Son-Rise Technique

February 2, 2008

How The Son-Rise Technique Is Giving Power To The Child
Reprinted from The Sunday Mail, England

The Son-Rise programme which transformed Raun Kaufman’s life begins by encouraging parents to join in a child’s repetitive behaviour.

Known as `the joining’, it goes against the theory that mirroring these actions – such as rocking back and forth, tapping things with a pen, or flapping hands in the air – will only serve to reinforce the rituals.

Instead, Raun’s parents copied him. He liked to spin plates for hours. So they joined him, until they had built up his trust and he began to communicate.

The first signs of improvement might be just an occasional glance, but it is more than parents of autistic children can usually hope for.

Son-Rise then uses the child’s new motivation to help them learn more.

For example, if a child likes Thomas The Tank Engine, they might be taught to identify colours using the brightly-painted engines. Parents are taught to react to every word their child says, to encourage communication. At every attempt to talk, the parent responds by cheering and celebrating wildly. This shows the child they have power to affect others through speech.

Likewise, the parent does not respond to screaming, crying and hitting. The carer simply explains in a calm tone that they do not understand when the child acts this way. If a child is unwilling to finish a task, the parent does not force the issue.

Probably the most important element of the programme – which can take years – is teaching parents to accept their child’s autism.

Sue says: “The most important part of it all for me was learning to say `So what?’ If Shaun or Danielle don’t progress in a particular way, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are happy.”

Raun Kaufman will give a free lecture at George Square Theatre, Edinburgh University, on September 26, at 5-9pm. For more info or to book seats e-mail, visit


Miracle treatment

February 2, 2008

Mum’s Joy As Miracle Treatment Transforms Danielle And Shaun
Reprinted from The Sunday Mail, England

DANIELLE and Shaun McLernon cuddle up, giggling, as they pose for our picture. “See those smiles,” says mum Sue, “Those are miracles.”

Incredibly, a little over three years ago, Danielle and Shaun were living in their own autistic world, completely unresponsive to those around them.

Now Danielle, 10, takes classes in a mainstream school and even attends Brownies – unheard of for a child who once could not interact with other children.

In fact, to look at her, no one would suspect there was anything wrong with this vibrant young girl.

Shaun, 13, whose concentration span was once zero, enjoys doing 200-piece jigsaws and listening to CDs like any other teenage boy.

Their progress is thanks to Son-Rise, a programme developed in America by the parents of an autistic child who were told he had no hope of a normal life.

That boy, Raun Kaufman, is now 29 and a graduate of biomedical ethics at an Ivy League university. He is coming to Scotland this week to deliver a lecture on the treatment which transformed his life.

His parents came up with a series of exercises in stimulation that began with copying his repetitive behaviour, such as spinning plates on the floor. This let them to enter his world and gradually draw him out.

Raun is what every parent of a special needs child dreams of – but doesn’t dare hope for. He has made a full recovery and has no trace of autism.

The founders of the Autism Treatment Center of America™, the Kaufmans and their staff teach Son-Rise to parents and carers from across the world.

They don’t promise miracles and some respond better than others, but most improve.

There has been a record 22 per cent rise in autism among Scots primary school children in just one year.

In total, 653 Scots children were found to have developed the condition in 2001.

It is the third most prevalent developmental disorder in the world, more common than Down’s Syndrome. Danielle and Shaun’s improvements came about after a trip to the Son-Rise centre in America.

Sue, 39, of Leith, Edinburgh, a secretary for Hibs junior members club, was distraught when first Shaun, then Danielle, were diagnosed autistic at just four years old.

Light of learning

February 2, 2008

Light of learning comes on for Toby
Autism Related Article Reprinted from The Journal, England
Amid the thousands of children heading back to school this term one young boy had a longer journey than most. Toby Henderson, who is autistic, was withdrawn from school by his parents three years ago when they felt he was not benefiting from being there. They began using a technique pioneered in America to treat their son and his progress has led to him joining the reception class at a mainstream rural Northumberland school.

Toby’s parents, Lesley and Jim of Widdrington, Northumberland, set up the Toby Henderson Trust to help other parents with autistic children and last year opened a specialist centre for autism at Stannington, Northumberland.

They were inspired by the work of Samahria and Barry Kaufman, who developed new techniques as they tried to help their autistic son, Raun. The technique became known as The Son-Rise Program®. Raun Kaufman went on to graduate in biomedical ethics. He recently visited Newcastle to tell other parents and health professionals his story.

In 1999, Lesley and Jim raised £10,000 to take Toby, who is now eight, to the US for a week-long course at The Autism Treatment Center of America™ run by the Kaufmans.

Lesley Henderson said, “Toby is a totally different boy now. He was totally non-verbal when we went to the US. If you look at old photographs of him, and ones taken later, you can see it is like a light has been switched on.

Now he is happier, he is relaxed and he is enjoying being in contact with others and he is enjoying playing. He is confident and relaxed in himself.

The school has been wonderful and are treating him as an individual and are going to be watching him carefully. It is going to be a long process for him but he is doing incredibly well. At the centre what we try and do is say there is hope, there is lots that can be done and it is a treatable condition.”

Raun Kaufman was a mute withdrawn child with an IQ of 30 before his parents started working with him. Now he teaches at his parents’ institute and travels the world spreading the message.

