Parents Share Their Experiences

Stories from parents of Children with Autism who enrolled in The Son-Rise Program®

Many families will write to us once they have gone home after attending a Son-Rise Program® Start-Up, Maximum Impact, New Frontiers or Intensive. They share about how their life and their child's life is changed because of what they have learned and are now putting into action. Below are just a few of these letters:

It is definitely time the world knows "The Son-Rise Program"

I was so thrilled to read about the wonderful news (Best Autism Therapy) for you and the well deserved recognition you deserve for all of the lifetime of work that you, Samahria, Bryn, Raun, William, Kate and everyone there who teach the Son-Rise Program to everyday people like me. Collectively you have all given so much to so many over the years. It is definitely time the world knows "The Son-Rise Program" and accepts what life-changing hands-on practical help you give to those parents out there who are so desperate, when the medical system can only offer nothing much more than "support" - which really means that you are often alone.

Mike and I feel sure that what you and Samahria founded because of Raun will one day become recognized as mainstream around the world for all children and adults with autism/ASD & Aspergers. We will always feel immense gratitude to you all and will never forget you for all that you did for our son with Aspergers Syndrome, 13 years ago. We feel so happy for you and big congratulations to you all! We are proud to have been a small part of your growth and we will never forget the dramatic life changing events which happened to our son David during just one week spent at the Institute, you managed to change in 1 week what numerous doctors, specialists and therapists couldn't change in 17 years! You are all such an amazing group of special people with the biggest hearts.

Enjoy your awards-- may this be the beginning of many, many, more for you all.

Big love and big hugs to you and all who remember us.

Fondest love

Janice & Mike Simon, Son-Rise Program Parents of David now 32, recovered, United Kingdom
Names: Janice & Mike Simon
Country: United Kingdom
Child: David, 32 years old
Diagnosis: Aspergers Syndrome

Blessed by Three Children on the Autism Spectrum

Kerry has three children on the Autism Spectrum - Max, Jamie, and Jack. With each child facing different challenges, she was shutting down and always worried. Kerry was depressed and wanted nothing more than to find a way to reach her children. A friend suggested The Son-Rise Program. Kerry was most intrigued by how happy her friend seemed after attending The Son-Rise Program Start-Up and by learning that The Son-Rise Program offers hope for children with Autism. Kerry has attended The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, Maximum Impact and New Frontiers. She began to see changes in her children and herself immediately. She believes that The Son-Rise Program Principles have helped her become a better person and a better parent. She feels rewarded by the work she is doing with her three children by seeing them blossom and change. In the videos below, Kerry shares each child's story and their amazing progress.

Max's Story
Improvements Began Quickly
Eye Contact, Words Spoken, Social Interaction

Kerry's 8-year-old son, Max had no eye contact, was non-verbal, and seemed to be completely unreachable. She thought she would never have a relationship with him. After just five months of running a full-time Son-Rise Program with Max, he has 50 words, makes eye contact and initiates interaction!

Jamie's Story
From Echolalia to Initiating Relationships

Kerry's 7-year-old daughter, Jamie was very disconnected with Echolalia and continuously talked about scenes from movies. She had little eye contact and no relationship with her mother. Kerry has seen great improvements in Jamie's eye contact and now Jamie is initiating interaction with her. Watch Jamie's Story Now

Jack's Story
Reducing Anxiety at School

Kerry's 10-year-old son, Jack, is high-functioning and she wasn't sure if she would see any changes in him. Jack felt a lot of anxiety around going to school and socialization. She has seen profound changes in Jack and now he shares more with her and is able to work out his anxiety. He's having great days at school! Watch Jack's Story Now

Name: Dave and Kerry Rihtar
State: Ohio
Children: Max, 7 years old, Autism; Jamie, 8 years old, Autism; Jack, 10 years old, PDD-NOS

On The Same Page

From my perspective, going to The Son-Rise Program Start-Up with my wife, Jennifer, was crucial to the success of Eidan's Son-Rise Program. I call it a success, not because Eidan is recovered, though he is doing beautifully, but because our journey (as our wonderful Senior Family Counselor, Jan-Marie called it) is easy and fun. Really! Especially relative to what it was before The Son-Rise Program! And I know it wouldn't be as easy if my wife and I hadn’t been "on the same page" from the very beginning. It's just AWESOME to go off together to the beautiful grounds of the Autism Treatment Center of America™, sleep well for a whole week, eat delicious meals that you don't cook or clean up after, no phones ringing, and so on. You might even get to talk to each other... or even… ☺

When we returned from The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, so pumped and excited to be with our boys, we established weekly nights out for each other, as well as together, having just had the shared experience of giving to ourselves and each other, as well as our children. Our family has been transformed. Nothing less! Not just from The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, but from The Son-Rise Program Maximum Impact and New Frontiers…a visit to the Autism Treatment Center of America and The Option Institute is our annual vacation. Going to The Son-Rise Program Start-Up is not just about getting information and taking that and sharing your notes with your lovely partner, or even sharing recordings of every word spoken at the program. It's about YOU! It's about having an experience of love and acceptance for your child first-hand! It's an opportunity to FEEL that love, tangibly, to adopt it as a part of you, to bring it forward and show your child that you - not just your partner - understand that YOU ARE a useful, loving, enticing and fun person to be with!

Name: David and Jennifer Borishansky
State: Virginia
Child: Eidan, 7 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

"I was just calm because I watch and copy you Mum..."

Rohan (my 8.5 year old son) had a huge seizure Wednesday morning, my 7 year old daughter (Serena) was with me and joined me in calmly coaching him to breath and relax his body. When it was over I asked her how she felt when Rohan was seizuring?, she said "I was a bit scared because he was screaming"...so I asked " why because he was screaming, were you scared?" she answered..."because I thought he might die and I don't want him to die". We chatted about this very subject and how being really present with someone in their time of need is useful and a really loving thing to do. Serena was really cute she said "I was just calm because I watch and copy you Mum..." so different to where I used to be!

The really fun thing is that I have only just realized, how comfortable I was about that possible outcome and also about talking about death with my child about another child two things I used to be REALLY uncomfortable with!

A few years ago I would have just panicked, then assumed how she felt and but never questioned.

Thank you Bears for the gift of being able to create that space and comfort within myself to help both my kids with the challenges they have.xxx

Name: Rekha Neilson
Country: United Kingdom
Child: Rohan, 8 years old
Diagnosis: ASD

No Longer Feels Alone

In 2008, Lorna Miller mourned the loss of her son, Ross. He was almost four years old and just diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum with Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). "I had certain beliefs about Autism at that time. It was lifelong and a tragedy. I just wanted this nightmare to be over." Lorna and her dreams for their life together were shattered by Ross' diagnosis. She went through stages of mourning - denial and isolation. This wasn't happening to her and her family. She remained isolated and didn't share the news with anyone, which meant she did not seek any kind of help or treatment. "I wasn't ready to share the news. It made it too real if I shared it." Knowing Lorna wasn't ready to seek help on her own, her friend contacted a woman she knew who had a child with Autism. The woman e-mailed Lorna, shared her own story and suggested The Son-Rise Program. For the first time, Lorna didn't feel alone. The e-mail matched so much of what Lorna was feeling - inadequate as a mother, unsure how to comfort her son and other parents had it easy. She researched The Son-Rise Program and discovered this was the only program that offered parents training. She'd finally found a program that would help her become the mother to her child she'd always dreamed of being.

After trying a few Son-Rise Program techniques offered on the Autism Treatment Center of America website called "Practical Strategies To Apply Now", Lorna took The Son-Rise Program Start-Up. "Until, I came to The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I wasn't having fun being a mom. I learned the skills I needed not just to be an adequate mom, but to be a real Force of NatureTM, the largest force, in Ross' recovery. The love and acceptance The Son-Rise Program teaches is so critical! It creates progress on its own. I finally understood why Ross was doing what he was doing. The Son-Rise Program was a gift for the whole family."

More at peace and no longer mourning over her son, Lorna returned home and immediately began using the tools she learned and saw improvement in her son within days. Ross' attitude improved and he was less stressed; whining, (which he did all the time) stopped entirely within two weeks; and within three months his communication improved by answering questions, which he'd never done before, followed by asking who, what, when, and why questions. The most important lesson Lorna learned was to believe that Ross can recover from Autism. "Once you believe something, you'll find all the evidence to get there. It goes as big as recovery and as small as answering questions. If you believe, you'll take the steps to get there."

