As some of you know, I'm currently attending the start-up Son-Rise program in NYC. All I can say is that the appoach is incedibly life-affirming, empowering, and effective for autistic children and their families.
What I'm seeing during this week is that each morning parents are coming back happier, with reports of surprising progress in terms of eye contact, connection with their child, and feelings of empowerment and enjoyment of their children. Of course it differs for each child, but many parents are surprised at these quick changes their children are making literally overnight, with just a few simple changes. Just speaking for myself, I saw an increased intensity of eye contact and connection with my son, and an increased desire to seek me out just after doing the changes for about a half hour. It gets you close to you child faster than anything else I've experienced.
Son-Rise has some similarities here and there to some other interventions I've experienced, but it differs in a few aspects — the child is seen as a gift and not someone that needs to be fixed, yet opportunities are constantly given for growth. Expecations of the potential for each child are extremely high, compared to what we've all been told, regardless of age or diagnosis. There is an incredible acceptance and respect for the whole child and the entire family. Also, nothing is forced on the child, and apparently this level of respect and acceptance gets initial results very quickly for many children.
The intervention philosophy and style may be strange for some, because it all starts by accepting the child totally, including their autism, and joining the child fully by participating in their “stimming” behaviors without trying to stop them or redirect them. This is not done to manipulate, but rather, to fully appreciate, enjoy, and engage with your child by accepting them as they are. Then as opportunities present, the child is gently challenged more and more to expand their awareness, flexibility, frienship skills, communication, and knowledge. Everything at the beginning is based on trusting your child to lead and teach you, and then as time goes on, the parent takes more and more of the lead in the interaction.
I can see this intervention used throughout a child's program, and I think that you can creatively use it in conjunction with some other interventions as well, such as RDI and speech, etc. With RDI, I can see it as really helping to smooth out the transition in some of the early stages. And I can also see it as a much more organically easy way to do a program such as RDI, by being able to let go and allow some of those goals to happen more naturally.
I don't think that this program conflicts with behavioral philosophy, but it does conflict with most present-day behavioral programs. What I mean is that I can see Son-Rise definitely uses some basic behavioral principles in some of what they do, but the difference is in what they're trying to accomplish — (creating a happy independent adult with relationships, self-acceptance and self-esteem), the accepting attitude behind it, and the emphasis on social and communication outcomes that are truly important long-term, rather than on short-term fixes or compliance issues.
The family and child's self-esteem and happiness is put first in this intervention. It's a healing balm for the spirit of a family that's been challenged by autism. I highly recommend it, and hope that all families with an autistic child or adult might have an opportunity to experience the Son-Rise program for themselves one day.
– Sandra Sinclair, www.autismvoice.com