He said, “Hearing about how Toby has done and how he has benefited from what happened to me is very touching. The Hendersons have been walking the path my parents did in the 70s.

I was totally mute, I didn’t make eye contact, I didn’t like to be touched. In every way I was in my own world. My parents were told: `Focus on your two daughters, your son will be put in an institution’. They defied the prognosis of the people around them and developed their own programme over three years and at the end of that time I emerged completely free from my autism.”

Children diagnosed as autistic suffer communication problems and have difficulty developing relationships with others.

They have problems with their social skills and can exhibit behavioural difficulties.

The Son-Rise Program® involves parents developing a relationship with their child which in its early stages can mean copying their actions rather than trying to stop them.

Raun Kaufman was very young when his parents started trying to work with him. He said: “When I was spinning plates around my mum, instead of taking them away she would spin plates with me. People worry they will reinforce the behaviour, but we have found when we do this, children do these things less.”

The programme also focuses on parents having a positive attitude on what their children can achieve.

Some of the medical profession have shunned the Kaufmans’ ideas but people like the Hendersons credit the progress of their son to this approach.

Never say “Uncle”

February 2, 2008

Mother Determined To Do Best For Autistic Child As He Hits Teen Years
Article Reprinted from The Morning News
Local News for Northwest Arkansas
Part 1 of 2

» Part 2: ‘Mother of Autistic Child…’

This article was published on Saturday, October 7, 2006 9:59 PM CDT in News
By Bettina Lehovec

Editor’s Note — Morning News reporter Bettina Lehovec spent eight months getting to know Amy Burris and her son, Steven. She met with them in their home, attended therapy sessions, watched at school and talked with people who know Steven.

The result is the story of one mother’s struggle to come to terms with the future as her autistic child grows.

The story concludes Monday in The Morning News.

FAYETTEVILLE — Amy Burris sits across the desk from the executive director of the King’s Daughters’ School Center for Autism in Columbia, Tenn., trying to make sense of the words.

“We don’t do fund-raisers here,” the woman says with distaste, as if Amy had suggested nude bowling or a wet T-shirt contest. “We accept two sources of income at most.”

“Oh, I’ll take care of the fund-raising,” Amy protests, but the gray-haired matron cuts her off.

“Miss Burris, let me try to explain this to you.” The carefully modulated tones of culture shape her voice. Her manicured hands sport an array of gemstones. She wears tailored slacks, a long-sleeved Oxford blouse and a royal purple sweater tied at her breast.

Amy wears a knee-length flowered skirt, a sleeveless blue shirt and sparkly sandals from Old Navy. Her long brown hair is twisted into a bun. She had looked at herself approvingly in the motel room mirror that morning.

“Don’t I look motherly?” she had thought with pride.

Now the administrator is stripping that pride away.

“The parents here at the King’s Daughters’ School Center for Autism, well, they’re very committed parents who prepared financially to have children, Miss Burris. They’re architects, whose wives are physicians.” She tightens the purple sweater with each phrase. “They’re certainly not students.”

Amy is a graduate student at the University of Arkansas. She’s spent her rent money to get to Columbia, with the fevered hope of enrolling her autistic son for even a few months.

“A child with autism has ongoing needs,” the executive director explains later. “Some of our children are here for years. A few months’ work does not necessarily make a difference.”

Charlotte Battles is being truthful, but the words cut Amy’s heart like a knife. She tries to align them with the reality of her life — married at 19, pregnant at 20, a stay-at-home mom thrown into the world of autism advocacy at 24.

The questions come. How do you prepare for an autistic child? How do you deal with the fear that clutches your heart like a fist when you begin to realize something is wrong? How do you accept the chilling diagnosis, the realization that your child has just become a statistic, one of 1.5 million children in the United States with the disorder? How do you plan to parent a child with a complex developmental disability that impacts every area of his life, particularly communication and social interaction?

Building a bridge

February 2, 2008

Building a Bridge

“Building a Bridge – Breakthrough Stratagies for Reaching our Children”
By Raun K. Kaufman

Printed as a special supplement for Good Autism Practice Journal October 2002

Autism. Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). As the prevalence of these disorders continues to rise, our questions become ever more urgent. What causes autism, and what can we do to help our children who are already diagnosed? As we look with increasing determination for the answer to the first question, we never forget the importance of the second question. We want so much to help our children, and yet it is easy to feel a bit lost as to how best to accomplish this. How do we help children who often don’t appear to want the help we offer?
I would like to discuss here an interlocking network of specific strategies and techniques which addresses exactly this issue. These strategies, when utilized properly, can have a profound impact on the development, communication, and skill acquisition of children diagnosed with autism or PDD. They are, in fact, the principles of The Son-Rise Program®, the autism treatment modality taught at the Autism Treatment Center of America™. To understand the context of these principles, though, one must first have an awareness of the history of The Son-Rise Program – a history, incidentally, that is also my own.

At 18 months, I was diagnosed with severe autism, along with a tested I.Q. of less than 30. Completely mute and withdrawn from human contact, I would spend my days endlessly engaged in repetitive behaviors (often termed “stimming”) such as spinning plates, rocking back and forth, and flapping my hands in front of my face. I didn’t want to be touched, I never looked at other people, and I did not give the slightest response to the calls and requests of the people around me. I was, in every way, “in my own world.”

