. hope is what draws people into it. do they need to be careful about that hope? or should they follow it? >> i guess follow it with some measured caution maybe. but certainly follow it. i mean, i look at the kids that attend my school. many of them are much more profoundly affected and will be for the rest of their lives. >> reporter: there's no knowing which kids will respond to a.b.a. as dramatically as jake did. families do need to realize that. that was where another family was 15 years ago. in that same "nightline" report we also met a 10-year-old named andrew pearls who was also getting a.b.a. therapy. >> good. what did you spell? >> reporter: he was making progress for sure. he had learned to ride and to skate. >> type. >> reporter: but it was clear he was not going to be a jake story. he was learning to communicate,
and he was even speaking a few words. each one learned painstakingly by his own time in the chair. to his parents, lisa and craig, that was where hope came from. >> people asked that all the time, that oh, looking back was it worth giving up your law practice, moving your house, relocating again? and 90% of the words that he has we taught him. so how much is a word worth? how much is one word worth? every word is priceless. >> excellent. way to go. who says that? who says that? >> these are our seats. >> reporter: we kept up with andrew also. watching him go to a basketball game with his family in 2006 when he was 15. >> good night air. >> reporter: the other day we visited andrew pearls the man. a 25-year-old living with a kind of autism that rarely gets seen on television because it's so debilitating. >> can you fix your shoe for us? >> reporter: his parents tell the story. when andrew was 19 after years
of progress things started going wrong. because now andrew no longer speaks. his parents are his voice. >> the pain of the regression for me was worse than the pain of diagnosis. because at diagnosis there were plans. there was -- there was evidence that people move forward. and i'm not -- you know, maybe for a brief period i thought he'll be a lucky one that recovers. but even when we knew it wasn't that he was still moving forward. >> reporter: today andrew lives in southern new jersey in a specialized care giving setting called bancroft where some 45 other adults have rooms and the staff helps them cope with the details of daily living they cannot handle themselves. all the basic stuff from eating breakfast to wiping clean their own bottoms. >> it's so hard to admit that you can't do it. because you can't imagine that anyone will love your child the way you love them. and do it the way that you do it. >> reporter: he's also kept occupied here with activities. and supported by a staff that
works hard -- >> here you go, buddy. >> reporter: -- to read the signals he does send out. >> hey. >> reporter: and to understand who he is. >> hi. >> hey, buddy. want to go for a ride in the car? >> how are you? >> reporter: his parents feel certain that he understands them. there are times when andrew is obviously relaxed and tranquil. but there are also stretches where he strikes himself out of frustration, his mom says, at not being able to communicate. that's why his ears are damaged. and why he had to be hospitalized three times in the past year, to rescue his vision after he detached his own retinas. now he's back on his feet. >> some days he wakes up and he is as still as a lake and quiet and happy and can even get a couple more words out. and we look at each other on those days and we say, where can we go? where can we take him? oh, let's go to the restaurant with the tablecloths tonight. you know, and we do.
>> reporter: and so our two autism stories turned out to be quite different. and there are just not that many jakes who get to forget. >> do you remember how we said good-bye 15 years ago? >> no, but you can remind me. >> see you later, alligator. >> see you later, alligator. >> you remembered after all. take care. bye-bye. >> take care, john. >> reporter: for "nightline," i'm john donvan in new york. up next, popular and seemingly perfect celebrities make a statement about bullying by sharing their own stories of being picked on. moderate to severe crohn's disease is tough, but i've managed. except that managing my symptoms was all i was doing. and when i finally told my doctor, he said humira is for adults like me who have tried other medications but still experience the symptoms of moderate to severe crohn's disease. and that in clinical studies, the majority of patients on humira saw significant symptom relief.
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and finally tonight, a chorus of famous voices fighting bullying and sharing very personal stories of their own struggles. ♪ i love me the entire month of october devoted to fighting back against bullying, with people around the world sending words of kindness. ♪ no, i don't need anybody else ♪ the campaign getting a little help from hailee steinfeld's hit song "love myself" and the message behind it. >> every one of us is unique. be strong, be kind, be daring, be awesome. >> hi. i'm julianne moore. >> reporter: a slew of famous faces have shared their stories of bullying. >> i watched my gay brothers be constantly bullied. >> reporter: and breakthroughs. >> i was always picked on because i was one of the littlest kids, and i learned quickly that self-confidence could overcome anything. >> reporter: teachers and students all over the country posting photos with the simple hashtag choose kindness. >> thanks for choosing kindness. and for watching abc news.