Lorna and her husband completed all three programs in The Son-Rise Program sequence, which includes The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, The Son-Rise Program Maximum Impact and The Son-Rise Program New Frontiers, and continue to see progress in Ross and their family dynamic. "Each program's curriculum builds on top of the previous program's curriculum. It's like the cherry on top! The Son-Rise Program should be called "The Parent-Rise Program" because it's helped us so much as parents." They've been able to utilize the attitudinal aspects of The Son-Rise Program outside of the playroom...in their life. Most importantly, they know how to love Ross, each other, the people around them and all aspects of their life.

Name: Lorna Miller
State: California
Child: Ross, 6 years old
Diagnosis: PDD

Son-Rise Program Down Under

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Australia to stay with friends for four days. For the last three years, they have been running a Son-Rise Program® for their son who is nearly seven years old now. My friend's little boy is not all the way out of his autism yet (he still has exclusive behaviors), but he's come such a long way that I had to share their story with you.

At four years old, their son had two formal diagnoses, one of "mild autism" and one of "moderate autism." He had very little language, no toilet training and virtually zero eye contact. When they started using The Son-Rise Program Principles at home, his mum could spend two-hours with him in the playroom and he would not give her a single look or glance the entire time. He would pull away whenever anyone came near him or touched him. However, just one week after returning home from The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, their little boy was toilet trained. That's not all, three years later; he has NEVER had an accident.

During my visit, he ran up to his mother, hugged her, and said "I love you mum." He came up to me, and said "Lisa, Lisa, please come play soccer with me." He took me around the backyard to show me his playhouse. He loves to be touched, hugged, hold hands and dance. He even has easy eye contact much of the time. He loves to meet people, including strangers. We visited a play park to ride on model trains and his dad commented how much he had changed - his son loved the trip to the play park and he was open to suggestions and guidance compared with his last visit some months earlier. He loves his playroom, his parents and volunteers!

He loves maps and place names and has a delightful obsession with Armenia. In the playroom with this little boy, I learned all about obscure Middle Eastern countries like Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan while drawing maps with him. I found a sweet opportunity to role play with him when he asked me what "disputed" means. We acted out a fun dispute, each giving our reasons why the offending "disputed territory" was ours. His parents are actively role playing with him as a way to help him learn to feel comfortable around folks who might not be as accepting and loving as they are with him. This little boy is now reading and writing at or above his age level, despite The Son-Rise Program focusing on socialization and academic learning being peripheral via the boy's own interests. They run their Son-Rise Program from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, and mornings on weekends. However, they maintain The Son-Rise Program non-judgmental attitude all the time. They have volunteers to help them during the afternoon on weekdays.

This little boy is effectively homeschooled, and like many homeschooled children, is progressing really well with the one-on-one attention and help. His parents are planning to send him to a regular school when he asks for it. They and The Son-Rise Program teachers feel this is likely to happen in the next 12 to 18 months, if his progress continues the way it has this year.

I feel there are such strong indicators that this little boy will come all the way out of his autism. He's come such a long way in three years, and is welcoming and wanting to learn more. It's just a matter of time and encouragement, giving him the space to learn and change, but not demand it of him, and of making it so exciting and fun that he wants it himself, from his own motivation. I was able to see first-hand that this is how The Son-Rise Program is so effective!

One more comment before I go. My friends also have a four year old boy, who is not on the Autism Spectrum. The younger boy is generally happy and very accepting of his older brother. These played together amazingly well. In four days with this family, I never saw the kids fight! This is a clear example of The Son-Rise Program attitude working awesomely for the whole family. It's a great way to parent even if you don't have special needs children.

As a result of the progress of this family, many other Australian families have also started running Son-Rise Programs for their children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. I've heard about two children in Australia who have had a complete recovery from Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, after using The Son-Rise Program!

Name: Lisa Lee Johnson
Country: Australia
Child: Boy (Anonymous), 7 years old
Diagnosis: ASD

Help For Australian Families Challenged by Autism

We are so grateful to the Autism Treatment Center of AmericaTM. No one that we knew in Australia with children with Autism had ever heard of The Son-Rise Program®, including all of the specialists. We want to change this and be sure everyone knows about this wonderful program, which is why we decided to set up the Australia Son-Rise Program Scholarship Fund, which we hope will help Australian families challenged with ASD and financial need to access the miraculous, life-changing teachings in The Son-Rise Program.

Our story so far...

In 2005, my wife, Sonya, gave birth to triplets. Melanie weighed 3.7 lbs., Spencer was 3.3 lbs. and the smallest, Bridgette, weighed in at just 2.3 lbs. They were born at 33 weeks and had to spend the next seven weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Townsville Hospital in Australia.

Around February 2009, Bridgette and Spencer were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and we started our search for answers. Neither Bridgette nor Spencer had any language. Bridgette flapped her hands and had to have two of the same things in her hands at all times—two socks or two spoons, or toys like Shrek and Donkey. Spencer had zero eye contact and he was the first one Sonya was worried about because he just wouldn’t look at her like the other two children would. Melanie, the third triplet, wasn’t the quickest of talkers either but she was trying.

We found out about the Autism Treatment Center of America from a friend of a friend who had done The Son-Rise Program Start-Up nine years earlier in 2001. We researched The Son-Rise Program and fell in love with the philosophy of love and acceptance behind it and haven’t looked back since. We found The Son-Rise Program not a moment too soon as Bridgette and Spencer were beginning to develop more classic ASD characteristics. The prognosis from the professionals started with mild ASD and the prediction that they would all walk into school together when that time came. Then, just before I left for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, the prognosis changed to moderate ASD and the conclusion that they would have to go to special schools.

At first, The Son-Rise Program is great and everything you learnt works. Then you look at the clock and it’s only been 30 minutes and you think—what was Samahria thinking? Then you start really using what you learnt which is — the child is a gift. I think for the first time as a father, I really just enjoyed being with my children without looking for an outcome or result of the time spent with them. This includes the three typically developing ones as well. The other truism from the program is — when you are genuine, they know. The real connection they exhibit now, particularly Bridgette, is nothing short of staggering compared to before attending The Son-Rise Pogram Start-Up. Spencer can say pretty much anything in six and seven word sentences and Bridgette can say any combination of two word sentences.

The kids are just so happy and want to join in now. They play for hours together, particularly Melanie and Bridgette. Spencer and Harrison (our 10-year-old) will swim in the pool together for hours playing all kinds of water sports. Before attending The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, we were so worried about my having to travel to the other side of the world and leaving Sonya to deal with five kids including triplets. We really wondered if it was going to be worth the effort. Oh my God, has it been worth it. We have gained so much in such a short amount of time.

Name: Greg & Sonya Leslie
Country: Australia
Children: Bridgette & Spencer, 4 years old
Diagnosis: ASD

Autism, Hope and Persistence: My Personal Payoff

This is a letter intended for all the parents who want a glimpse into what is possible for their child on the Autism Spectrum. I know that’s what I wanted when I began my journey to recover my son, Andrew, from Autism. I viewed all The Son-Rise Program DVDs and learned to keep my hope alive and to persist, no matter what kind of day I had or the criticisms I received from every professional (with the exception of a few amazing people). How did I do this? It was definitely not the kind of challenge I wanted to take on all by myself. I felt so desperate, alone, and fearful in the beginning. I was at the bottom of the mountain (my son was very Autistic). I knew I needed to change my perspective and attitude in order to make this climb with my son happen in any productive fashion. The first step was “letting go” and asking for help. Well, I made sure it was the most experienced and supportive kind of people helping me…namely, the Autism Treatment Center of America and a few great biomedical physicians and nutritional experts.

Parents will not find a better place to care for them than the Autism Treatment Center of America! That’s the truth! Also, your child is ASSURED to be treated with the utmost respect, love and acceptance more than any other place in the world! During our Son-Rise Program Intensive, for example, the staff ALWAYS showed up excited and incredibly happy and grateful to be in the same room with Andrew! All the “other” treatments or professionals that worked with him before were cold, detached, punitive, and negative with him. I had the feeling they just didn’t like him, and he knew it!

