The Son-Rise Program and Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Son-Rise Program and Autism Spectrum Disorder

by admin
April 28, 2021

When it comes to approaching learning difficulties and disorders, there is not a right or wrong answer. There is no one uniform way to approach these difficulties, and there is no one type of intervention protocol. Each case is unique, and one approach can work for one child and not another. The following article explores The Son-Rise Program for autism spectrum disorders and pervasive development disorder. 

Son-Rise Program: Inception and History

Barry Neil Kaufman, a former advertising executive, and his wife Samahria Lyte Kaufman developed The Son-Rise Program. The program was developed in the late 1960 and the early 1970s. Moreover, the couple developed this program upon working with their son Raun, diagnosed with autism as a toddler. The parents developed this protocol after feeling let down upon by the medical community’s diagnosis and intervention plan. The Kaufmans were dissatisfied with the prognosis they received that autism is incurable. The Kaufmans believed that their child engaged with autism spectrum disorder behaviors for a reason that only he understood. The parents administered this intensive program for three years. The focal point of their approach was not to force neurotypical behavior on their child. However, the Kaufmans imitated Raun’s repetitive behavior, such as rocking, spinning items, etc., typical for autism spectrum disorder while introducing eye contact, song and speech.

Upon administering the intensive three-year program, Raun’s symptoms of autism spectrum disorder receded. Moreover, his behavior moved more towards neurotypical child behavior, and he went to mainstream school and developed friendships. Later, he graduated from Brown University with a major in Biomedical Ethics. In 1983, the Kaufmans founded the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA), aiming to help parents create a home program for their children with an autism spectrum disorder. 

Son-Rise Program Philosophy

Son-Rise Program is an intensive one to one program conducted in a distraction-free playroom. The parent or therapist mimics the child’s repetitive behavior or mannerisms to show acceptance of the child’s behavior. It is believed that showing acceptance of a child’s behavior increases the child’s motivation to engage with others. This allows the parent or therapist to build on the shared activity by encouraging social interaction and communication. 

Parents are trained to be able to encourage, communicate and socialize effectively. The Autism Treatment Center of America administers these trainings. The Son-Rise Program prioritizes motivating socialization and communication abilities. One of the main features that sets the Son-Rise Program apart from other programs is that it emphasizes loving and accepting a child as they are. The rationale behind it is a child with autism spectrum disorder senses the parent or educator’s attitude through their voice, attitude, and body language. 

The Son-Rise Program philosophy is that when you approach a child with a loving understanding and positive attitude, they are more likely to interact. This is contrary to approaching the child with anger, despair, hopelessness. Moreover, as a child starts to engage with their parents or caregiver, there is a constant attempt to expand the child’s interests. Click here for a comprehensive look at the program.

Controversy and The Son-Rise Program

Advocates of The Son-Rise Program believe that it cures autism spectrum disorders similar to the case of Raun. This is a highly controversial view since most research suggests that autism is a lifelong disability while acknowledging that intense intervention can be helpful in mild cases. Many critics argue that  that the program gives parents false hopes by promising to cure children. However, proponents of the program argue that Son-Rise Program makes it clear that children are different and face different challenges and that all children will not be cured. Moreover, the program problematizes placing limits on a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, limiting what a child can and cannot do can greatly hinder the child’s potential to improve. One of the deep beliefs that The Son-Rise Program emphasizes is hope, and that hope can lead to action and results. 

Critics of the program use the lack of evidence-based research to discredit it. Moreover, they argue that success is mentioned and based on personal narratives. They problematize the idea that the Kaufman family’s research is based on their child’s success. It is problematic to base an entire program on one child. Investing in Son-Rise, experts say, is a little like buying a lottery ticket. Also, Fred Volkmar, the head of the Autism Program at Yale University, says, “I’m not aware of any rigorous scientific evidence that supports it.” Additionally, some critics are skeptical about whether Raun ever had an autism spectrum disorder. To date, there has not been any independent research on the success of the program. 


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