Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.
In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.
When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.
What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.
So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.
About Antonio … we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.
When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”
At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”
He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.
God bless, Jackline
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I wanted to write a letter that somehow expressed a small indication of what the five days spent at the Autism Treatment Center of America™ brought to myself and will in turn bring to my blessed and beautiful family.
I fully realised that my eldest, Chris, had a very special "uniqueness" within him when I first heard of The Son-Rise Program. I knew instinctively that Chris was autistic, even though it took several years for the professionals to catch up with what I had already recognised.
Then when my third son Anthony was three I already knew he too had been blessed with a wonderful challenge and as time passed he was given the diagnosis of Aspergers and has since been noted as having ADHD…personally I just like to think of him as an eccentric Tasmanian devil with an incredible IQ and thirst for knowledge that at 7 leaves me reeling in shock and amazement.
When my fourth child was born everyone assured me that autism was very rare in girls, but as I watched her develop I saw in her rigidity and world of silence the unmissable signs of autism. This left myself and my second son outside the circle of Autism Spectrum Disorder!!
Yes there are days when I want to crawl out of a back window and run to the nearest café for a large, strong espresso. Days when I go to bed knowing that in two hours I will be back up again for another day full of challenge. There are days when my eldest’s aggression and Katy’s screaming push me to the limits, and just as I am about to collapse, a spinning charging 7 year old bowls me over asking me the square root of 24 and a string of other mathematical problems coinciding with the reign of Roman rulers!!! However… show me ANY family where they do not also have days like that? The difference is that as parents of children with special needs we learn the importance of that small hand suddenly reaching up to be held…we spend months longing to hear the words “I love you” even though their eyes say it to us on a daily basis…we are ecstatic as they make wondrous steps forward which every single one of them has the ability to do with the right support, love and care. As they hug us back for the first time, tears stream down our faces at such an amazing achievement.
So what have I taken away from the Start-Up Program? I learned that this deep, deep love that has always poured from within my being is not me being unaware of the challenges I face on a daily basis….but instead the love I have always felt and relied upon is indeed that which is the most essential thing that is required for truly making the first steps forward with our children. I have learned and listened and been so moved by how other parents have felt. It touched my heart the way people talked and shared with their own feelings.
The basis of everything I learned I would say is summed up by this:
To love is to give without counting the cost, from every inch within my heart
To embrace with a willing heart and to guide with a passionate heart
Autism has brought me to understand all of the above and more and my life has been enriched and blessed tenfold by what my children have bestowed upon me in return.
Son-Rise has allowed me to be assured that all of these years I have not loved in a blind faith which some people used to think was how I existed…instead I have lived my life the way which you all help teach. I love my children and my children love me, and I am so proud of all they have achieved and now I am so excited to have the power and knowledge I gained at the Son-Rise Start-Up to help them achieve the awesome potential that each one of them has to further develop into unique individuals. I know that at times they may regress but I shall not be deterred as I know and believe in them. I know and believe that one day I will write and inform you of the next amazing changes all of them will have made.
Bless you all for an incredible week, for a fantastic week. Thank you for the ways you have helped me and my blessed family.
I have always pushed and campaigned to raise autism awareness, I have always explained my house as the "house of entertainment" and although challenges occur on a daily basis, there is the love and laughter we share. I don’t have many material possessions, I don’t have an amazing immaculate house…but I do have a home where the first thing that strikes everyone who enters is a warmth and a love that shines through us all, and I thank God for that gift which can never be brought. Many thanks again, take care and I hope to meet with you all again one day.
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Dear Bears and Samahria,
Hello my name is Leanne Dole. I am the mother of a beautiful 8 year old son named Blake. I am sending you this email to thank you. Two years ago, I attended a Son-Rise Start Up. I got to the start of the gate and saw the words "A place for miracles". Well that was it, my emotions came out and what I didn't realize was that my life would now begin. I also attended the Family Intensive a year later and came to the Maximum Impact and will most certainly be attending New Frontier.
I have never felt more at home than when I was there, the love and acceptance of Blake makes me extremely proud as I have always been of him but now more than ever. I have been lobbying the Australian Government over here for quite a while and they now know me by my first and last name I was invited to a Forum to speak about Son-Rise but I received the invitation after the event took place. I have been on television, in the newspaper and on our local radio.