Andrew is doing AMAZING now! He is just a little ADHD—a diagnosis I’m happy to continue to help him with. We are continuing to help him with “neurological brain and physical exercises” and become more proficient with Stage 5 “Friendship Skills” referenced by The Son-Rise Program Developmental Model. OMG, REALLY?? My son started barely in Stage 1. WOW! I remember crying to William Hogan about Andrew never sharing his thoughts with me. Now, he talks NON-STOP (about clothes, his favorite music, all the activities he wants to do, and friends he wants to have spend the night).

I remember dreaming and praying every day just to experience my son return his love to me in some way (he hit me and screamed at me most of the time back then). I knew that he couldn’t help his outbursts, violent temper tantrums, and extremely exclusive behavior. He was doing the best he knew how at that time. All I knew (just an instinct) was that he was in there, somewhere, and I was determined to find him and he would find me. I vowed to never lose track of how I felt about him—I LOVED and ACCEPTED him no matter what. It wasn’t always easy, but I persisted and found help with The Son-Rise Program staff whenever I needed it. The only place I found refuge for a while was in our Son-Rise Program playroom, free from the bombardment of stimulus that overloaded his sensory system. The hours turned into days, weeks, and years (SEVERAL YEARS). When Andrew was 8 years old, I finally received the biggest payoff of my life. It was better than receiving my Ph.D. My son wrote me this letter. I need not say another word! I am overwhelmed with pride to announce that Andrew can now speak for himself.

Name: Nicole Schumacher
State: Ohio
Child: Andrew, 9 years old
Diagnosis: PDD-NOS

A Place for Miracles

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. In 2004 I attended The Son-Rise Program® Start Up. I got to the start of the gate and seen 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 in December of 2005 and came to the Maximum Impact and will most certainly be attending New Frontiers: The Son-Rise Program® Advanced Training in November.

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 News Paper and on our local radio.

I come back from a your programmes and people tell me I beam and that is because I have encouragement and the will to strive. My local member of Parliament has asked me if you have any paper's that can support Son-Rise coming to Australia like in medical journals so I thought I would ask. In 2000 when Blake was diagnosed I was given only words to the affect that it was a neuological disorder and Blake would never be any differen't. I was also told that I have sought to many opinions in my search to help Blake.

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 happen's 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 familie's as possible so that is why I am asking if you have anything that can help.

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 volunteers who say they get more out of it than Blake."

Name: Leanne Dole
Country: Australia
Child: 8 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Overcoming Language Barriers

"It hardly seems like a year since our visit to the Autism Treatment Center of America™. My daughter, who barely spoke a year ago, now requests almost everything by name. She knows her alphabet and numbers and actually enjoys learning! We feel that her success is directly attributable to what we learned at the Institute. Your methods not only gave us effective ways to 'treat' our daughter but also have touched us profoundly. Thank you."

Name: Ray and Debbie R.
State: Michigan
Child: 4 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Happiness Makes a Maximum Impact

"Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to thank you all for helping me give myself a '10' experience each day! Maximum Impact was an incredible week. Defining my purpose with clarity and conviction has really paid off. I am making LOVE the biggest thing in my life (thanks, Kate!). Already I'm happier, my relationship with my husband and kids is happier and my special son is drawn to me like never before! Samahria is right—the one who loves the most DOES WIN!!

"I also wanted to thank Jonathons A & L for mentioning this program to me during our consults. And thank you to Sean for calling me again to tell me more about the program and to offer financial assistance (without which I would not have been able to attend—THANK YOU!!!!). Your persistence paid off. I thought I couldn't come because of our financial commitments. I've learned anything is possible if you want it bad enough and are willing to go for it. I've always been able to do that for Mitch. Thanks for helping me to believe I'm worth it, too!!

"You all are such special people. I've never met a happier bunch in my life! What an inspiration! Can't wait to see you all again one day. I know I will.

With love,"

Name: Betsy T.
Occupation: Son-Rise Mom
State: North Carolina
Child: 3 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Happy, Grateful, Son-Rise Program® Parent Jumps into Son's World

"My name is Mary. I have a 4-year-old son with PDD and mixed expressive/receptive language disorder, with echolalia as well. I remembered seeing the movie Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love when I was a teenager—boy oh boy, what luck, huh! He has not been diagnosed with anything, as our regional center here in Los Angeles, California is ill prepared when it comes to these things. I know that he is high functioning as an autistic child, and have read enough about that disorder to figure out that this is what ails him.

"I have used all that I got from your books on Autism, and he has progressed nicely. In 8 months, this child has gone from no language to over 300 words that he uses appropriately and understands fully. I had never felt close to my son before I 'jumped into his world,' but now, we are almost inseparable. I would like to thank you for giving me the information, strength and inspiration to find what works for my child.

"I am especially thankful that you decided to make the movie and write the books. I tell everyone I know about them! I speak with a lot of newly diagnosed parents and I feel that I am giving them something they can use when I tell them about your methods. A lot of them are like I was, broken and feeling quite useless to their children. All it took for me was my mother reminding me of your movie. I went straight to the library and got Son-Rise. It has helped immensely! I have spent a wonderful 8 months with my little boy, and I now know that the rest of our lives together will bring us happiness!"

Name: Mary C.
State: California
Child: 4 years old
Diagnosis: PDD/Expressive/Receptive Language Disorder/Echolalia

The Sounds of Laughter

"We participated in The Son-Rise Program® Intensive several months ago with our son. This is the most fun I've had in my entire life! His progress has been amazing! In the past few months, he has said over 30 words, and he had never spoken before. His eye contact has increased dramatically. He has even begun to use 2 and 3-word sentences. More importantly, the sound of his laughter echoes through our house. I don't know if I could ever express how grateful we are to you for being there for us. Thank you so much for everything."

Name: Sally S.
Occupation: Homemaker
Country: Australia
Child: 3 years old
Diagnosis: Developmental Delay

Autism Has Become the Best Thing That's Ever Happened to Me

"Dear Option Staff,

My first child died by miscarriage. After my second child died at 5 ½ weeks old, I became angry and hurt. I lost my third, then my fourth. I became numb, then I lost my fifth child. I became suicidal. Five children all unplanned. It was my belief that I had to try one more time or die. I became pregnant totally believing that this child could die.

"I had a perfectly beautiful little girl. I went to a counselor for 1 ½ years to get over the fear of her dying. At 2 ½ years old, she was diagnosed with Autistm and PDD. I felt sorry for myself and blamed the world for treating me badly. I blamed 'God.' However, I blamed no one more than I blamed myself.

"How I hated myself for all the failures in my life. I totally believed I couldn't do anything right. I totally, believed Autism was something I couldn't handle. I looked at it as a curse. I knew The Son-Rise Program® was the way. No matter what it took I was going to get to The Option Institute.

"Autism has become the best thing that has ever happened to me.

"I am so thankful for each and everyone of you. I'm grateful to my daughter for being who she is. When I came to the family program, I found the joy of Autism, and the beauty and wonder in my special little girl. The second time at the Happiness Option Weekend and The Son-Rise Program® Advanced Training, I found self-love, acceptance and a spark for my life that I have never had before. It's a process, a beautiful process. I'm learning to be more authentic and to take care of me.

"I have gotten so much from all of you. If somebody would have told me life could be as good as it is, I never would have believed them. I have no home, no money, no husband, lots of bills, lots of weight, lots of responsibilities. What an opportunity! I've never been happier.

"I love you all, the love just pours from my heart. We will be seeing you again in March. I can't wait. I'm really excited for the journey to come back home."

Name: Erin G.
State: Colorado
Child Diagnosis: Autism/PDD

In Trying to Reach His Special Child, a Son-Rise Program® Dad Finds Himself

"Dear Bears,

I wanted to write you about the amazing changes and occurrences that have taken place in my life during the past 4 months since I attended The Son-Rise Program® Maximum Impact. If you remember, I am a single dad with 2 boys, ages 8 1/2 and 7. I found The Option Institute last June at The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up while searching for ways to 'help' my son. Little did I know that my journey, not his, truly was started in the beautiful hills of the Berkshires. I came away from that glorious week with new-found friends that I know will last my lifetime. I found compassion, love, understanding and, most importantly, passion for life and for those kids of mine—love I have never experienced before. I went home with high hopes for his Son-Rise Program®, but I still had deep doubts on how to achieve my dreams.

"Three years ago, my former wife wanted to try everything to help my son when we first came to grips with his special 'talents.' Unfortunately, I was too busy being a hot-shot attorney and the youngest partner at my firm, full of that dreaded disease that is plaguing society—STATUS!! In short, I ignored my family and was honestly the poster child of ANTI-FORCE OF NATURE. We got divorced shortly thereafter and reality set in: I could no longer take 10 steps to kiss my boys goodnight, but had to drive 10 minutes to do so if it was my court-ordered night. I guess this was God's way of playing a practical joke.

