Autism Treatment Center of America®

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Frequently Asked Questions about The Son-Rise Program

We want to help you determine which treatment is best for your child. The more information you have about a program, the better you will understand how it can impact your child's development and growth. To support you, we offer a free 25-minute initial call with our Family Counselors so that you can ask specific questions about our program, your child and how The Son-Rise Program can work for you. Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about The Son-Rise Program.

1. Everything I have read states that my child has a permanent, lifelong disability with little hope for substantial progress. By telling parents that this is not always true, aren't you giving them “false hope”?

Upon receiving a diagnosis of special needs for their child, many parents are told what their child cannot do and will never do.

Parents are given little guidance regarding what treatment to pursue, where to turn for support and few ways to help their child significantly develop and grow. We have witnessed (and can certainly understand) the despair that results from this experience. That's why we offer a different perspective.

We do not put limits on the possibilities for your child. At the most basic level, we offer a perspective that invites parents to truly accept their children. At the same time, we inspire parents to hope for their children, to dream for their children and to take meaningful action to help their children. Then, we offer the specific tools, techniques and methods that help their children learn, connect with people and blossom. This means that parents have the opportunity not only to hope, but to make a substantial difference in the lives of their children. The Son-Rise Program has had many astounding results. While these results are not a guarantee for any one specific child, does that mean you should be discouraged from hoping for your child? We have found that parents and professionals who are consistently hopeful and optimistic are powerful forces for their children. Though we cannot know ahead of time what a given child will do, we cannot know ahead of time what a given child will never do.

With this in mind, we believe that having hope can be an extraordinarily positive experience for you and your child. Believing substantial change and healing is possible can never be detrimental, but rather is life-affirming and empowering, and the beginning of an effective intervention program. When hope is combined with action, there are no drawbacks – only benefits.

2. I know that your program has been very effective in increasing social interaction, but can it also improve academic and daily living skills?

The principles that have allowed us to achieve such measurable gains in social interaction are applied effectively in teaching academics and skill training. The Son-Rise Program is based on creating a respectful, trusting and interactive bond with the child and using that relationship as a foundation for education, learning and language development. We have found that children who are more engaged in an activity learn more rapidly and interact and communicate more frequently. We use the child's areas of interest and a strong interactive relationship to teach academics and daily living skills, such as reading, using speech to communicate, following instructions, using the toilet consistently, brushing teeth and playing games by the rules. This method has proved to be highly effective –many children have “graduated” from their Son-Rise Programs to attend typical or mainstream schools where they have demonstrated age-level or above academic skills.

3.Can we do The Son-Rise Program in conjunction with other types of Autism therapy?

Absolutely. Numerous interventions have been used successfully in conjunction with The Son-Rise Program, including dietary changes (gluten/casein-free), Auditory Integration Therapy, vitamin therapy and sensory integration. This program works especially well with the biological interventions cited in the DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) protocol.

At the same time, other approaches have been found to undermine The Son-Rise Program's effectiveness and often hinder a child's growth because the contradictory or conflicting approaches confuse the child. It is very important to look at any other therapy being considered to determine if it will be complementary or potentially unsupportive. Our staff can help you determine the most effective interventions for your child.

4. I am intrigued by your approach of "joining" my child's repetitious behaviors ("isms"), but I've been told this will just make him do it more. Is this true?

The common misconception of this technique is that by "joining" in repetitious and ritualistic behaviors the child will be encouraged to "ism" even more. After 25 years of implementing this technique, a cornerstone strategy of The Son-Rise Program, our experience and results prove just the opposite. We have found that when children are "joined" in their repetitious behaviors, they actually become more engaged, more socially available and more motivated to be with others. Rather than increasing their exclusivity and self-stimulating behaviors and rituals, they reach out more and connect more fully to the world around them.

Although the "joining" aspect of our program has been the subject of much speculation and misperception and has received criticism over the years, it is significant to note that recent studies are now supporting the perspective and techniques that we have been applying for over 2 decades. For instance, Gerard J. Nijhof and colleagues presented the results of their study at the 10th World Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities. The study showed that a child's repetitious behaviors are purposeful, and therefore, it is not in the child's best interest to stop these behaviors. They further noted that, "it is doubtful whether a decrease of repetitive behaviors stimulates the appearance of desirable behaviors." A study by Baker, Koegel and Koegel at the University of California, Santa Barbara used the "obsessions" of autistic children to design creative play activities. They found that repetitious behaviors were not increased, but rather the students became more participatory and social in these circumstances. These and other studies support the use of "joining" as a beneficial treatment tool and clearly show that participating in these behaviors does not increase them, but in fact can lead to greater interactivity.

Note: This does not mean we "join" all behaviors that might occur, such as hitting, pinching, smearing, etc. We have many specific techniques that are consistently effective for handling "challenging" behaviors. "Joining" is not the approach we use in these circumstances.

5. I have 3 children, and I work as well. Will The Son-Rise Program be effective if I can't provide a full-time program for my child?

Due to the nature of our program, any amount of time you can devote to your child's development and education will have an impact. It stands to reason that the more time spent, the greater the impact. Studies have shown that children who have challenges with learning show the most dramatic growth when worked with one-on-one as intensively as possible. With this in mind, we highly recommend that your program run at least 20 hours per week to start (40+ hours per week being optimal). This will give your child the opportunity to receive significant input and stimulation, while giving you ample time to observe the program's effectiveness. We will teach you to recruit and train a support team of relatives, friends and volunteers to aid you with your program and help you maximize the time spent with your child. Many parents who believed they were unable to work with their child full time initially have been so excited by the changes they have seen in their children, that they have used creative planning, solid support and effective time management to expand their program to the optimal level.

6. Is your program effective in working with children who are older or adults? What about those who are considered “higher functioning”?

Although we are best known for our work with children who are nonverbal or young, this is only one of our areas of expertise. We have worked with countless children over the age of 7 and with adults up to age 53.

Obviously, it is most effective to begin intervention with your child as soon as you become aware that they have challenges, but we have found that it is never too late to achieve impressive results. See the stories of Dar Louise, Eileen Davis and Walter Jansz. Additionally, we have worked with a significant number of children who have been considered “higher functioning,” and we have seen these children learn and grow at an incredibly rapid rate. Since these children are already verbal and can be somewhat socially involved, we have found that they respond especially well to our program .

After your free 25-minute initial call, our Family Counselors can put you in contact with other parents who have worked with their "higher functioning" children, so you can hear firsthand how effective The Son-Rise Program has been for their children.

7. What type of training has your staff received?

Each staff person completes a rigorous and comprehensive educational curriculum in Autism training (up to 3 years for Son-Rise Program Teachers and one year for Son-Rise Program Child Facilitators), which includes extensive work with children of varying ages and diagnoses, classroom education, group instruction, comprehensive ideological and attitudinal training, and continual observation and feedback by experienced Son-Rise Program Teachers. Many of our senior staff members and teachers have worked in The Son-Rise Program for 5-10 years. Our Teachers and Child Facilitators work with hundreds of families and children each year, giving them intensive experience across a broad spectrum of diagnoses, behaviors, family dynamics and living situations, thus ensuring that every person working with your child has the highest level of experience and expertise available.

Our staff has a wide range of backgrounds and degrees in areas of study such as psychology, education, sociology, physical therapy and special education. However, the Autism Treatment Center of America is currently the only institution offering professional training in Son-Rise Program techniques and methodology. And while prior professional training and degrees are certainly helpful, all of our Child Facilitators and Teachers have been trained and certified by the Autism Treatment Center of America's Son-Rise Program Professional Certification programs.