Autism Treatment Center of America®

Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues

Chapter 6 XII

Vikki continued trying to work with Raun for almost a week. The first few minutes of each session, Samahria joined them until she knew that Raun was comfortable. Yet, after only three or four days, it became apparent that Vic was having difficulty. Her way of bombarding him with stimuli seemed hectic and overwhelming to him. Her finely developed talents and tools did not prove useful. Raun remained unresponsive - not participating.

Even as we continued training her, guiding her to soften her methods and develop a more accepting attitude, Raun continued to withdraw in her presence. She insisted she could modify her approach. Yet as we shared together, Vikki realized her hidden self-doubt was undercutting her effectiveness. We explained that the dance on the outside had to match the attitude inside. If not, Raun would know; any special child would know. And, apparently, Raun did.

Vikki and I spent hours together doing dialogues to unearth her concerns, doubts, and self-judgments. She had some powerful personal insights and made changes, especially in dropping her need for Raun to respond in order to feel good about her teaching. However, Raun became more and more difficult in her sessions, withdrawing and crying. We had roundtable discussions about the wisdom of expanding the program at this time. Vikki decided finally to withdraw until Raun became stronger and could handle her special brand of magic. Admittedly, she had no experience working with children so young. But most important, she wanted to work on her attitude and establish a solid nonjudgmental, self-accepting place inside. Could we wait a couple of months and then give her another opportunity? Absolutely. Both Samahria and I concurred.

This experience confirmed the validity of two of our original premises. First, attitude greased the wheels and made our program with Raun work smoothly. If we judged him or ourselves, we would divert our attention from simply accepting and loving him and undercut the ease, tenderness, and effectiveness of the program. Second, as long as we demanded measurable signs of Raun's learning as evidence of our own capabilities, we would create a pressure that subverted our basic intention. Such concerns would become a trap, leading us to push him and stimulating him to push back. We had made Raun his own teacher. Although we initiated activities, all of the games and interactions took place only with his permission. If he expressed a different interest, we followed and assisted, ever-present midwives to his unfolding. We had evolved a child-centered teaching process. In contrast, Vikki, as a result of all her training, had communicated implicitly an underlying pressure, a "must" or "should" that Raun resisted. The lesson had been for all of us.

Bryn, at dinner, expressed her growing excitement about her brother and their developing relationship. She loved the times when he responded. Chattering enthusiastically about his ease with puzzles and games, she said that she believed that he cared now. What a proud teacher - proud of herself and her pupil, as well as sensitive to his wants and relaxed whenever he withdrew into his repetitive "isms." Bryn had learned as much as Raun in their loving interchange. This beautifully attentive and compassionate youngster demonstrated power, perseverance, and a new womanliness. Her insightfulness was rapidly deepening. She read more and explored more of her talents.

Her energy expressed itself in inventiveness and a tendency to grab the limelight. She had taken violin lessons, and now her practicing had given birth to nightly performances at mealtime. Although we did not protest, the strings of her instrument whined mercilessly as they sounded their sour notes. Bryn had become an enthusiastic pianist as well, though she tended to pound the keyboard of the piano. Her acting and dance lessons resulted also in nightly performances. Sometimes, she would stand on a chair in the kitchen and recite a monologue that she had recently memorized. Bryn's facial expressions and theatrical arm gestures accented the emotions underlying her material. On other occasions, she would show us modern dance routines choreographed to music. Her vitality seemed irrepressible. Additionally, she treated us to expert comic imitations of family members and friends. Her quick character studies delighted all of us. Often, our applause encouraged her to do encores.

Thea talked less than Bryn about Raun's growth and more about having fun with him. She had a lovely capacity to meet him on his level, to play with him as a peer, and to engage him in carefree physical interaction. Her relationship was less verbal, more intuitive. Sometimes, out of her own enthusiasm, or perhaps jealousy, Thea pushed him to respond. Either Samahria or I would then gently intercede and show her alternative ways to play with him. We would see her impish grin below her bangs and deep-set eyes. Although always open to understand more, she resisted direction, hedging her responses to our suggestions. She loved working with Raun and, by her own admission, wanted to be the best teacher possible. However, she moved to the sound of her own drum, using intuition as her guide.

Additionally, Thea still spent long hours by herself drawing and painting, producing fanciful renderings of her family, her friends, and her daydreams. Often, she drew beautiful, expressionistic pictures and presented them to us as gifts. Statements of her affection. Descriptions of her feelings. Her stylized figures, captured in movement, filled drawing pads with life and unexpected color. Blue hair. Red faces. Yellow noses. Green feet. Even the small clay people she sculpted stretched their arms and kicked their legs in unorthodox movements. All of her artistic creations reinvented the familiar, leaving the viewer to delight not simply in what is but in what could be.

Chapter 6 Part XIII