"I saw my children mostly on weekends until I came to Maximum Impact. At this program, I finally understood the true, omnipotent power I possess to live happiness in my life and make my own choices based on my wants and desires, not based on others' beliefs or society's protocol. The light came on burning bright and hot in my heart and soul. I left Maximum Impact a new, revitalized Force of Nature™. I quit my job, cashed in my 'rainy day' investments to fund my 'sunny day' future. I have been running my son's Son-Rise Program® 6-7 days per week and have seen miraculous changes in his behavior, focus, attention span and level of happiness. My commitment to leading a life of excellence has also allowed me to connect with my other son, in a manner that tickles me to joy and laughter.

"If that was the end of my story most people would think it to be inspirational and wonderful, but it gets better. You see, Bears, I met the most caring, loving and passionate person at Maximum Impact. I wasn't looking for anyone, but like most blessings in our lives, she just came out of left field. She is a Son-Rise Program® mother, and she has touched my heart like no other. Maybe it was my letting go of my disempowering beliefs on what I can and can't have in my and my kids' lives. From what we learned about making happiness a priority, we allow each other to make our own decisions on how we want to create our lives. No pressure. This has led us to make clear, concise and authentic decisions on the essence of what we want for ourselves and our kids.

"Thank you for your never-ending pursuit of happiness and excellence in life. Life is to be lived to the utmost and fullest every second of the day. For that learning, my kids and I thank you!"

Name: Cyrus K.
State: California
Child Diagnosis: Autism

Amazing Progress after The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up

"After attending The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up, I thought that when I got home things would go slow at first—boy was I wrong!! My son was completely and totally potty trained in 2, yes 2, days! He has not had a single fit since I got home. His attention span is as long as you want it to be, hours on end, even when we do not have him in the playroom. He actually eats real food! No more Twinkies, cookies and other junk. He even eats liver, broccoli and other veggies.

"His occupational therapist can't believe his progress either. I had to take Alex to the doctor's office with me 2 days ago (his sisters were ill), and the doctor and his nurse could not believe it was him. The doctor kept asking me, 'Are you giving him any medications?' When I told him that my son wasn't taking anything, not even vitamins, he was shocked. He asked for brochures from the Autism Treatment Center of America™ to give to his other patients. He said that this was not the same child I had brought into his office before. And I said, 'No, it isn't. This is a Son-Rise child now!'"

Name: Lynda W.
State: Texas
Child: Age 5*
Diagnosis: Autism

Another Amazing Recovery in The Son-Rise Program

"We listened numbly as our son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and with Childhood Dysphasia. We were told that he had little chance of a successful future even with special education. He lined up his toys instead of playing with them. He was not giving us eye contact or following simple commands. He would bang his head when things did not go his way. He seemed generally unhappy, almost constantly whining. Everywhere we went, I was told that he would be dependent on others for the rest of his life.

"Then we went to The Son-Rise Program®. As soon as we returned home, we began our program; and within 6 months, he was using language. One day he walked up to me and spontaneously announced, 'I love you, mommy!'

"We did a program with him for 3 1/2 years. Incredibly, when our son went to kindergarten he tested normal in all areas. At our final evaluation with The Son-Rise Program® the teacher said to us, 'You're done' and I sat in tears at my dining room table—a truly unforgettable moment.

"How do you thank someone for helping to save your child? For helping you bring him back to your world? What The Son-Rise Program® has done for us is priceless. We will be forever grateful. Bridger wanted us to tell you, 'Thanks for teaching me and I like you guys a lot.'"

Name: Nancy M.
State: Montana
Child: Age 8
Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder with Childhood Dysphasia

A Remarkable Parent, a Remarkable Boy

"I am a single parent of 8 children: 6 are adopted and 5 disabled. I quit my job a year ago, giving up our home and moving into an RV to reduce bills because I wanted to give my eldest, first-adopted son an opportunity for a fuller life. I've never been happier—because my 16-year-old mute, autistic boy has begun to talk!

"Our lives have changed so dramatically since The Son-Rise Program® Intensive. We play with him all day long. How amazing to play with, and be constantly entertained by, a child who never seemed to have any sustained interests beyond the existence of his own fingers. How wonderful to spend the day smiling instead of yelling, screaming, pushing and pulling. What a relief to be co-creator with my son rather than a victim.

"When I think of his life to date, I am so grateful for our experience in The Son-Rise Program®! He was slated for institutionalization until social workers placed him with me. As he reached school age, the more I followed the advice of 'experts,' the more he withdrew. As new violent behaviors surfaced and he became a threat, school officials wanted to lock him up. At 5 foot 7 inches, my son had gone from cute to intimidating.

"But now my family has lived over 7 months in a wonderful new way of experiencing each other. The boy who, for 16 years of his life, could not speak a consistent word or follow instructions without prompting, is now talking in sentences, expressing his wants clearly and consistently and performing chores independently. And us, well, we have benefited incredibly.

"I hope you can understand how much it means to me to finally hear my son's voice after waiting 16 years.Thank you all so much for your life-giving support."

Name: Lynette L.
State: Texas
Child: Age 16*
Diagnosis: Autism

Feeling Inspiration after Little Boy Defies Experts' Expectations

"When we first noticed that he was regressing, we were terrified. He spent much of his day running back and forth, babbling at the air and hysterically laughing to himself. His eye contact was poor and communication almost nonexistent. After speaking with doctors, few could offer any real help, only labels like PDD/NOS and the insistence that whatever he had would be a life-long disability.

"Our week at the Autism Treatment Center of America™ was miraculous! He developed more speech during The Son-Rise Program® Intensive than he had in over a year of speech therapy. He gained more strength, muscle control and motor development in the first 6 months of our Son-Rise Program® than he had during 1 1/2 years of occupational therapy. This child, labeled as having an IQ of under 50, now writes words and the names of his family and friends! The Son-Rise Program® staff has been with us every step of the way, cheering us on, guiding us and inspiring us to go the distance. We are very optimistic about the future!"

Name: Gaylen T.
State: Georgia
Child: Age 4*
Diagnosis: PDD

Grandmother Reports a Miracle with Twin Granddaughters

"My son and his wife attended The Son-Rise Program® Intensive in order to help my beautiful, 5-year-old twin granddaughters. The philosophy and guidance of The Son-Rise Program® have led to what I can only call a miracle—and I am not a religious person!

"But rather than tell you their story in my words, I will let the Medical Director who did their evaluation just 8 months later speak for us.

"She was referred to us having received a diagnosis of PDD/NOS, Mild Mental Retardation. Although the parents were told in a previous evaluation that she would essentially be a 'vegetable' and would probably never walk or talk, over the past year there has been an immense, remarkable recovery in many of her spheres of development to the point that her language ability has exploded. Even though this child rated in a range of Mild Mental Retardation with PDD/NOS in the past, she does not currently display any of the behavioral characteristics of PDD and her overall function seems well within a normal range of cognition.

"She was referred to us with a diagnosis of Mild Mental Retardation with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Mixed Developmental Disorder. Upon reassessment we have found that she has made remarkable recovery in her developmental disability to the point of observational normalcy. Now she is functioning well within the range of normal cognition. Currently, she has no recognizable features that are suggestive of her past diagnosis."

[Grandmother continues:] "Obviously, 'thank you' is not enough. I firmly believe none of this miraculous change would have come about had it not been for you. We want everyone to know that diagnosis need not be 'final.'"

Name: Marisa S.
Occupation: Grandmother of twins
State: California
Children: Age 8
Diagnosis: PDD/NOS/Mild Mental Retardation
Diagnosis: Mild Mental Retardation/ADHD/Mixed Developmental Disorder

Ignoring Advice, Parents Reach Their Little Boy

"By the age of 2, our son, became increasingly withdrawn, often lying on his stomach pushing himself into the floor in an almost trance-like state. It became difficult to take him out as he would throw tantrums for no apparent reason and scream and scream. We could not effectively communicate to him what was safe or dangerous; he didn't seem to understand.