My parents were told to expect no change in my development (or non-development, as the case was). It was explained that I would never speak, never have friends, never go to school, never learn to communicate with others in any meaningful way. My condition, it was said, was incurable, unchangeable, and “hopeless.” The prognosis was stark: I would have autism for the rest of my life. The professionals recommended eventual institutionalization.

After being confronted with this prognosis, my parents designed and implemented a home-based, child-centered program in an attempt to reach me and facilitate my development. They worked with me for over three years, using the method they developed, now called The Son-Rise Program. Their Son-Rise Program enabled me to recover completely from my autism without any trace whatsoever of my former condition. I graduated with honors from high school, went on to earn a degree in Biomedical Ethics from an Ivy League university (Brown University), and then directed an educational center for school-aged children. I now lecture internationally at conferences, symposia, and universities, as well as being an author, teacher, and the Director of Global Outreach for The Son-Rise Program at the Autism Treatment Center of America.

After my recovery, my father, Barry Neil Kaufman, wrote a book relating our story in detail. The book, entitled Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues, was later recounted in an NBC television movie. In the avalanche of press and attention that followed the publication of the book and subsequent airing of the television movie, my parents were flooded with requests for help.

Therefore, in 1983, they founded what is now known as the Autism Treatment Center of America (a division of The Option Institute, a non-profit, charitable organization), which is dedicated to helping parents and professionals caring for children with autism, autism spectrum disorders, PDD, and other related developmental challenges. At our center, located in Sheffield, Massachusetts, USA, we run a series of weeklong training courses. In these programs, we teach a system of treatment and education designed to help families and caregivers enable their children to dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication, and skill acquisition. In our work with thousands of people from across the globe, we have consistently seen results far outstrip prognoses.
The foundation of the program rests upon this idea: the children show us the way in, and then we show them the way out. This means that, rather than forcing children to conform to a world that they don’t understand, we begin by joining them in their own world first – before asking them to join us in our world. In this way, we establish a mutual connection and relationship – a critical prerequisite to productively teaching our children. Keep in mind that interaction is the #1 challenge for this group of children as well as the deficit most often cited by parents as to where they would like to see their child progress. Our primary focus, therefore, centers around helping these children to interact with, connect with, and form relationships with others. Furthermore, we want these children to want interaction, as well as to act spontaneously rather than by rote training. The key is to have our children “on our side” and interested in what we are trying to convey to them. Then, we can teach our children everything we want them to learn with exponentially greater success, speed, and ease.

So, where do we start? We know that we want to meet our children in their own world, and we know that we want to do this in a way that is tangible and visible to our children. Certainly, one of the major aspects of the world of so many of these special children is self-stimulating, repetitious behaviors, such as spinning objects, lining up blocks, rocking back and forth, watching the same short segment of a video over and over again, etc. This is where The Son-Rise Program® begins. Instead of stopping a child’s repetitive behaviors, we join in with these behaviors. These children are performing their behaviors for reasons that are important to them (and, as research is beginning to show, these behaviors often serve a physiological purpose, as well). We show our acceptance of – and even interest in – what they are doing, establishing a critical bond around this common interest. This is so important, because we find repeatedly that children begin to display an interest in us when we have an abiding interest in them. What’s more, this interest is spontaneous, not forced. These children interact because they want to.

Some who are unfamiliar with this joining technique have raised concerns that joining children in their repetitive, exclusive behaviors will only reinforce these behaviors. However, in practice, the exact opposite is true. Joining establishes, often for the very first time, a real connection between a child and his or her parent or facilitator. We see time and time again with the thousands of families with whom we work that when children with autism or PDD are joined, they begin to look at us more, pay more attention to us, and even initiate interaction with us. And as these children move toward deeper and deeper engagement, they perform their repetitive behaviors less.

The reasons for this are by no means mysterious. Typically, children with autism and PDD are continually asked to stop doing what they want (their repetitive or unusual behaviors) and start doing what someone else wants (sit down at a table, play a specific game, use the toilet, write their name, etc.). We are then baffled when it appears to be such a struggle to engage these children. But really, are we any different? The key to real, genuine social interaction is a back and forth between people – a mutual interest in one another’s wants and motivations. We do not befriend those who only focus on their own wants and display no interests in ours. We form relationships with those people who both expose us to their interests and focus on our interests. And, yet, when teaching children with autism and PDD, the very children who have a challenge with social interaction, we may find ourselves employing tactics that are diametrically opposed to the most basic principles of human interaction and connection.

When deciding to join, we look for behaviors that are both repetitive (occurring over and over again or with sameness) and exclusive (non-interactive, being performed as a way to tune others out). Then we simply engage in this behavior with our child, displaying a genuine interest but not trying to change the behavior. At this point, we wait for the child to initiate connection by looking at us, stopping their activity, speaking to us, taking our hand, etc.

The bottom line is, if we want to build a rapport and connection – the platform for all education and growth – with our children, then we must begin by entering their world, following their interests, connecting on their terms. Only then does ongoing teaching and social interaction become possible.

Some benefits of joining are as follows: our children will look at us more, pay more attention to us (which makes learning possible), and aggressive and self-destructive behaviors may decrease. Also, joining delivers the key to unlocking the mystery of these behaviors as well as facilitating eye contact, social development, and inclusion of others in play.

