Autism Treatment Center of America®

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Autism Treatment Center, Celebrating Children with Autism!

Barry Neil Kaufman (‘Bears’) Co-Founder & President: The Option Institute & Autism Treatment Center of America Home of The Son-Rise Program

Name: Bears Kaufman

Title: Co-Founder & CEO

Region: Full-time Staff, Available Worldwide

Phone: 1-413-229-2100



Areas of Expertise & Services:

A Personal Statement from Bears Kaufman:

“As a young man, if I could have dreamed the best life that would be possible for me to live, the one I have actually lived and continue to live far exceeds anything I could have ever imagined. Five decades with a woman who has not only been my very best friend but a teacher and inspiration to love and love bigger. Six unique, fascinating children who we adore. Three adopted from situations of starvation, abuse and violence. A rainbow family. In the mix, beyond challenges predictable and unpredictable, comes autism – and from that moment forward, we realize that we had to change every aspect of our lives to find a way to help our son.

At 15 years old, sitting with friends, some asked what I wanted to do with my life. Clueless and embarrassed, I stayed silent, then blurted: “I want to write books and work with people’s minds.” During my university studies, I dove into an intense curriculum of philosophy courses, adoring explorations into how people think and what they believe. Sometimes, I would stay up almost all night reading and reading and reading. At the same time, I wrote a novel, a play and reams of poems. I met Samahria – she loved me long before I had eyes to see her beauty, her strength and her caring. Her – with her open heart. Me – with my passion to learn, my judgments about the injustices in the world and my deep discontent. She continued to love me anyway.

After graduation, more writing, then entering into the motion picture industry because of my love of films. Then creating my own creative “think tank“ company in my mid-twenties to work on branding projects for films such as Midnight Cowboy, Alice’s Restaurant, some of the earlier James Bond films, then the works of Ingmar Bergman and Frederic Fellini – all the while confused inside, looking for answers to make sense of the world – taking graduate courses and studying alternative psychologies and philosophies, eastern/western, more reading and reading and reading. More courses, another wonderful teacher and finally the awareness and understanding of the power of beliefs and the power to change myself. And change myself, I did. As did Samahria. Although we had struggled during those early years, we now came together in a way different than ever before. More sharing. More tenderness. More open expressions of love.

And then, as if the universe or God smiled and said: “ah, you think you have it all together now…well then let’s see what you do with this.” Raun, our third child, develops autism during a time when autism was diagnosed as part of infantile childhood schizophrenia….and behavioral techniques, including reward/punishment and electric shocks were the commonplace treatments. Irreversible and incurable were terms used to describe his condition. Samahria and I decided that we would not want our son, or any child for that matter, to be exposed to such methods and, thus decided, to find a way ourselves to reach Raun. Never did we see his situation as a behavior problem but a difficulty in relating to and participating in the world of people. We adopted some major perspectives; 1) attitude was beyond important – to love him with judging his unusual behavior, 2) if he couldn’t join us in our world, we would join him in his and 3) establishing a bonded relationship and helping him to be motivated would be the best pathway to help him one day join our world. Raun went from an severely autistic, mute, self-stimulating, under 30 I.Q. child to becoming a precious, highly verbal, extroverted youngster, ultimately graduating high school with honors and then gaining a degree in biomedical ethics from an Ivy League university. Today, he is Director of Global Education at the Autism Treatment Center of America (a division of The Option Institute), which Samahria and I founded almost 30 years ago.

Samahria and I, with a highly trained and professional staff, have had the blessing to have not only worked with individuals and parents and children from all over the world (78 different countries), but to share The Son-Rise Program (for children with autism and other developmental challenges) and The Option Process (a powerful, transformative personal growth process) with tens of thousands of people through our many courses, seminars, family intensives, videos, books, CDs and DVDs. My first book, Son-Rise (now Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues), became a best-seller and an award-winning NBC-TV Network movie. Since then, I have written eleven other books (many translated into over 20 languages), including Happiness Is A Choice, To Love Is To Be Happy With and Power Dialogues.

I don’t just get up every morning, I jump up. I feel extraordinarily grateful to spend each day either teaching in our programs, training our staff or professionals, working one-on-one with individuals and families, doing consultations and dreaming up more effective ways to make our methods easier to learn and implement. When I look into the eyes of a mute child who learned to talk or even just allowed himself to be hugged, when I hear a mom report that her depression or despair is gone and now feels hopeful, when I see a dad open his heart to his family and address his concerns and fears and when I witness the transformative impact our Son-Rise Program teachers and child-facilitators have families every week and every month, I know that we (all of us working here at the Autism Treatment Center of America) are among those who most richly blessed. What an honor for all of us to do this work and embrace all those who reach out to us."

Quotes about Barry Neil Kaufman (“Bears”)

“Inspiring, groundbreaking and visionary. Barry Neil Kaufman's work is the science of love, compassion and insight which will transform the world.”

