Q&A session 2 with the Director of The
Son-Rise Program®, Bryn N. Hogan.
Topic: Playroom Volunteers
Q: Dear Bryn:
Ed, Julianna and I were at the Autism Treatment Center
of America™ for our Son-Rise Program®
Intensive in late January of this year
and we were so pleased with the progress Julianna made
in one short week. As her last session in the playroom
came to an end, I sat there in tears because I was so
touched by the staff's commitment to her and her delight
in being in the playroom. I was totally up for the challenge
of coming home and creating the same opportunity for
her at home.
Ed is a stay-at-home dad, and I work outside the home.
We pulled her out of her Special Education Pre-School
because we felt that she would be seen as a behavioral
challenge after having had free run of the playroom.
We had most of the essentials of our playroom together
and quickly moved on getting the remaining pieces in
Shortly after we returned home, we put together a flyer
that we posted in lots of places, including the local
colleges, and e-mailed it to everyone we know, asking
them to pass it on to their friends, etc. I also ran
an advertisement in the local newspaper for volunteers.
The flyer was modeled after several in our Son-Rise
Start- Up binder and included a photo of one of us playing
with Julianna in the playroom. The end result was zip,
nada, not one volunteer. In part this could be due to
the low unemployment (approx. 2.5%) in our part of northern
California, also known as Telecom Valley, located north
of San Francisco in the southern tip of wine country.
So, we went to plan B - pay people. Again, we posted
and ran ads. We held an information night at our home
where we explained the program, observed Julianna in
the playroom, showed the BBC video and had people complete
applications. End result, after checking references,
etc. we hired 4 people. One participated in the program
for 3 weeks and quit because it required more energy
than she felt she had. One accepted an afternoon slot
and never showed up and didn't return phone calls (after
receiving glowing references!). One participated for
a couple of weeks and bowed out due to demands of her
college courses and the fourth, who is a jewel, just
tonight told us she is moving back to San Francisco
and would like to be involved but can only do so one
day a week on a rotating schedule.
We ran a second ad a couple of weeks ago, had a second
informational night, etc. and are in the process of
trying to work out the schedules of additional facilitators
to work with Julianna. However, we are starting to get
gun shy - we clearly explain the time commitment we
are looking for (minimum of 7 hours a week) and the
duration ( minimum of 6 months) and yet we are not being
The good news is that Julianna is benefiting from the
playroom time she is getting and is now saying a couple
of four-word sentences (I need more juice. I need more
bubbles). The less-than-good news is we are getting
discouraged. Ed cannot do the playroom time full time
and I can't quit my job and stay home. Any suggestions
on what we can do differently regarding recruiting people
would be greatly appreciated! What I would really like
to do is move into Unit Two [a housing facility at The
Son-Rise House in Sheffield, MA.] or minimally recruit
a few of the wonderful staff there. I truly cannot express
how much I admire, appreciate and love everyone that
worked with us in January.
Thank you and please give my best to William and the
rest of the Son-Rise staff.
Name: Victoria and Ed P.
Child: Julianna, 4.5 years
Diagnosis: PDD and ataxic CP
A: Dear Victoria,
I see that life has offered you some additional challenges...so
the question is, how do we face them? We cannot control
the actions of others, (volunteers leaving, not responding
etc) but we can control our response to them. So...how
do we want to respond?
If you remember our idea on "Becoming a Force of Nature"
- one paramount aspect is PERSISTENCE. The willingness
to ask again and again and again for what we want. The
willingness to say, "I cannot be stopped", "I am going
for what I want". I know it can feel challenging when
you have put so much into something and it doesn't work
out. I know that there must have been a tremendous amount
of energy that went into each attempt to recruit. Firstly...let's
celebrate this! You are trying! You are doing everything
you can for your beautiful daughter - this is wonderful!
The reward for our actions is the love with which we
do them...and then the outcome is our bonus. Hurrah
for your efforts! Hurrah for your attempts!
We want Julianna to continue to try, to continue to
put out her best effort, even if we have asked her 100
times to look into our eyes or have a longer conversation.
Now, we must be willing to do the same ourselves.
My suggestion to you is two-fold:
- I would sit down and consider the way in which you
have presented yourselves and the program -
Is there anything you can change? Modify? Enhance?
And then I would see what you can add or alter to
be even more effective. (feel free to schedule a support
call - for all Intensive Families, or a consultation
if you feel that would help)
- Persist! Believe! Continue to go for what you want,
to pursue volunteers, to go out into your community
and believe that this can happen for you and your
family. Years ago, when I first began to deal with
my Arythmia, my heart would beat at 180 beats per
minute in my chest and I could not breathe well and
I felt dizzy and I couldn't walk. I remember trying
to relax and focusing on getting my heartbeat back
to normal. I remember the times when I thought that
might not be possible. I've been there, I understand
that it can be a challenge...but, as Helen Keller
said, "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing".
Today, I can run, I can control my heart (most of
the time), I can dance, I can sing...but I had to
try, I had to try 1000 times and then 1000 times again.
Each time that I did, I became a greater, bigger version
I know you can attain your dream of creating this program
that you want - you simply have to dare to continue
- and dare to make it so.
With much warmth to you,
I hope that as the weeks
progress, I will have ample opportunity to answer all
the questions from everyone who is wanting support.
For me, this is another rare and unique opportunity
to offer our support and guidance to those who want
help. Thank you all for making this exciting exchange
possible through your participation. Please know you
can contact us by telephone to speak to a staff member
if you have more questions. Call us at: (413) 229-2100
Intro to Q&A Session