The next key principle is facilitating skill acquisition by capitalizing on your child’s own motivation. Rather than pushing one particular mode of learning on every child, we use each child’s own motivation as a conduit to help that child learn and interact. Traditionally, we might look at what we want our children to learn first. Then we might think about how to teach them. In The Son-Rise Program®, we reverse this process. We focus on locating children’s primary areas of interests before deciding what and how to teach them. This way, we use the learning skills and interests our child already has instead of trying to teach “against the grain” by using a medium that doesn’t work for our child.

Critical to the effective utilization of this principle is the recognition that learning is the single largest factor for growth. This concept is well understood, seen throughout every area of learning, and is not disputed. We know that children and adults, regardless of ability level, learn more and learn it faster when they are motivated by and interested in what they are learning. Yet, we seldom see this principle utilized – especially when it comes to children with special needs. Often, the mode of learning and the children’s interests are not matched. For example, let’s take a child counting oranges on a piece of paper. Maybe this child is more interested in cars or dinosaurs. The question is: would this child learn faster if he/she were asked to count dinosaurs?

In the case of children with autism and PDD, traditional learning modalities will rarely be motivating. Therefore, we must customize the presentation of curriculum to match the child’s highest areas of motivation.

If we match our goals to each child’s area of motivation, the result is a highly effective symbiotic marriage between skill acquisition (social interaction, toilet-training, language development, etc.) and a particular child’s natural areas of interest. Thus, learning is exponentially increased – with a unique and startling benefit: we have the child’s willing cooperation.

So many parents tell us that their child, after being repeatedly taught a particular skill, may perform some rudimentary skill-based behaviors. However, they also explain that, when they do perform the behavior, their child appears “robotic,” exhibiting a “programmed response.” They frequently report that their child doesn’t spontaneously (let alone joyously) respond in new ways without a prompt or reward. In our approach, we are interested in helping children to actually learn what they’re missing. When a child has learned something – not memorized it, but learned it – it becomes a generalized skill they can use spontaneously.

Again, let’s look at some benefits of this approach: our children’s rate of learning can increase exponentially – with their willing cooperation. Our children are enabled to acquire critical skills (social interaction, toilet-training, language development) with ease instead of strain. Moreover, our children can build the studentship necessary to be successful in traditional learning environments, such as school and social situations. Also, this approach enables our children to respond spontaneously, without requiring prompt or reward, and without seeming “robotic” or exhibiting a “programmed response.”

The next principle to discuss is teaching socialization through interactive play. There are two prerequisites for implementing this principle effectively: specific skills or concepts that we want our children to learn (toilet-training, dressing oneself, reading, having a conversation, etc.) and the belief that our children are capable of learning them. Without this belief, the effectiveness of any teaching efforts is severely compromised.

There are a number of specifics to this principle, some of which we will briefly touch upon here. The first is something we call the three E’s: energy, excitement, and enthusiasm. Getting sincerely excited about any activity we are doing with our children maximizes their engagement. A corollary of this is celebration. Celebrating children with animation whenever they accomplish something (no matter how seemingly small) is the key to getting children to “come back for more.” We also want to encourage children – especially our children – to be “good tryers.” This means not only celebrating our children when they successfully complete a task or say a word, but also celebrating their attempts – “That was so close! Nice try! Let’s try again.” Finally, we want to prioritize the interaction over the goal. No matter how important we think a particular goal is, interaction and connection will always get us and our children further in the long run. For a given child to accomplish a particular goal on a Thursday instead of Friday is much less significant than for that child to continue to build a bridge of interaction between his/her world and ours. Therefore, we vigorously pursue specific goals, but never at the expense of overall interaction and rapport.

Benefits of this principle include: we are focusing learning on the area where our children need the most help, we stimulate in our children a self-perpetuating desire to learn, we promote increases in our children’s attention span, and we expand our children’s learning capabilities and at the same time enable our children to retain what they’ve learned. What’s more, we take the pressure and stress out of teaching.

Another principle – often very much appreciated by many who come to the Autism Treatment Center of America™ – is to help children “unlearn” their challenging behaviors. Many parents and professionals tell us about having serious difficulties with their children’s tantrums and other challenging behaviors. Ironically, they often unwittingly react to these behaviors in ways that reinforce them. Think about what we normally do when our children do something we don’t want them to do: “Oh my gosh! Look what happened! Sally, no! I told you not to touch that! It’s very dangerous! Honey, look what Sally did!” We run around frantically, making a big Hollywood production out of whatever just happened. Of course, we’re doing our best to take care of the situation, but is this really getting us what we want? More importantly, are we teaching our children to behave and communicate effectively? This is a question worth asking, because it lies at the heart of our children’s progress (and, at times, our own well-being).

And what happens when our children are playing sweetly and quietly (maybe even with their siblings)? Well, then we are very careful. Especially if such behavior is rare, we think my child (or children) is actually playing quietly – the last thing on earth I want to do is rock the boat. So we tiptoe around and stay out of the way, hoping the moment will last. And, again, we unwittingly teach the opposite of what we really want.

chasing autism help

February 2, 2008

“Chasing Autism Help”
By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Appeared in The Berksire Eagle

Parents Seek Help for Autistic Kids
Saturday, November 03, 2007

SHEFFIELD — They come to the Son-Rise Program hopeless, angry and defeated. They arrive with broken hearts and, in the case of one mother, with a broken nose, courtesy of her 6-year-old son. Broken not once, but four times, she admitted with a sheepish smile.