Blake is also Epileptic and there is a question of Chrohn's disease. But I'm not one to give up -- only to fight on. But this advice was not by one so called child Psychiatrist and one of the best in Australia but by another as well. This is what happens in our Country and there are plenty of families who get this type of advice. I was pregnant with my second child when I heard all this and vowed to try and help as many families as possible.
Believe me I am a very out there type of person with extreme passion but when I have gone there I want to take everything in so I haven't said a great deal but I tell you next time I'm going to have a sore shoulder for putting my hand up. You have given Blake language and to be exact 110 words not that I'm counting. I used to cry and grieve for losing the child I once knew but now I delight in him and his world I laugh like I have never laughed before.
It has affected our whole family my husband who used to be quiet is now more open. Bailey, Blake's brother says to me if he can take Blake to school for show and tell. I am so proud and truly greatful. Blake is very loving and I am amazed each day at how much more loving he is (is that possible? HA! HA!) he did win some hearts back in December.
From the very deep part of my heart I want to thank you. You have had a huge impact on our lives and that of Blake's volunteer's who say they get more out of it than Blake.
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The Son-Rise Program and The Option Institute have literally made me a true force of nature!
… Toni Wisher, Ohio
When I met my son for the first time, I looked into his eyes, he looked back at me, even though he was only a day old. He looked into me as if he was reading my soul. It was as if he was connecting with me from the day I gave birth to him.
By the time he was three years old it was all gone... there was no connection. There was no more looking into Zac's eyes - he avoided looking at my face completely unless he was running towards me in a rage, teeth bared ready to take a bite out of me! He had no speech and would scream, cry and squeal while sometimes pulling or tugging us in the general direction of whatever it was he wanted. If he wanted a television show, he would tantrum. If I turned on a show he didn't like, he would tantrum. If I turned on a show that he did like, he would tantrum. Sometimes his tantrums would seem to drag on for hours on end, escalating up and down.
Zac's tantrums usually started with him running across the room and slamming his body into the floor or a wall and repeatedly banging his head, thud – thud – thud, over and over again on pretty much any hard surface. Then he would follow me from room to room, digging his fingers into his cheeks, neck, legs and even the soft skin under his eyes until he would break the skin and begin to bleed. All the while he would be screaming this shrill high pitched squeal. He would bite anyone without notice. I was desperate to help my son AND myself. The only comfort I found was in talking to other parents and discovering that there were parents like me that wanted more than the dreadful prognosis that the "professionals" would solemnly describe as a lifetime of disappointment and incurable Hell.
I first stumbled upon the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA) website three years ago. I immediately requested the free information packet and waited. Within five days I received the packet and a DVD titled, "I want my Little Boy Back". How could I NOT watch this? That first night I watched that DVD three times, crying my eyes out in pure joy and want, and actually feeling hopeful for the first time since Zac started slipping away. The next morning I called the ATCA and made arrangements for my first call with a family counselor. Our finances were exhausted. We were offered a scholarship right away - this was totally a first! Never had anyone offered us financial assistance before. Within two months of watching that DVD for the first time, we were in Sheffield, Massachusetts for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up. There I learned techniques that made sense to me in helping to build a relationship with my son. I learned about recovery and felt confident and hopeful. It was suddenly okay for me to love my son again instead of fearing him.
Within one week of coming home and starting our own Son-Rise Program, Zachary's tantrums were almost completely gone. He started glancing at my face and allowed me to join him in his wonderfully curious little world. Over the next year and a half I attended the Son-Rise New Frontiers and Maximum Impact Programs, both with scholarship assistance. I was able to build an intensive in-home program for my son and acquire volunteers that I trained in the principles of The Son-Rise Program with the knowledge and confidence that I found in myself while attending these programs. I was growing just as fast as Zachary was! I was interested in continuing my growth. I have since attended a number of adult programs at The Option Institute -- Power Dialogues, Advanced Power Dialogues, and Fearless. ALL of which I have attended only with the assistance of the scholarship program this wonderful organization offers.
Today my son looks into my eyes again. He runs up and hugs me, wants to play with me, snuggle up in a blanket with me or have me tickle him. Zac plays with his sister! He looks at strangers in the face. He goes with me to the grocery and helps me with shopping and things around the house. He is one of the happiest little boys that you could meet. Zachary is connecting with me in a way that I had once thought I had lost forever. Every single day Zac does something new and meaningful. And likewise, every single day I grow more with him. I am happier and more content with life than I ever imagined possible. I am so grateful to the Autism Treatment Center of America and The Option Institute, and to the donors who helped make it possible for me to receive the scholarships I have been given.