"We took him to specialists and he was diagnosed with Autism. I had the feeling I had been struck by lightning. We were told not to read anything about Autism or to think about cures. It was irreversible, and reading and understanding could lead to depression. I could only stare at a photograph of him as a perfect baby when we had such high hopes for him. When I saw his eyes, I could only think of how I had somehow failed him.

"Our trip to The Autism Treatment Center of America™ is the most memorable short period of my life. The impact that it made on my family is profound. By the end of the first week, Liam had asked his first question, talked in his sleep for the first time and played purely for pleasure. We developed a deep respect for The Son-Rise Program® staff.

"Today, he has developed into such an enthusiastic communicator that we have to prevent ourselves from telling him to 'shush.' He exhibits an imagination that often leaves us and strangers awed. He has progressed in all aspects to such an extent that he now attends his local mainstream primary school. His math is above average, as are most of his academic skills; and a recent reading test at school showed him to have an ability 4 years above his age. His teacher describes him as one of the most polite children she has ever taught.

"The best indicator of his progress is that professionals visiting the school with the intention of examining Liam were unable to find the 'autistic child' and asked for assistance!"

Name: William B.
Country: Scotland
Child: Age 4
Diagnosis: Autism

Doctors Amazed by Boy's Recovery

"When he was diagnosed with PDD/NOS, the doctors told us there was little we could do for him. But, we did not believe that and went to attend The Son-Rise Program®.

"Today, our son is back in a regular class and doing very well! He is performing at normal standards for his age both intellectually and socially. He is a very social, happy human being who taught himself to read and write! Because of his progress, we have been able to end our Son-Rise Program®. Our child psychiatrist recently said that his progress is so phenomenal that he could no longer give him any diagnosis at all! Our lives have become so much richer thanks to The Son-Rise Program®."

Name: Michiel and Margy J.
Country: Netherlands
Child: Age 13
Diagnosis: PDD/NOS

Parents Turn from No Hope to Full Recovery

"We don't have the words to describe the changes in our autistic daughter, Angela, after working with her in our Son-Rise Program®. The changes have been miraculous! Before we went to the Autism Treatment Center of America™, our 3-year-old Angela barely spoke, was totally disconnected and fearful of people, and was subject to fierce and violent tantrums. We were offered no hope for her recovery. Today, 3 years later, she is a happy child who loves to play with us, with her siblings and with the 25 volunteers in her program. In our wildest imaginations, we would never have thought that Angela could have accomplished this!"

"Before our Son-Rise Program®:

"After 7 months:

"After 10 months:

"After 3 years: She now bears no trace of her original condition and is an enthusiastic, full participant in a regular elementary school classroom. She is a beautiful little girl, happy, talking, playing with everyone and speaking thousands of sentences. We are thankful that we were introduced to The Son-Rise Program® and that we could witness the enormous benefits all concerned have received through it. And we are so grateful for what it has done for us."

Name: Laura and Sean W.
State: New York
Child: Age 3*
Diagnosis: Autism

The Greatest Christmas Gift
(Posted By Anna Wolk on The Son-Rise Program® Message Board)

"Well, here I am again, with another update of my son's progress. It's been awhile since my last posting, but this is BIG!

"Last week, my son was in his FIRST EVER SCHOOL CHRISTMAS PLAY!!! He was one of the Five Golden Rings!!!! The children performed for the other students at school; and since I work at the school, I stayed for the performance. Well, true to form, the tears flowed!! He didn't sing every word; but more importantly, he also didn't attract unnecessary attention to himself, or distract from the other children. One of the teachers told me that if they hadn't known about his Autism, they never would have guessed by his behavior that he had any 'issues!'

"He is also doing much more spontaneous and appropriate speaking—like telling his sister to 'Wake Up! Get Moving! Let's Go!' (I always knew the day would come when HE would boss her around!!!)

"Just wanted to share my Christmas gift from him with you all, and wish you all much love and continued success in the new year!!

All my best!!!!"

Name: Anna W.
State: Illinois
Child: 6 years old
Diagnosis: Autism, PDD

Celebrating a Year of Transformation

"Dear friends,

I just wanted to write and say 'thank you'. It is the first anniversary today of our Son-Rise Program® and we have so much to be thankful for. We now have a loving, 1,000 words and verbal, happy, toilet-trained little boy who loves his family and showers us all with such happiness. Thank you. After completing Maximum Impact in July, there is a lovely peace over my home and family. I also thank you for proving or showing us that we can do it. We have upped our program now from 18 hours a week to 32 hours, and we are all (volunteers) enjoying it tremendously. Thank you once again. We will be in touch."

PS. We are having a celebration tonight and will toast you all in America.

Name: Susan and Stephen C.
Occupation: Homemaker, Distribution Manager
Country: Scotland
Child: 4 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Son-Rise Program® Provides a "Lifeline of Hope"

"Dear Parents:

I remember my first morning of The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up , sitting on the floor with 49, strangers, waiting for I didn't know what. Then Bears walked into the room, in his bare feet and started talking. I have no memory of his actual words. What I do remember though, is that almost as soon as he opened his mouth I, and most of the 49 strangers around me, burst into tears—because we were so relieved to be in this beautiful place where someone was finally saying something loving and helpful and hopeful about our children and about their futures.

"Until I got to The Option Institute, what I heard about my daughter was that she might never have friends, might never have a sense of humor, might only engage in isolated activities for the rest of her life. That the most we could hope for was that, because she was clearly bright and her PDD was mild, she might someday be mainstreamed in school with children who were normal, as she would never be. Each of these pronouncements was like a nail in my daughter's coffin to me. These were 'experts' telling me these things after all, telling me that the little girl I'd known and loved for 3 years didn't really exist and any hopes I'd had for her future were completely futile. Surely they knew better than I did.

"I was told to have no hope, and so I became hopeless. I became depressed. I could barely get out of bed each day. I had to go on anti-depressants just to function. I felt like I was lost in the middle of a gray, cold ocean, treading water as hard as I could just to stay afloat.

"Then my husband found a lifeline. He found Son-Rise. Almost immediately, things began to change for the better. Because all I needed was for someone to tell me that no one knew my little girl better than I did and that there was, always, hope.

"I gained so much from The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up; love, support, hope and lots of knowledge. I went off the anti-depressants as soon as I came home. I just didn't need them anymore. But even so, I remember saying to my husband, 'Okay, I know what I need to do now. I just don't know if I can do it.' I want to tell you all that if I can do it, anyone can. Let me tell you about my life. I'm 8 months pregnant, exhausted and hormonal a lot of the time. We have 5-year old twins. We're very tight for money. We're running a full-time, almost every waking minute of the day, The Son-Rise Program® for our daughter. Our house is messier than it's ever been, and this is one of the most amazing times of my entire life. In only 4 months, she has already outstripped every prediction the experts made for her. She's gone from almost no functional language, to being able to ask for every food or toy she wants. But more exciting to us is that she's asking for games from us and other people like: 'tickle,' 'swing,' 'upside down,' and 'tell a story.' She's almost completely potty trained. She's become incredibly physically affectionate, asking for and giving hugs all the time now. She's asking questions ("Where the blue marker?") and beginning to answer them. She understands concepts like "all done" and "later" and so we are now able to reason with her. Her eye contact is fantastic. She teases us. I could go on and on. And we haven't' even had our Son-Rise Program® Intensive training yet!

"In the beginning, I felt I had to be perfect all the time to do this program right. But I want you to know that there are days when I only have one or two of the three E's in the playroom. And there are definitely days when I am a pretty weak and worn out force of nature. But what I always am is a force of love, and what I always have is great hope for her future and, even more importantly, great joy in who she is in the present. She just cracks me up all the time. We have so much fun together now.

"So, whatever physical, financial or emotional difficulties you face, wherever you're starting from—you can do it. All you really need is the love that you have in your heart for your child. And remember:

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; The evidence of things not seen. Have faith in yourselves and your children."

Name: Elizabeth T.
State: Pennsylvania
Child: 3 years old
Diagnosis: PDD

A Very Special Singing Angel

"To all you wonderful Son-Rise Program® staff, thank you for your love. Everybody was so caring and full of fun. Our Son-Rise Program® Intensive has been a truly wonderful experience.

"You made us feel so at home that we didn t want to leave. But we leave with such a deep level of understanding, love and hope that I know we will radiate this to everyone who touches our lives, especially our very special singing angel, who also enjoyed every minute of his time here.

"Your spirit of love, acceptance and fun shall always be in our playroom.