Deepak Chopra, M.D., Author, Quantum Healing

“They should win Nobel prize for love.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., Author, The Power of Intention

“Barry Neil Kaufman's work affirms the unlimited potential of the human spirit and offers hope to those who have been challenged by adversity.”

Coretta Scott King, Founder, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

“The search for peace in the world must start within the human heart and within our own families. Barry Neil Kaufman understands that. By personal example and through his writing and counseling, he gives a compelling vision for the building of inner and outer peace.”

President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

“Bears (Barry Neil Kaufman) is a magician. Where there is fear-he sees and makes love. Where there is uncertainty-he sees wonder, and where there are judgments-he loves and asks a gentle why? Bears, you have helped me with your integrity, playful passion and clarity to get in touch with the love in me. I am grateful for the unique opportunity of being your student. I see you changing the world in the most effective way. I delight in being a witness to your work.”

Ted McCarthy, Physician, Maine

“Who doesn’t want a family member like Bears. He is an extraordinary person who gives you so much love, makes you feel secure. He is the type of person who says, ‘Whatever you do, it doesn’t matter, I am not here to judge you, I am here to help you’. I am really grateful for meeting him and his words touched my heart.”

Elena D, Medical Representative, Romania
Daughter / Age: 5 / Diagnosis: Autism and ADHD

“Awesome, amazing, profound. (An) amazing ability to communicate clearly. Amazing authenticity and compassion. (Bears) Has a sixth sense to know when to give love to a particular participant and help them deal with their issues in a loving but authentic way.”

Steve Weingarten, Real Estate, Texas

“Thank you for being such an amazing person. Thank you Bears for every question you’ve asked. It expanded my horizons. It made me realize the beauty in asking and looking for the answers within myself instead of looking for answers from the outside world. I can feel it now that I am the universe. I have everything I need in order to be happy and help my son and that is the love I can give to myself and everyone I’m in touch with.”

Mirena Velkova, Translator, Sofia, Bulgaria
Child's Name: Vlady Martin / Age: 14 / Diagnosis: Autism

“He is truly a force of nature. Amazing! I loved my dialogue with him. To think I spent months and months with a therapist for my eating disorder. We took care of business in 50 minutes. I left my shame behind in his office. I own my over-eating. I do not judge it.”

Stephanie O’Connor, Unemployed/Searching, Washington

“The more classes I have led by Bears, the more I appreciate his mastery of how to guide me to my answer through love, respect and the audacity to be genuinely curious about what I’m thinking and feeling and believing.”

Angie Hooper, Attorney & Program Parent, Oklahoma
Child's Name: Eric / Age: 15 / Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder

“I love Bear’s teaching style. I feel Bears makes sure everybody gets a chance to participate without insisting that they participate. He is very observant and is wonderful at incorporating the Option Dialogue Process into the class wherever it seems appropriate. He is open to feedback from us and walks us into danger zones rather than steering us away from them. There is nowhere he is unwilling to go! He is an example of true love and is the same both inside and outside of the class room.”

Denise D, Lawyer, Ireland

“He is amazing in how much he notices, how lovingly he challenges people, how he is able to encourage people to extend themselves and take ‘risks" (not really risks, but we often think that way). He’s amazing and wonderful how he is able to look at a situation differently than most of the world and teach us how to do the same.”

Sarah Figueroa, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Colorado

“I so enjoy watching Bears mentor and facilitate. He is an amazing example of living the Option Process. I can see and feel the love and warmth he has for participants – how present and non judgmental he is. When he is in that space of the mentor attitude – it allows participants the space to look at what they are believing and feeling in such a safe and beautiful way. He listens, he follows – in such a present and engaged way. I’ve never encountered a more effective speaker.”

Pam Aronow, Son-Rise Mom, Arizona
Child's Name: Ian / Age: 9 / Diagnosis: Autism

“Bears is such an inspiration, he is a fountain of love and happiness while being a well of wisdom and knowledge. I truly admire him for sharing so profoundly all these things with us. I will always be thankful.”

Bassel Rabbat, Managing Director, Beirut/Lebanon
Child's Name: Karim Martin / Age: 9 / Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder

“I’m so grateful that you’ve given me the chance to learn and create a new life. And to teach me what happiness means. I felt like I have matured 10 years while here and I am so grateful. I’ve learned so much from your CDs and I will continue to listen and learn. I continue to change for the better as I learn from you. The best gift I can give my children is to be a better mother and you just inspire me.”

Tsigereda Seifu, Son-Rise Mom, United Kingdom
Child’s Name: Nathaniel Mulvalem / Age: 9 / Diagnosis: Autism & Epilepsy

“POW! The guy just blew me away. I had so much confusion and so many questions about myself and my situation. But from Bears’ classes I gained revelation and clarity. He’s all about the LOVE, man. How cool is that? He is an amazing, inspiring and beautiful human being.”

Paul Georgos, Optometrist, Australia
Child’s Name: Andrew / Age: 4 / Diagnosis: ASD