Son-Rise is a home-based program for children with autism spectrum disorders other disabilities related to communication and interaction. The program emphasizes eye contact, accepting the child without judgment, and engaging the child in a noncoercive way, and it hypothesizes that treated children will decide to become non-autistic. Former advertising executive Barry Neil Kaufman and his wife Samahria Lyte Kaufman developed Son-Rise in the late 1960s and early 1970s while working with their son Raun, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, and who is claimed to have gone from being autistic to normal via the treatment.
No independent study has tested the efficacy of the program, but a 2003 study found that involvement with the program led to more drawbacks than benefits for the involved families over time, and a 2006 study found that the program is not always implemented as it is typically described in the literature, which suggests it will be difficult to evaluate its efficacy.
After Raun began displaying Autistic behaviors following a series of ear infections, the Kaufmans turned to the medical community for diagnosis and treatment. 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.
In 1976 Barry Kaufman published a book, Son-Rise, about his son Raun's "triumph over autism", which he revised and added further material to in 1995. An NBC TV Movie of the same name was broadcast in 1979. Kaufman left his career in motion picture advertising to treat Autism, and to become a writer and consultant. Raun Kaufman's career has included stints with SCORE Education, a tutoring program popular in the United States. Presently, he is the CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America, and is overseeing expansion of its treatment centers to the United Kingdom.
Treatment and philosophy
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. The idea is based upon the belief that any child, even an autistic child, is more likely to thrive by means of interaction and play with others who are having fun with the child and enjoying what the child enjoys. 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.
The consensus within the medical community is that there is no cure for autism, and only a very few treatments have empirical evidence for improvements in symptoms. In-house statistics of the Son-Rise Program, based upon parents' evaluations of their children's changes, show a substantial improvements in language, attention span and eye contact. A 2003 study found that involvement with the Son-Rise Program led to more drawbacks than benefits for the involved families over time, although family stress levels did not rise in all cases. A 2006 study found that the Son-Rise Program is not always implemented as it is typically described in the literature, which suggests it will be difficult to evaluate its efficacy. The Autism Treatment Center of America is currently working with researchers from Lancaster University in the UK to begin the first rigorous scientific investigation of The Son-Rise Program with funding from several private donors.
Critics of the Son-Rise program point to the lack of hard statistical results, and dismiss its many anecdotal (yet verifiable) stories of success. Others suggest that Raun was never truly autistic. Others state that the program is too intensive for many parents to see through to success.
Other criticisms focus on Barry Neil Kaufman, and the fact that he chose to make a profession of authoring books about his philosophy, and his founding of a non-profit institute offering classes based upon his life perspectives and experiences.
The most vehement critics state that the Kaufmans offer false hope and that the entire enterprise is simply a money-making operation. However, the recent BBC Documentary titled "I Want My Little Boy Back" showed, in detail, one family's experience with the program, with results that far exceeded the parents' hopes.
The National Autistic Society points out the high cost of the program, as well as the lack of (and resistance to) formal scientific evaluations. The program is also of uncertain use with older children, and may work best with individuals who have a 'certain level of potential'. Son-Rise is also very volunteer-intensive with high turnover, and may require parents to fill in staffing gaps. In addition, professionals have questioned the emphasis placed on eye contact and its potential aversiveness for some children.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Kaufman BN (1995). Son-Rise: the Miracle Continues. HJ Kramer. ISBN 0915811618.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Williams KR, Wishart JG (2003). "The Son-Rise Program intervention for autism: an investigation into family experiences". J Intellect Disabil Res 47 (4–5): 291-9. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2788.2003.00491.x. PMID 12787161.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Williams KR (2006). "The Son-Rise Program intervention for autism: prerequisites for evaluation". Autism 10 (1): 86–102. doi:10.1177/1362361306062012. PMID 16522712.
- ↑ Kaufman BN (1976). Son-Rise. Harper & Row. ISBN 0060122765.
- ↑ Lack of support for interventions:
- Aman MG (2005). "Treatment planning for patients with autism spectrum disorders". J Clin Psychiatry 66 (Suppl 10): 38–45. PMID 16401149.
- Francis K (2005). "Autism interventions: a critical update" (PDF). Dev Med Child Neurol 47 (7): 493–99. PMID 15991872.
- Herbert JD, Sharp IR, Gaudiano BA (2002). "Separating fact from fiction in the etiology and treatment of autism: a scientific review of the evidence". Sci Rev Ment Health Pract 1 (1): 23–43.
- Howlin P (2005). "The effectiveness of interventions for children with autism", in Fleischhacker WW, Brooks DJ: Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Springer, 101–119. DOI:10.1007/3-211-31222-6_6. ISBN 3211262911. PMID 16355605.
- Rao PA, Beidel DC, Murray MJ (2007). "Social skills interventions for children with Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism: a review and recommendations". J Autism Dev Disord. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0402-4. PMID 17641962.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Hauser, Carolina (January, 2005). The Son-Rise Program. National Autistic Society. Retrieved on 2007-03-28.
- ↑ Jordan, R. & Powell (1993), "Reflections of the Option Method as a Treatment for Autism", Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 23: 682-685
- ↑ Williams, K. & Wishart, J. (1999), "The Experience of Families Implementing the Son-Rise Program Intervention for Autism", Research into Therapy: Collected papers from the conference organised by the Autism Research Unit: 91-102
- ↑ Macey, E. (1996), "Using the Option Approach in Schools", Autism on the Agenda. A collection of papers from a National Autistic Society Conference: 203-205
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