The Son-Rise Programme


The Son-Rise Programme was devised by Barry and Samaria Lyte Kaufman, following the diagnosis of the son with hopeless, lifelong autism, and the recommendation that they institutionalise him. After three years intensive work with him at home, he emerged ‘with no trace of his former condition. The Kaufman's set up The Autism Treatment Center of America in 1983, and their son, Raun, teaches there today alongside them and their trained staff. Their story has received attention world-wide; they have written 12 books, the most renowned being Son-Rise (now updated to Son-Rise: the Miracle Continues); there has also been a BBC QED documentary () about the Programme, as well as an NBC television film.

The Programme

The most important aspect of the Kaufmans approach to autistic children is their belief that parents must establish an interactive relationship with the child before attempting to teach them. This is largely achieved through the technique of joining. Instead of preventing the child from performing the ritualistic and repetitive - inappropriate behaviours (‘stims’) which are so typical, they encourage parents to join in with them. Far from reinforcing this behaviour, this is seen to engage the child’s interest and helps to establish a connection with the parents; the ritualistic behaviour diminishes and the child’s social development advances. (Not all behaviour is joined; other techniques are used to deal with aggressive or unpleasant behaviour.)

Emphasis is on the importance of the parents being the child's teachers and therapists; their attitude should be optimistic and non-judgemental, based on respect and deep caring. The parents energy, excitement and enthusiasm are also crucial for inspiring a love of learning and interaction.

A safe, distraction-free play area facilitates concentration. Interactive play encourages meaningful communication, and sensitivity to the child’s own motivation increases their desire and ability to acquire skills.

What is involved?

There are three main levels of Programme:

Start-up This is the core Programme for parents and professionals. It is a week-long course covering all the basic skills and techniques necessary to establish the Son-Rise Programme at home.

Maximum Impact: Advanced Training This is the next stage, which focuses on specific challenges you have encountered, and provides a boost to energy and enthusiasm levels.

Intensive This is the course to which parents bring their autistic child; professional Son-Rise Programme Child Facilitators work one-on-one with the child for up to eight hours, for five days, while the parents receive training. Observing the staff working with the children is also valuable.

Can the Son-Rise Programme be used in conjunction with other therapies?

It has been successfully combined with dietary changes, Auditory Integration Therapy, vitamin therapy and sensory integration; but not all therapies are compatible Son-Rise staff will give advice on this.

Who is it suitable for?

The Programme is best known for working with young and/or non-verbal children, but it is also considered appropriate for both adults and high-functioning children.


The courses are held at the Autism Treatment Center of America, though they do occasionally run courses in the UK. The latest UK course, in Enfield, cost between $995 and $1,495.

The Autism Treatment Center of America
A Division of the Option Institute
2080 S Undermountain Road
Sheffield MA 01257-9643
Tel: 001 413 229 2100
(you can arrange a free initial consultation)
Website: http://www.son-rise.org

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