Thank YOU for helping me to help my family!
Sincerely and lovingly, Toni Wisher
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My name is Susan and I am so proud to say that I am a Senior Son Rise Child Facilitator who is aspiring to become a Son Rise teacher at the Autism Treatment Center of America. For the past 12 years, before coming to do Son-Rise training, I have had the opportunity to be in service for individuals diagnosed with some form of developmental disability. I have experienced a wide spectrum of “therapeutic” settings. My first job out of college was working in a live-in educational center for adults diagnosed with autism and also behaviorally challenged teens. This establishment’s therapeutic approach towards minimizing unwanted behaviors was to wrap clients in a gym mat with their hands and feet restrained. The reward system for wanted behaviors was delivering pieces of cookies and candy in 15 minute increments. Today this center is still operating as a recommended facility by the state where it is located. I have also experienced the understaffed group home setting, working 40 hours a week providing one on one support for individuals with developmental challenges. I have felt defensive alongside parents for their children at disorganized Individualized Educational Plan meetings. I have trained staff to work with clients in the community and home setting so families could have support and not institutionalize their child. I have encouraged parents to place their medically fragile children in institutional settings because their in-home services were taken away due to budget cuts. I have witnessed numerous families feeling disempowered. In short, I have been part of a bureaucratic system that is clearly not sustainable. I was part of a system whose intention was to create change which often resulted in little.
In the midst of my career I was introduced to Laura, a beautiful 25 year old woman who had gone through a rather extreme regression, losing all self care skills and social connectivity. I had been working with Laura for one year when her mother sent me to the Son-Rise Start Up Program in the summer of 2000. My attendance was made possible by scholarship funding provided by our donors. I returned home inspired to help my beautiful friend. After 2 months of running a part time Son Rise program, Laura completely emerged from her regressive state of 3 years. Today, she is a happy young woman who is now able to communicate her wants, hold a part time job, and show her art in local galleries. I am filled with joy whenever I witness Laura express her love to her family and friends. After my miraculous experience with Laura I had the opportunity to volunteer in a Son-Rise Program with a delightful 4 year old boy named Julian. His family was able to attend a Start up and an Intensive program with the assistance of scholarship funding. After one and a half years of running a Son-Rise Program, Julian’s diagnosis of Asperger’s was removed. Today he is in the fourth grade and has recently been accepted to partake in an exchange program in Japan!
In these last 2 years, during which I have been in training, I have experienced profound life change and growth. I once viewed myself as an unintelligent person and felt unworthy of being loved. I now confidently lead my life with integrity and a clear awareness of myself. Yes, I am still faced with challenges but now I have the tools to work with my experience in a useful and loving way. In addition I never thought I could be so passionate about my work or be part of a team that operates from such a deeply accepting and loving place. I can say with confidence that in one week I am a part of facilitating phenomenal change for a child in our Son-Rise Program Intensive. The clients I assisted before my arrival here would have been fortunate to have experienced such change in a year.
This letter is small gesture of my appreciation to you for helping to make my training and work possible. Know that my gratitude is delivered exponentially every day that I invite a child to look, speak, and play.
With absolute gratitude,
Senior Certified Child Facilitator
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Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.
Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!
“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!” Jeannie wrote.
Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.
Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.
But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend, Karen Gorman and her husband Joe decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. The Gorman’s made a substantial donation and set up the Karen and Joseph Gorman Ohio/ATCA Scholarship Fund. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake … and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.
Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends, the Gorman’s, learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.
“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!
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Your donations made it possible for us to receive scholarships so that we could attend a Start-Up Program and learn how to help ourselves and our daughter, Juliette. We have been running a Son-Rise Program® in our home during the past 16 months and would love to share with you about our journey with our daughter Juliette thus far.
Juliette is our 3rd child and we were excited about her arrival. She was as bright as she was stunningly beautiful, with dark brown eyes, blond curly hair, and a beautiful smile. But after her 2nd birthday she began to withdraw into her own world. She avoided eye-contact and our company. She stopped responding to her name or returning a smile. Even her language declined and disappeared. She lost interest in her dolls and toys, and if she played with them it was in very peculiar ways. She could be right in front of me and my heart would ache from missing her, that's how disconnected she was from the rest of us! We could not penetrate her wall, and I felt like a useless, terrible failure of a mother!