“My son (Kyle) is violent,” the mother, 27-year-old Kacy Crenshaw, explained. “The doctor said Kyle was going to be a vegetable, but to me, he’s already a genius.”

Crenshaw, who lives in Oregon, said she came to The Son-Rise Program® at the Option Institute because she was sick of doctors dismissing her — and her autistic son — with careless negativity.

She told the other parents sitting with her at the cafeteria table that a doctor once told her to cure her son’s outbursts by buying him a live chicken.

“The doctor thought maybe Kyle could chase it,” Crenshaw sighed.

Crenshaw was one of about 100 parents from Oregon who had come to the six-day Son-Rise workshop to learn how to heal — or perhaps cure — their child’s autism.

Roger Pollock, the owner of Lake Buena Vista Homes, Oregon’s largest homebuilder, paid the $2,200 Son-Rise program tuition for every parent attending the six-day intensive “Start-Up” Son-Rise workshop. The parents were responsible for their own airfare and car rental.

According to his business’s Web site, Pollock, who has an autistic child, offered the scholarships because he was “inspired” by the Son-Rise Program.

Pollock’s generosity was not lost on Crenshaw, who said she quit her job so she could care for Kyle.

“I’d rather have a nice, happy family rather than (have the money) to shop at Macy’s,” she joked. “Or shop anywhere, for that matter.”

The program ended yesterday, and several of the parents said they would be paying their own tuition — $2,500 — for the five-day “Maximum Impact” advanced training seminar offered in April 2008.

The Western medical world insists that the disorder is incurable, but that does not dissuade the parents who seek out the Son-Rise Program, which offers a home-based teaching method where the parent, not the physician, knows best, and the autistic child is the teacher.

Parents using the method try to engage the child by creating a calming play space devoid of electronic toys or busy wall decoration; by maintaining a positive, nonjudgmental attitude; and by mirroring the child’s repetitive behavioral “isms” — the rocking, the spinning, the hand-flapping — and, instead, entering the child’s world through trust.

“We accept them, we flap with them,” Crenshaw said.

Oregon is the state with the highest reported rate of autism in the country. One in every 250 youths between the ages of 6 and 21 has been diagnosed with the disorder, and in Lane County, where Eugene is located, one in every 91 youths is autistic.

One Son-Rise attendee seated with Crenshaw blamed the spike in the state’s autism cases on the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption of 1980; another blamed the mercury routinely used in immunizations.

According to statistics provided by the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Education, 1.5 million Americans are afflicted with the disorder. According to the New England Center for Children’s Web site, it’s the fastest-growing developmental disability.

The Option Institute — and the Son-Rise Program — are the brainchildren of Barry Neil “Bears” Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman. The husband and wife team created the teaching method in the early 1970s when Raun, their third son, was diagnosed with severe autism.

Back then, Kaufman said, the disorder was known as “infantile childhood schizophrenia” — a mental illness.

“We were the first to say it was a neurological challenge,” he said yesterday. “We were the first to use nutrition as a method of treatment.”

He also noted that the medical community, which was “warehousing kids in rooms” and using electroshock treatment, looked upon the Kaufmans’ methods with contempt.

” ‘Strange’ was one of their flattering words for us,” he said.

Seated next to Samahria yesterday in their office, the walls of which are lined with family photographs, Kaufman said that Raun’s spectacular recovery from unresponsive toddler to Brown University graduate, teacher and popular motivational speaker is proof positive to many frustrated parents that fostering their own good attitude actually can make a big difference.

The first part of Raun’s transformation was detailed in “Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love,” a television movie broadcast on NBC in 1978. Watched by almost 22 million people, it succeeded in putting both the Kaufmans — and autism — on the map.

The pair are not without their critics. Kaufman, with some relish, said that just the title of his “Autism Can Be Cured” motivational tape makes doctors “go nuts,” and that a Web site called, featuring scathing commentary from two “disgruntled” former Option Institute employees, can be found lurking in cyberspace.

“The Kaufmans are usually very nice to people who have money,” snarls one such testimony.

Kaufman, for his part, is unfazed.

“You can say anything you want on the Internet,” he said. “It’s the Wild West out there.”

And to the notion that one has to be rich to foot the four-figure tuition for the Option Institute’s myriad educational workshops (a sample: “Empowering Yourself,” “Radical Authenticity”), Samahria pointed out that the Institute — which has attracted students from 72 countries — gave out $850,000 in scholarships last year.

Concrete success rates for autism recovery using the Son-Rise method are not publicized by the institute — and such numbers do not seem to be given much weight — but Kaufman emphasizes that he does not make any guarantees to desperate parents about miracle cures.

“You dream your biggest dream, we’ll walk beside you,” he said. “And you’ll never look back. You’ll have no regrets.”