"With love and gratitude,"

Name: Valerie and Vincent G.
Country: England
Child: P.

From Non-Verbal to over 300 Words and Growing: Autistic Child Continues to Reach Out

"Dear Parents, my name is Chris F., and I attended The Son-Rise Program® Maximum Impact in March of this year. I think it is a wonderful thing that you will be receiving information about Son-Rise children and their successes. I have to tell you my story.

"About a week after I cam back from The Option Institute, feeling great, and LOVING, I received a phone call from a very irate woman who had seen one of our flyers. She was quite upset with us for running a Son-Rise Program®, and she really felt like she had to tell me that Autism is a lifetime developmental disability. Didn't I know Autism can't be cured, things are only going to get worse, that my son was going to be the loser for this and wasn't I concerned about statistics? Lots more on this story, but it would take some time. One of the things that I mulled around in my mind was why I had never been concerned about statistics.

"When I went to The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up in December 1997, I came away knowing Son-Rise was right for John. During the last year, I have never wavered from this, I believe so much in what we are doing; and frankly, the proof is John. John was non-verbal; lot's of babble; traveling on roads unfamiliar or at night was a no-go; no shoes for the first 3 1/2 years of his life. (You can imagine the comments on that in 17 degree weather.) I could go on this subject a while, if I really went into the first 3 years of his life. He has gone so far on this journey; and though he has a long way to go, oh how exciting from where he has come.

"I stopped counting when he hit 300 words in February. He is now putting together small sentences with adjectives, verbs and nouns. This week I asked him could he say 'tickle me' instead of 'I want tickle' and he got it the first time. His new sentences this week are: 'tickle me,' 'help me,' 'Cat in the Hat,' 'Baby Bugs' (we were making play-do hats for our Bug's Life's bugs), 'let's go to the lake,' 'let's go to the store,' 'come on' and 'let's go eat cake.'

"In the last couple of months, John has learned his ABC's, lower and upper case. He can say them forward and backward, will identify and is starting to spell some words. He understands his numbers to 100, can do some simple addition and subtraction, computer games, knows his colors and some shapes.

"Oh, and I absolutely can't forget to tell you that he has the HUGEST imagination, and also understands emotions. His new thing is to pretend his is a baby and 'crying.' Besides all this, John has always been, and is, the most loving and funny little boy. He will turn 5 in May.

"One of his therapists from school was over yesterday (they work in our Son-Rise Program® in our room). He just stared at John. John and I were teasing each other about what he was going to do. He had found the Nintendo that I had hidden and wanted to play 'game,' so I said 'movie' and we went back and forth. He was giggling and laughing. Maura's remarks were that, 'He is such an amazing personality, so patient, and loving,' and then she went on to say how much she could see he has changed in just the past 3 months.

"I suppose John would probably still have an Autism diagnosis, though according to the criteria I have on hand, he shouldn't. I know also that we have a long way to go, but he never ceases to astonish me. He is a true gift from God, and I wouldn't change a thing about him. So we continue, and I thank you for reading this and THANK YOU so much for guiding us here.

"All the Son-Rise children are in our hearts. They are like bright lights across the world."

Name: Chris F.
Child: John
Diagnosis: Autism

Reaching for the Stars: a Son-Rise Program® Takes Flight

"Dear Bryn, Zoe, and Anne,

How are you and all your wonderful colleagues at The Option Institute? Well, I hope! We are well! Well, actually that's a huge understatement. We're really absolutely, positively buzzing from sheer excitement. We are having the most amazing time! Let me tell you from the beginning our story so far.

"My husband and I, attended your Son-Rise Program® Start-Up in Holland last January. We were so, SO motivated, excited and inspired. We felt at last we had found the most loving way to reach our wonderful son. We couldn't wait to begin. We traveled home excitedly discussing what each would do first. We're so glad we went! To have missed it would have been to have missed out! From here on our feet haven't touched the ground!

"On William's recommendation, we looked further into AIT at the London based National Light and Sound Therapy Center! We booked in for a 2-week course, and Jonathan, aged 4, spoke for the very first time. We knew this treatment for his hypersensitive hearing had worked, but we also knew that our Son-Rise Program® should begin as soon as possible to enable Jonathan to move on and that without Son-Rise he wouldn't progress further.

"While I had been in London for 2 weeks, Paco, my husband, had begun preparing the playroom. We also had his eyesight tested; he was found to be extremely long sighted in his left eye. This meant he couldn't, without the aid of glasses, focus on close-up objects or, indeed, people. We also changed Jonathan's diet; the change from dairy to Soya products was amazing. Jonathan began to sleep through the night. Every night! We had previously attended sleep clinics regularly, trying various ideas and approaches, including Melatonin. None of these worked and for the best part of 4 years, Jonathan had never slept—quite the opposite, he had been climbing the walls, tormenting and awakening everyone who slept. He is also on a sugar free diet, too. We have seen a marked improvement in his hyperactivity as a result.

"Once the playroom was finished and these associated problems to Autism had been dealt with, we decided to begin our Son-Rise Program®. We removed Johnny from his special school, Paco took reduced hours at work and on March 11, 1999 we began. We'll never forget that day. Paco and I began doing 2 1/2-hour sessions each day. Our plan was to build up to a 50-hour week with the help of 10 volunteers. Two weeks into our program, we held a presentation evening. Without Bryn and William's advice on this at The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up in Holland, we wouldn't have known what to do or how to go about recruiting volunteers. It proved so, so valuable and helped us tremendously. We used the Start-Up manual to help us, too. Following your guidelines, we felt really confident.

"Our presentation was fantastic! I was so nervous beforehand, but when it came to the evening, everything just flowed. I explained a little about Autism, about our darling Jonathan, we told our story so far, explained our present situation and our goals and aims. We told all about Raun and his amazing recovery. Then I began to explain the role our volunteers would be expected to fulfill, spelled out the qualities they must have, then told them how they would benefit from it all. We shared the BBC, QED video and we all had coffee while they filled out our questionnaires. The amazing thing was that everyone who attended filled in and handed back our questionnaire, all eager to become part of our program. Prior to this, to advertise our presentation, we put up 75 color posters in colleges, universities, post offices, libraries, shops, restaurants (e.g. McDonalds), changing rooms in department stores, mother and toddler groups and churches to name but a few places. We set up a Web site with a poster on it. We approached the local radio station, and we reported in our two local newspapers. The response was fantastic.

"After the presentation we interviewed 10 people at length, then the same 10 were taken through 2 half-day training sessions following your guidelines from our Son-Rise manual. On May 5 we began training sessions on a one-to-one basis with our volunteers and Jonathan, under observation in the playroom. We feel very blessed that since January we've come so far. Our volunteers are so enthusiastic and passionate. We have pensioners, mums, students, pre-school teachers, to name but a few. It's all so exciting!

"But the most exciting things of all are the changes in Jonathan since we began 10 weeks ago. I can hardly contain myself with excitement telling you!! A year ago, I remember Jonathan's tantrums were so severe, lasting 15-20 minutes, 3-4 times a day at play school and at home. He was self-harming, head banging and biting himself. Sometimes through sheer exhaustion he'd fall to sleep, only to wake up a while later in the same frame of mind, kicking and screaming. His eyes would roll, and his color would drain away; he'd be so distraught. We'd feel so helpless.

"Now, since our Son-Rise Program®, he hasn't had a temper tantrum for nearly 3 months. We attribute this to our change in attitude towards him and our acceptance of him just the way he is. We truly see him as a 'gift', a blessing from God. It's an honor that we've been given him. We love him more than words can say. Everyday is so exciting. We wake up not knowing what each new day will bring; so much has happened in so short a time. He inspires us to go on day by day. He's all the reward we need to stay motivated. All our efforts are worth so much when with these big brown eyes, he looks at us so meaningfully. Now, he can say around 30 words with meaning, in context, purposefully, and because he wants to. He can say '1,2,3 Ready, Steady, Go!!' He can join in nursery rhymes filling in appropriately; i.e., Twinkle, Twinkle, Little ? and he says STAR! Isn't he GREAT! I could eat him, he's so lovely! He's making longer lasting eye contact. He's understanding more each day, and above everything he's happier than he's ever been!