When she had spent the last few months tearing down all our wallpaper, we painted the walls (you can't tear down paint). Then she spent all her days biting on the walls, gnawing off the paint, with great success and efficiency I might add! She was 3 yrs old, still in diapers, had lost all her language, and was literally eating up our house and furniture!!! It was time to ask for help!
When she was diagnosed with autism we weren't surprised, we knew that. But the fact that we were told that there was no way of helping her, and that the most improvement we could ever hope for was that she would learn how to dress herself and eat with a fork, that nearly killed us!!!
Right away we put her in a preschool for autistic children, where she did learn how to dress herself and eat with a fork. But we wanted more for Juliette, and we didn't get more. Instead we got less, less sleep. The minute we put her in school she began sleeping only 4 hrs/night and not even 4 hrs straight. She also began pulling her hair, biting herself, banging her head and screaming for hours. She was always black and blue!
The doctors added ADHD and Mental Retardation to her diagnosis, claiming that she at the age of 4 was at the mental level of a 13 month old baby, and prescribed amphetamines for her ADHD. We were sleep-deprived, depressed and without hope. Our entire family was "drowning" in Juliette's autism.
Then I got in touch with a Son-Rise family and learned about their miraculous journey that was closing in on a very happy ending. Finally some hope! I wanted in on that!! So, I booked a Son-Rise Program Start-Up week at The Option Institute and prayed for a miracle of our own. Specifically, I humbly prayed for 3 things; 1) to learn how to potty-train Juliette (she was almost 5 yrs old), 2) to get her to sleep at night, and 3) that Juliette would speak 15 different words during the next 6 months (she had uttered 7 in the past 2 years).
Not only did I learn how to reach those 3 goals, but to my surprise I also learned so much about myself, and how to let go of the past and look optimistically into the future. I learned that autism can be cured and how to find the tools within myself to help her. I wasn't a useless, terrible mother! I had the tools to help her all along, I just didn't know it. I came to The Option Institute feeling hopeless and like a failure. I left The Option Institute feeling empowered with my love for Juliette and my family, and with the love from the Son-Rise staff and all the parents I had met at The Start-Up. I felt strong, happy and ready to go!
So, how about my three goals for Juliette?
She was fully toilet-trained within two weeks. A couple of months into the program we took her out of school to be able to run our program 12-13 hrs/day. She has been sleeping 9 hrs/night ever since!
6 months into her program she had not spoken 15 different words, but 300!!! Today we are 16 months into our program. My husband and I have been back to the Option Institute for New Frontiers and Maximum Impact. They were both life-changing experiences that have made us not only happier, but now the both of us are fully-equipped to run a successful program, train volunteers, and hold inspiring, informative group meetings. We are a great team, a force of nature x 2! But we still want to come back for more!!!
As for Juliette, she has great eye-contact, is very affectionate, and is very happy. She rarely gets upset, and if she does it only lasts for 5 minutes. She loves playing and interacting with her volunteers (and sometimes even with her siblings!), you can hear her laughter throughout the house.
She still loves tearing paper, but you can build it into a game for two, and she will be pretty flexible about it and enjoy the interaction. She has said 500 different words (and then I stopped counting) and she says about 15-30 words/day. And her receptive language amazes us! For example; instead of having to run and physically stop her from doing something, we can now just call out her name and simply tell her that she can't tear that paper because it's Daddy's phone bill, and she will smile back at you and put the paper down (and of course go searching for paper somewhere else ...but not on the walls).
We still have a ways to go, but look how far we have come! We are happy and can't wait to see what possibilities and adventures we can make of the future.
Thank You, Dear Donor, for being there and helping to get us started on this amazing journey with our precious little girl!
Lots of Love, Cherrie and Jakop Granlund, Son-Rise Parents, Sweden
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When my son Adam, was diagnosed as having epilepsy and Autism, I can only recall my suffering, my tears, the horror and the nights I cried and accused God for such a curse. Then I found the books, Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues and A Miracle to Believe In, and immediately I knew there was a way out. Without thinking, I registered for The Son-Rise Program Start Up, but we couldn't afford it. And then you came, my dear donor, offering a scholarship and making possible the impossible. For us The Son-Rise Program has been the cure for everything in our lives. My husband and I have changed so much and become the parents we always wanted to be but didn't know how. And Adam's progress seems to be unstoppable now. All these miracles are possible due to your help. Since there are no words that can express my gratitude I would just say the most sincere THANK YOU!
Maria Jedral, Physician, Poland
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