Your child with autism

February 2, 2008

Your Child with Autism: 7 Do’s and Don’ts for Navigating the Holidays

By Raun K. Kaufman,
CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America and the Option Institute

One out of every 150 children has an autism spectrum disorder. The Autism Treatment Center of America™, a non-profit organization in Sheffield, Massachusetts, works with families with children on the autism spectrum from around the world. At the Center, parents are trained in The Son-Rise Program®, a unique method of enabling children to dramatically improve, build meaningful relationships, overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, and, in some instances, recover completely. CEO Raun K. Kaufman, himself fully recovered with no trace of his former autism, overcame the disorder through The Son-Rise Program, created by his parents to help him. Below, he gives some fundamental tips to parents seeking to navigate the holidays with their child on the autism spectrum.

7 Positive Steps You Can Take

1) Let your child cope!
Most of our children perform various repetitive “stimming” behaviors. An increasing body of research is showing that these behaviors are useful and important to your child and his/her nervous system. So, when your child commences hand-flapping, asking the same question over and over, or lining up toy cars, allow your child to do this. In fact, it can be even more helpful if you join your child in these behaviors! Flap your own hands, or line up your own toys!

2) Celebrate your child!
Most of us dread our child behaving in a challenging way. We worry about it, we look for it, and we try to stop it as soon as it happens. Ironically, this puts all the focus on what you DON’T want from your child. If you don’t want your child to hit, for instance, focusing on getting your child not to hit actually creates more hitting. Instead celebrate your child every time they do something well. If your child sometimes hits, cheer wildly every time your child is gentle.

3) Explain in advance.
Before going on a trip or having a celebration: Explain to your child ahead of time (even if your child is non-verbal) what will happen and why it will be fun for him/her.

4) Give your family the heads-up.
If you are visiting family with your child, send them an email to explain what they can do to make the visit comfortable for you and your child. Explain why sudden loud noises might be problematic, or tell everyone the answer your child likes to hear when he or she asks over and over, “How fast does your car go?”

5) Designate a Mellow Room.
If you are going to someone else’s house with your child, designate, in advance, a calm room or space where your child can go to decompress once they begin to be overwhelmed by all of the commotion and sensory input that comprise most celebrations. Every so often take your child to this room and spend some time alone with him/her.

6) Mimic an outing without leaving your home!
Children on the autism spectrum will always do better when they are not over-stimulated by the many sights, sounds, smells, and unpredictable events of the outside world. You can create an experience in your home that you normally would go out for. For instance, instead of going to an evening parade with a festival of lights, you can put Christmas lights all around your house, turn off all the lights, and play Christmas music at a gentle volume. You may be concerned about depriving your child of a fun holiday experience, but keep in mind that when your child can’t digest the experience, they’re not having the fun experience you want. That’s why, if you can create a digestible version of the experience at home, your child can take in and enjoy the experience. By doing this, you are actually giving your child more, not less.

7) Take the holiday spirit home.
So often, we get caught up in the trappings of the holidays – the tree, the presents, the outings that have to go exactly as planned. It’s okay to arrange fun things, but remember that these are only trimmings. They aren’t the gift, they’re just the wrapping. The gift is your special child. The gift is sharing hope and sweetness with the people you love. Instead of using the holidays as a planning fest, use it to see the beauty in your child’s uniqueness. Use it to celebrate what your child can do, and use it to feel and encourage compassion for your child’s very different way of experiencing the world.

7 Holiday Mistakes to Avoid

1) Stopping your child from “stimming.”
Given the commotion and routine-change of the holidays, this is the most important time for your child to be allowed to cope with his/her environment. An increasing body of research shows that “stimming” is crucially important to your child and his/her nervous system. So, if your child “stims,” let them do their thing. In fact, it can be even more helpful if you join your child in these behaviors! Flap your own hands, or line up your own toys!

2) Focusing on stopping challenging behaviors.
Most of us dread our child behaving in a challenging way. We worry about it, we look for it, and we try to stop it as soon as it happens. Ironically, this puts all the focus on what you DON’T want from your child. If you don’t want your child to hit, for instance, focusing on getting your child not to hit actually creates more hitting. Instead celebrate your child every time they do something well. If your child sometimes hits, cheer wildly every time your child is gentle.

3) Surprising your child.
Although our intention is not to surprise our children, this is often the role of us departing on outings or embarking on a project (e.g. putting up the Christmas tree) without explaining in advance to our child what is going to happen first. Even if your child is non-verbal, explaining ahead of time what will happen and why it will be fun for him/her will go a long way toward minimizing tantrums and maximizing cooperation.

4) Expecting your family to “get it.”
Remember, if your extended family members don’t live with your child, they won’t “get it.” If you are visiting family with your child, send an e-mail to them explaining what they can do to make the visit comfortable for you and your child. Explain why sudden loud noises might be problematic, or tell everyone the answer your child likes to hear when he/she asks over and over, “How fast does your car go?”

5) Leaving no way out.
If you are going to someone else’s house with your child, designate, in advance, a calm room or space where your child can go to decompress once they begin to be overwhelmed by all of the commotion and sensory input that comprise most celebrations. Every so often take your child to this room and spend some time alone with him/her.

6) Directing your activities outside your home.
Children on the autism spectrum will always do better when they are not over-stimulated by the many sights, sounds, smells, and unpredictable events of the outside world. So, you can create an experience in your home that you normally would go out for. For instance, instead of going to an evening parade with a festival of lights, you can put Christmas lights all around your house, turn off all the lights, and play Christmas music at a gentle volume. You may be concerned about depriving your child of a fun holiday experience, but keep in mind that when your child can’t digest the experience, they’re not having the fun experience you want. That’s why, if you can create a digestible version of the experience at home, your child can take in and enjoy the experience. By doing this, you are actually giving your child more, not less.

