Information on the Son-Rise program, Autism and Aspergers syndreome - common Autism Spectrum Disorders


Son-Rise is a treatment program for Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Pervasive Developmental Disorders and other disabilities related to communication and interaction.


History of Son-Rise

The program was developed by a former advertising executive Barry Neil Kaufman and his wife Samahria Lyte Kaufman. They developed the program in the late 1960's and early 1970's, while working with their own son, Raun, who was diagnosed with Autism as a toddler. After Raun began displaying autistic behaviors following a series of ear infections, the Kaufmans turned to the medical community for diagnosis and early intervention. Unsatisfied with their responses, and the prognosis that Autism was incurable, they began a program of their own, based upon the idea that their child was engaged in these behaviors for a reason that made sense only to him. His parents tried to communicate with Raun not by overt attempts to force neurotypical behavior, but by imitating his endless rocking, plate spinning and other rituals, while gently introducing eye contact, speech, song, etc., for him to engage with if he would.


During the course of an intensive three year program, Raun's autistic behaviors regressed, and he appeared to 'emerge' and become a completely neurotypical child who went into mainstream school, developed friendships and went on to graduate from Brown University, an Ivy League school, majoring in BioMedical Ethics.


By his parents' and his own accounts, he now leads a 'normal' life. In 1983, the Kaufmans founded what is now known as the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA) to offer other parents the opportunity to learn how to create a play-based home program for their own autism spectrum children. The center is an independent non-profit organization, based in Sheffield, Massachusetts, and regularly offers seminars on its techniques which are attended by parents, caretakers and therapists from around the world.


Treatment and philosophy of Son-Rise

At the Autism Treatment Center of America, parents are given training in order to help them to encourage their child to interact and socialize more effectively. The acquisition of developmental skills plays an important role in the program, however the priority in a Son-Rise Program is encouraging socialization and communication abilities. While there are other programs that emphasize a play-based therapy, such as Dr. Stanley Greenspan's DIR/Floortime model, one of the distinguishing features of Son-Rise is its emphasis on loving and accepting the child just as he or she is, with the idea that the autistic child "senses" your attitude through your voice, body language and non-verbal behavior.


The Son-Rise philosophy states that if you approach the child with a positive, loving attitude, the child is more likely to interact than if you engage with a sense of underlying anger, despair, hopelessness and desperation. As the child engages with parent or caregiver, a constant attempt is made to expand the child's interest beyond "self-stimulating" behaviors.


Many parents struggle to accept their child's diagnosis and the unique behaviors of Autism. It is not uncommon for parents to experience guilt and/or fears for the future. Son-Rise finds that, by offering parents support in these areas, many parents are able to attain a greater degree of comfort playing with their child and in their day to day life with their child. This attitude, combined with specific play strategies, gives parents a greater opportunity to encourage more of the type of interactions that they wish to create with their child.


controversy surrounding Son-Rise

Proponents of the Son-Rise program believe that 'cures' for Autism Spectrum Disorders are possible, as in the case of Raun. This is controversial as most research suggests that Autism is a life-long disability, although acknowledging that intensive intervention can be effective and that in milder cases, some children will improve to the point where they enter mainstream schools.


The 'cure' assertion can still be a target of criticism from some critics who say that it encourages false hope. However, the Son-Rise Program makes clear that all children are different and face different degrees of challenge. Not all children will be cured, but placing limits on their development - and pronouncing what they will never do - can be counter-productive and, particularly in the past, has held people back from even trying. One of the beliefs espoused by Son-Rise is that hope leads to action. Their program is designed to give parents the tools to take action with their own child.


Critics of the Son-Rise program point to the lack of rigorous research that would establish Son-Rise as an evidence-based treatment, and dismiss anecdotal stories of success, particularly given that initially the program was based on evidence from only one child - their own. Other suggest that Raun was never truly autistic, or that basing a program on one isolated case is unwarranted. Others state that the program is too intensive for many parents to see through to success.


In-house statistics of the Son-Rise Program, based upon parents' own evaluations of their children's changes, show a substantial improvements in language, attention span and eye contact; however, to date there has been no independent research into the effectiveness of the program.


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Son-Rise is a treatment program for Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Pervasive Developmental Disorders.