"To begin our program, we made the decision to remove him from his special school. Looking back, it was a hard decision to make at that time, but we have no regrets. We can see clearly now that the 2 very different approaches (school and The Son-Rise Program®) would have confused Jonathan. Even though we took him out of Merefield School for children with severe learning difficulties, the staff have been very supportive and are very keen to hear of this progress. The L.E.A. (Local Education Authority) special needs department in our area are so keen to follow his progress, that with our permission, they've decided to monitor very closely our Son-Rise Program® from start to finish. As no one in our area has ever embarked on such an approach, they're very keen to see the outcome. I personally believe that when they see his amazing progress, they'll have to change the way they help autistic children and adults. We've already had a few visits, and his progress so far has been noted. His headmistress from his old school is involved, so she knows what he was like prior to beginning the program. We've also had fitted a color CTV camera which links to our VCR so we can record his and our progress as we go.

"I've enclosed some clippings from local press coverage of our fundraising and progress (Once or twice we've been misquoted and the odd mistake appears here and there. You'll probably notice these errors.) We've also had local television coverage. When 2 soccer legends, famous all over Britain and Europe helped us to raise money for his appeal, it was a roaring success.

"Our fundraising has been so successful. Without it we'd have been unable to buy the books and tapes, go to The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up , pay our deposit for the Intensive, attend an AIT 2-week course for him, attend The Son-Rise Program® Maximum Impact this coming summer or build our all important playroom. I'd encourage anyone to begin; it's not so daunting as it might seem. In fact, we've had so much fun. We've had boot sales, quiz evenings, raffles, we've run marathons for sponsorship, had hot pot suppers, obstacle courses, cake sales, celebrity gala evenings and auctions to name but a few. So many many people have helped us, The Son-Rise Program® has touched their lives, too.

"We can truly say The Son-Rise Program® is already changing our lives for the better. We are discovering so much about ourselves, things that before we never knew we could do, as well as having a more loving attitude towards those around us. I never would have imagined 6 months ago that I'd have the confidence to speak publicly in front of hundreds of people about him, appeal for help from celebrities, organize press coverage and appear on local television and radio, or speak to doctors and management of our local education authority. I have a God-given inner strength that I have only just discovered, and like in the Nelson Mandela speech you shared with us, I want to let my light shine. I know that the changes in me can only mean a better life for our darling son, no matter what.

"Without your amazing dedication and support that we received in Holland at The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up, we wouldn't be enjoying such a successful time as we're having. Thank you all so much. By the grace of God we're loving him, helping to heal him and educating him like never before. We're loving the experience of inspiring the love of talking, the love of listening and the love of communicating in our son. He's the most beautiful flower coming into bloom and bloom he will! Please, be encouraged, keep up the good work, have many more Start-Up programs. You're touching lives, motivating, inspiring and testifying to so many. God Bless you all. We can't wait for The Son-Rise Program® Maximum Impact. Thank you everyone at the Option Institute. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

"We love you all!

"P.S. We're a Gold Medal team, reaching for the stars! And we'll get there, make no mistake!!

"P.P.S. I've also included some extra material; i.e., training notes from feedback, our poster for our presentation, etc. We just want to share everything with you all! Hope you don't mind."

Name: Wendy & Paco H.
Country: Holland
Child: 4 years old
Diagnosis: Autistic Tendancies

Son-Rise Program® Mom Makes Deep Connection with Her Beautiful and Amazing Little Girl

"Dear Son-Rise Staff:

Before we leave this magical place, I've got one more thing I want to share with you. Last night she woke up at 2:00 a.m., and as sometimes happens, she refused to go back to sleep. After trying for over an hour to get her back to sleep, I thought, 'What's the point? Our taxi will be here in 3 hours so I may as well get up.' Now, this really goes against the grain as I like my sleep!

What a magical 3 hours they were. My love for her has never been as intense. We were dancing, laughing and playing together like we had never done before. I felt such a deep connection with her, it was so intense it was amazing. We even watched some of the Son-Rise movie together and she copied Raun's flapping hands and finger wiggling! It's so strange because last week if she'd been flapping her hands and wiggling her fingers I would have been fearful of it. However tonight, at 5:15 a.m., 'I'm thinking how beautiful and amazing it is!' Why can I see this as amazing and special now? Well there is one main reason—because I choose to.

"So my friends, I want to thank each and every one of you for all you have done this past week. I will be eternally grateful."

Name: Pauline C.
Child: 3 years old
Diagnosis: Autism/DD

Only the Beginning

"Before we came to The Option Institute, Montu was a nonverbal, aggressive 18-year-old boy. Today, 2 years after doing The Son-Rise Program®, he is cooperative, he can read, write and do math at a very sophisticated level. And this is only the beginning. We are eternally grateful."

Name: Ernest E.
Occupation: Teacher
State: New Jersey
Child: 20 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

A Professional Acknowledges Effectiveness of The Son-Rise Program

(The following is from a special education professional's letter to a family doing a Son-Rise Program®.)

"I do not know what heights your son will reach, but without a shadow of a doubt he is developing and advancing beyond all expectations. It is impossible not to be impressed by your strong belief in your ability to aid your son's development through The Son-Rise Program® I wish other children in your child's situation could be blessed with such an intensive and effective means of treatment as your son has been blessed with."

Name: Carmella O.
Occupation: Senior Counselor for Special Education
Country: Israel
Child: 12 years old
Diagnosis: Post Encephalitis

Son-Rise Mom Finds Complete Love

"There are no words to describe The Son-Rise Program® staff. Your sensitivity and focus on us was never ending. You have helped take a situation that seemed overwhelming and unmanagable and simplified it . . . and made it fun! Thank you for your patience, your guidance and your complete love."

Name: Margie C.
Occupation: Freelance Designer
State: Kentucky
Child: 9 years old
Diagnosis: Cerebral Palsy

Fourty-Four Year Old Autistic Woman Learns To Communicate

"We came to The Son-Rise Program® with hope that my lovely sister, Eileen (44 years old) would have the opportunity to become everything she would want to be. Since we have been here, her repetitious behaviors have decreased by 50%. She has stopped scratching us, and she has a longer attention span. Not only have we seen her able to communicate verbally, but she has also shown us that she wants to communicate by writing in simple words—this is a miracle that we never expected!! We are thrilled!"

Name: Leah D.
Occupation: Homemaker
Country: England
Child: 44 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Son-Rise Program® Mom Finds Hope

"Without exception, I find you all awesome! You're a wonderful, energetic, bright, talented group of people. I absolutely admire you all: your clarity, comfort, GENUINE COMMITMENT and love. I've learned so much this week from each of you. I strive to emulate you and now see that there is real hope. Thank you so very much."

Name: Susan R.
Occupation: Mother
State: Massachusetts
Child: 3 1/2 years old
Diagnosis: Atypical/Language/Cognitive Style

Speech Pathologist Adopts Son-Rise Program® Techniques

"This is one of the most exciting ways to teach language that I have ever seen! The main ideas are simple and easily applied by persons of any level of experience. I will use these techniques in many situations with children with other disorders."

Name: Jane H.
Occupation: Speech Language Pathologist
State: New Mexico
Child: 2 1/2 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

A Loving Transition

"We have been working with our daughter, Joke, for 3 months since we left the Option Institute; and we see so much evolution. Most of all, she is now able to be in contact with people. She was aggressive, but has now become so much calmer. We should like to thank you once again for all you have done for us. We have never met people that loved our daughter so much. Thank you very, very much."

Name: Bieke and Rag S.
Occupation: Speech Language Pathologist
Country: Belgium
Child: 6 years old
Diagnosis: Brain Injured

Miracles Happen

"My wife and I have tried many ways of working with our son since we became aware of his difficulties at one year of age. He spent 4 years in and out of various programs and therapies where he made little progress. Then we went to The Option Institute. In the 6 months since we have been doing The Son-Rise Program® with him, his communication skills have gone from an 18 to a 36-month-old level. His autistic behaviors have decreased from 80% of the time to 30%. He is choosing interactions with people over his former obsessive actions with objects. He is learning new words daily. He is now learning at a faster rate than a normal 3-year-old. Miracles Happen!

Name: Joe C.
Occupation: Computer Programmer
Country: Canada
Child: 6 years old
Diagnosis: Autism

Feeling the Celebration of Life

"If you think that you really love your child, you'll learn to love him/her more . . . If you have ever felt alone with your special child, you'll never feel that way here. If you want to feel the celebration of life and love, you'll always find it here at The Son-Rise Program®."