7) Seeing the wrapping instead of the gift.
So often, we get caught up in the trappings of the holidays – the tree, the presents, the outings that have to go exactly as planned. It’s okay to arrange fun things, but remember that these are only trimmings. They aren’t the gift, they’re just the wrapping. The gift is your special child. The gift is sharing hope and sweetness with the people you love. Instead of using the holidays as a planning fest, use it to see the beauty in your child’s uniqueness. Use it to celebrate what your child can do, and use it to feel and encourage compassion for your child’s very different way of experiencing the world.

About the Autism Treatment Center of America
The Autism Treatment Center of America is the worldwide teaching center for The Son-Rise Program, a powerful, effective and totally unique treatment for children and adults challenged by autism spectrum disorders and other developmental difficulties. For more information about the Autism Treatment Center of America and The Son-Rise Program visit or call 1-800-714-2779 in the U.S., or +1-413-229-2100 outside the U.S.

Press contact: Brenda Nashawaty, 617-688-3253,


February 2, 2008

Accelerated Head Growth Can Predict Autism Before Behavioral Symptoms Start, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Jan. 31, 2008) — Children with autism have normal-size heads at birth but develop accelerated head growth between six and nine months of age, a period that precedes the onset of many behaviors that enable physicians to diagnose the developmental disorder, according to new research from the University of Washington’s Autism Center.
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The study also indicates that this aberrant growth is present in children who have the early onset form of autism as well as those later diagnosed with the regression type of the disorder, according to Sara Webb, who led the research.

“We know there are a number of risk factors for autism, and if we can pinpoint them we have better ways of identifying children at risk so we can get them into prevention or monitoring,” said Webb, a UW research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

“This abnormal or accelerated rate of head circumference growth is a biological marker for autism. It occurs before the onset of behavioral symptoms at 12 months of age such as a child’s failure to respond to their name, a preoccupation with certain objects, not pointing to things, a lack of interest in other people and the absence of babbling.

“By itself, head growth is not an indicator of autism,” she said, “because kids are going to be getting bigger and development is so variable. However, if you notice it and some of these other symptoms, it is a red flag to seek evaluation.”

She said is it important understand that the data used in this study were based on three measurements made during the first three years of life, not from single point in time. To do this, the researchers obtained the medical records of 28 boys who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder between the ages of 3 and 4 at the UW Autism Center and eight boys with developmental delay. All of the boys were participating in a larger longitudinal study.

Infant head measurements are typically done on a regular basis by pediatricians through the first 18 months of life, but are not reliably done after that. Head circumference is calculated from the brow, or ridge above the eyes, around to the bony bump on the back of the skull and back around to the brow. Three measurements, including at birth, were required to chart the growth of each child and compare it with the range of normal development.

Webb said in most cases parents would have a difficult time detecting abnormal growth because there is a range of normal head sizes. Approximately 20 percent of children with autism have abnormally large head sizes, or what is called macrocephaly.

“Some of the children in our study started with a very small head size and later their growth accelerated. What we are looking for is disproportionate growth in children compared to the rest of their body. In this study nearly 60 percent of the autistic children had accelerated growth but only six of the children met the criteria for macrocephaly.”

Webb said she sees this information being used by pediatricians to screen children and refer them earlier rather than later for evaluation and intervention before other symptoms develop. The UW researchers plan to further explore the implications of abnormal head size as part of a larger autism prevention study of 200 infants at high risk for the disorder that has just started. These youngsters have older siblings already diagnosed with autism and have a one in five chance of developing the disorder, which has a strong genetic component. The typical risk for autism is now believed to be one in 150.

Earlier research at the UW Autism Center by its founding director Geraldine Dawson showed that accelerated head growth in children with autism slows down in the second year of life and this deceleration coincides with a with a period of worsening symptoms of autism.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Mental Health funded the research. The study was published in the Journal of Child Neurology. Co-authors of the new paper are Dawson, Theresa Nalty, Jeff Munson and Catherine Brock, who are all affiliated with the center, and Robert Abbott, a professor of educational psychology.

Also relevant for the campaign

February 1, 2008

Autism and Presidential Politics
John J. Pitney, Jr. – December 28th, 2007

Researchers are seeing more and more cases of autism. A quarter-century ago, the best estimate was that only one child in 2,000 suffered from autism or related disorders (e.g., Asperger’s syndrome). In 2007, a Centers for Disease Control study study of six sites found a rate of one in 150. No one knows how much is a real increase, and how much stems from changes in how we identify and classify autism.

Either way, autism has become a prominent issue. And for the first time in history, presidential candidates are talking about it. But so far in the campaign, there is a difference in emphasis between Republicans and Democrats.