Name: Diane W.
Occupation: Administrative Director
State: Florida
Child: 4 1/2 years old
Diagnosis: Autistic Features with Developmental Delays

All I Had to Do Was Accept and Love Him

"Dear Son-Rise:

Our son developed normally, hitting all his milestones at the appropriate age. He was even using words such as MaMa, DaDa, and BaBa. At about 20 months, he began to withdraw, having long periods of staring. He would walk around the house with all his toys clutched in his hands, never playing with them. He loved to watch TV and videotapes over and over. He never acquired new language; in fact, he lost the little language he had acquired up until this point. At 2 1/2, we really knew he was different. He just did not interact with people, only objects. At this point, I began the scariest roller coaster ride of my life.

"He is diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder, the professionals' way of saying Autism. I will never forget his psychologist saying those words. He was staring down at the floor and said, 'I am sorry.' My reaction was: whatever this was, it must be terrible! I began to cry. The first of many, many nights laying awake crying! How could God have done this to me? The most devastating thought to me was I would never hear my son say, 'Mom, I love you.'

"I then poured over what seemed like thousands of books on Autism—all the same ending—devastating, no hope, give it up! Put him in a program and hope for the best that he will learn to dress and feed himself. As he was put into a program that the schools felt was 'appropriate,' his Autism became more apparent. He would scream, run around the room, hold all the puzzle pieces he could find in his hands, and most of all he could not communicate. He would just pull your hand over the what he wanted, never looking at you. He never learned to hold a pencil. They told me they tried to teach him how to ride a bike, but he just could not do it and probably never would. I literally became sick to my stomach the day I went to observe him at school, and they had him strapped in his car seat sitting in the middle of the room while everyone walked around him. That was it! I just could not put my child through this torture! There had to be something I could do for him to show him how much I loved him.

"I found The Son-Rise Program® by reading a testimonial on a pamphlet. The next week, I was at The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up! I finally found the answer I had been praying for. The minute I drove up the driveway, I felt this ease come over me. I knew The Option Institute community would understand how desperately I loved this child. They would show me the way to reach him. I was so excited! I was also right. The week I spend at Start-Up was priceless. They made me realize the key to my son's world was within me and within my reach, all I had to do was accept and love him!

"Our lives have completely changed since that day. The most significant change is in Patrick. The minute I arrived home, I started the program and have never turned back since. It has been 7 months since we began our Son-Rise Program® and he can now speak in complete sentences. He asks for what he wants instead of screaming. He says to me, 'Mom, I want toast and juice, please.' This was a child who could only use one word for things that he wanted, such as saying toast, juice or door. He now writes his name and many other phrases on his chalkboard. He plays with his toys appropriately. He CAN ride his bike now all over the next door parking lot WITH his brother. He greets people when they come in. He says to his volunteers, 'Hi Melissa, come on let's go!' as he opens the door to his playroom. He can read many phrases and words. The best part, though, is that he looks deep into my eyes with those huge brown eyes of his and he laughs as he asks me to tickle him. It is endless the changes this child has made. Of course, we have our days, but who doesn't?

"Let me share this one last event. To me, it is the ultimate gift. I was putting him and his brother to sleep and finished tucking them in. I stood at the door and went to turn out the light. I always say, 'good night boys, sweet dreams, I love you!' Before I could say a word, Patrick looked straight at me and said 'Good night mom, I love!' and blew me a kiss. I cried tears of complete joy! The moment I had been waiting for. Except for him, The Son-Rise Program® has been the best thing that could have happened to our family."

Name: Colleen E.
Child Diagnosis: Sensory Inegration Disorder

Inspiring Letter of Growth, Change and Hope

**See follow-up letter below

"Dear Option Staff,

It was exactly one year ago that our eldest son (now 4 1/2 years old), was diagnosed as having PDD (Pervasive Development Delays). I remember walking out of the school shaking all over and feeling an enormous knot in my stomach. Suddenly, I felt as if my whole world was crashing down. My first instinct was that the doctors were wrong. They were just looking to find a problem.

"But, deep down, I think I knew. I had known for a long time that he was different from other children. In fact, I had more than once in the quiet of my own heart whispered to myself, 'I wonder if this is what Autism is.' But I never allowed this thought to be more than a whisper, barely audible even to myself, for fear that saying it aloud would make it come true.

"We took him to a developmental pediatrician, who confirmed the diagnosis. It was true. Now, what to do? The worst part was that no one would give us any prognosis. No one would give us any real hopeful predictions.

"My sister told me about a book called Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues by Barry Neil Kaufman which tells of the miraculous results the Kaufmans achieved with their own son. She gave me a booklet about The Son-Rise Program®. As I read about the approach, the attitude and the program and stories of other families, I knew right away that this was it! This was the way we would reach him.

"I immediately signed us up for The Son-Rise Program® Intensive, but it would be months before we would be able to attend. Meanwhile, Jeremy's speech pathologist strongly recommended a behavior modification program. We spoke to other parents who were doing that type of program, but it did not seem right to me. Finally, we observed one such program in progress. I wanted to scream, and I knew I could never subject my sweet child to such a program.

"We went to the Option Institute, and after that week, our lives changed. Within 2 weeks after we returned home and began implementing our Son-Rise Program® in full, the words started to spill out of our previously silent little boy. After 4 weeks, he had a vocabulary of over 100 words. In fact, he made many incredible changes. And he has continued to amaze and astound us.

"Here is a list of the changes he has made:

"Before The Son-Rise Program®:

"Nine months later:

"And the list goes on and on and on . . .

Now it is 9 months after our visit to The Son-Rise Program® Intensive, and Jeremy has continued to change and grow by leaps and bounds. And so have I. I now feel a calm and a peace that I did not know before. I treasure every look, every word, every moment we share. And I look forward to each new day as we continue this journey, a journey that has changed both of our lives in so many deep and profoundly beautiful ways. I am grateful; I am joyous; I am exhilarated; and I am often moved to happy tears as I reflect on our life, our journey and our very special child. In doing this program, not only have I seen profound changes in my son, but along the way, I have also found myself."

Name: Kris C.
Diagnosis: Pervasive Developmental Delay

The Journey Continues

** See previous letter above: "Inspiring Letter of Growth, Change and Hope"

"Hello dear friends!

So much is happening in our lives here. Jeremy is doing so incredibly amazing — he continues to astound me!!! He has a best friend—a little girl. They had a play date 10 days ago after school on the playground. After 6 1/2 hours of school, he played for 75 minutes with her, nonstop and totally interactive the whole time, talking, playing physical games on the playground equipment and even putting on 2 plays for her mom and me. It was extraordinary!!!!

"Then last Thursday, he went to her house after school her mom picked them both up—what a sight to see him going off with his friend after school. And after 1 hour and 45 minutes, her mom brought him home. From the moment he got out of the car, he was so bright-eyed, animated and happy. They talked and laughed and hugged each other goodbye. She had made him a card (and apparently he had made her a similar one) saying, 'To J. You are my bestest friend in the world. Love Nicole.' Wow! And then he told me that he had just had the best day of his whole life! I think it ranks up there with the best days of my life, too!

"The following day, I got to go to his classroom for a celebration as they launched their writer's notebooks. He sat in the circle with the other kids, paying attention to his teacher's words and a book she read. Then each child took a turn reading the letter he/she had written to their notebook. He listened attentively to each child before him (and after him). The teacher kept asking the children to speak up, as they were all reading so quietly it was hard to hear them. When Jeremy's turn came, he looked so proud and read his letter in a bright, loud, clear voice. It was magnificent! (And of course he reads much better than most of the kids, too.) After that part of the celebration, there were snacks and mingling. He introduced me to some of his friends, showed me around and enjoyed his snack. At one point, a different little girl walked over to him and said, 'Hey, do you want to play hide and seek with me?' 'Sure!' he replied. And they did. Then he got his lunchbox and coat, followed the teacher's directions to the class, got in line and headed off with his class to lunch. Leaving me with a wave and a happy 'Bye, Mom.'

"HE IS TOTALLY IN THERE DOING IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am so excited and proud for him! And I am so excited to share our joy and our ongoing journey with you. He and I watched our movie 'J.'s Journey' this weekend, and at the end of it he said to me, 'Mom, we should make J.'s Journey part 2—Jeremy goes to school.' He is so right. I love you all so very, very deeply. And I am excited to see you next Monday!

With much love,"

Name: Kris C.
Child Diagnosis: Pervasive Developmental Delay