Hillary Clinton has given autism the most attention. In November, she announced that she would spend $700 million a year on research, teacher training, and support services. At a campaign stop in Iowa, she said:

Now, when I was in law school, I took a special year at the Yale Child Study center. That was back in the very early 1970’s. At that time, science was still blaming parents for autism. And they particularly blamed mothers. And I remember reading some of the so-called research and in particular the work of one scientist who had a lot of national and international prominence for his theories. And I thought, you know, that just can’t be right, there’s got to be more to it to that. I later moved to Little Rock where one of my friends had a son with autism. And I spent time in her home, I spent time with her and her son and my instinct perhaps as a mother was that this could not be the explanation.

Clinton was striking the right political chord. Parents of autistic children would recognize the “scientist” as psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim. They loathe his memory because his “refrigerator mom” theory wrecked thousands of lives before research exposed it as junk science.

Barack Obama has stepped up, too. His health plan includes a section on autism: “He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind.”

Similarly, John Edwards and Bill Richardson mention autism in their position papers.

The Republican candidates, however, have been much less vocal. None of them talk about it on their websites, and have only barely touched on the issue in other venues. John McCain told an activist that he supports hearings into the causes of autism. Mike Huckabee got a $400 haircut from a New Hampshire barber, with the proceeds going to autism research. And ABC reports on Rudy Giuliani: “When told by a person with autism attending his event that `most’ private insurers will not cover people with autism, Giuliani said that he favored `high-risk pools’ for people with expensive conditions.” Parents of autistic kids will probably not like that idea.

And that’s it.

The GOP silence is puzzling. Millions have family members with the disorder. It shapes their lives and could sway their votes. It is not exclusively a Democratic or liberal issue. California’s 1969 Lanterman Act was a landmark in serving people with autism and other disabilities. Its sponsor was a Republican, as was the governor who signed it: Ronald Reagan. Last year, President Bush signed the Combating Autism Act. Its author was the very conservative Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA).

Michael Ganz, of the Harvard School of Public Health, puts the annual social cost of caring for and treating people with autism at $35 billion. There could be a political cost to ignoring it.

Notable recent finds …

February 1, 2008

ABC series may perpetuate autism myths
A medical group wants to pull the plug on Eli Stone, saying the show’s storyline feeds vaccine fears


February 1, 2008

The worlds of academia and pop culture rarely cross paths, let alone cross swords. But when members of the American Academy of Pediatrics caught wind of the autism plotline of a new television show this week, it sprung into action – and even rushed to release a research paper it hoped would bolster its critique.

The culprit was the debut episode of the ABC drama Eli Stone that aired last night, in which the title character successfully argues in court that a vaccine containing mercury causes autism.

AAP president and pediatrician Renée Jenkins called on the network to pull the show, saying that mercury is no longer used in routinely offered vaccines and that no scientific link exists between autism and vaccines. The AAP followed up with the early release of a new study out of the University of Rochester, which challenges the idea that mercury builds up in a dangerous way in infants.

Dr. Jenkins says it’s rare for her organization to step into the fray, but the lingering perception that vaccines cause autism is a vexing one for pediatricians.
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“Considering vaccines are the cornerstone of preventive care, we thought it was imperative we say something about it,” she said in an interview from her office in Chicago.

The TV court case undoubtedly mimics the continuing U.S. case involving 5,000 families of autistic children who are suing for damages in a federal “vaccine court,” despite recent research that suggests autism rates continue to rise despite the absence of the controversial mercury-containing ingredient thimerosal in vaccines since 2000.

“Very often it’s difficult to let go of a theory,” she says.

Dr. Jenkins and her colleagues fear the show may have a similar effect to a 1998 British research paper that linked the measles vaccine to autism. Although the paper was later discredited, Dr. Jenkins says there was a drop in the immunization rates in that country after it was published and an increase in measles cases, some fatal.

Although the Eli Stone storyline is clearly fictional, “People get messages from TV or, certainly with the emotional tone to it, could cause people to become concerned,” she said.

A year ago, the American Psychiatric Association was part of a successful campaign to pull a Volkswagen ad featuring a man on a ledge contemplating suicide who then changes his mind after a stranger drives by and tells him about the car’s new pricing. The APA argued that the ad was insensitive to the issues of mental health and suicide.

But ABC refused to pull its debut of Eli Stone last night, and Aime Wolfe, an ABC spokeswoman, reiterated in an e-mail yesterday that the show is fictional and that “the characters, products, and events depicted in the episode are all fictional. The storyline plays on topical issues for dramatic effect, but its purpose is to entertain.”

Ms. Wolfe said the network planned to show an “information card” at the end of the show that directs people to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (

The AAP urged the precautionary removal of thimerosal from vaccines in the late 1990s. For the new paper, University of Rochester professor of microbiology and immunology Michael Pichichero studied infants in Buenos Aires, where vaccines still contain thimerosal, and found that babies expel thimerosal much faster than originally thought, leaving little chance for the build up of mercury.

The study was originally scheduled to be released Monday in the new issue of the AAP journal, Pediatrics.

, While Western countries are unlikely to turn back the clock, Dr. Pichichero says the implications for the developing world are great. As a consultant for the World Health Organization, Dr. Pichichero says countries that still use vaccines containing thimerosal needn’t change formulations.

“So the suppositions used to argue that children might receive excessive doses of mercury by receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines is refuted quite clearly by our study,” he said in an interview.

He said he hoped the early release of his study added to the chorus of criticism of the Eli Stone episode.

“Parents really worry about their children and want to do the right thing. And doctors want that too.”