Autism Treatment Center of America®

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Autism Treatment Center, Celebrating Children with Autism!

Our Intensive Program Facilitators Share

Working with any child is a blessing and a great honor—no matter what their challenges may be. Our child facilitators share below their experience of working and playing with the children that come to our Son-Rise Program® Intensive:

Passion, Magic, and Learning to Fly

"Slightly out of breath, I am standing with my right foot forward holding a serving spoon in my right hand, watching 2 small feet out of the corner of my eye. Anticipating his next step, I am poised and ready to fly with this sweet boy to the other side of the playroom. The moment his feet move, mine do. too—right, then left, then right, then left. Side by side we hold our spoons in front of us blowing air through our slightly open lips, until our hands touch the opposite wall. Continuing to move in synchronicity, we both turn to face the wall we just came from. I am bent down low in case he looks my way, because I want this boy to see me loving him. His eyes move past me, and he focuses on some mysterious spot across the room. I also look to the opposite wall, smiling as I notice the silence and stillness in the room, and I await his next move.

"I am honored that this little guy let me into his unique world of spoons, sounds, rhythm and movement. In those moments, nothing in my world mattered except my desire to be close to him. I felt deeply connected to this boy as I filled myself with a passionate love for him, and for what it is that he loves. I believe his life will forever be different because of the time we spent together.

"This is just one description of the magic I experience every day. I change children's lives by opening my heart to them and diving into their worlds. Each time I emerge from the playroom, I am inspired and awed by the wonder of how good it feels to be loving—wholeheartedly, without expecting anything in return.

"In order to open my heart in this way, I have dramatically changed who I am and how I move in the world. Soon after I began my training at The Option Institute, I realized that to help the children I wanted to help, I first had to profoundly help myself as a way to more fully open my heart to the children.

"In my learning adventure, I have questioned how I think, how I motivate myself, how I learn and how I treat myself. I have let go of fears I have become more confident, more passionate, more aware of what I want for myself and, most importantly, more accepting of who I am. I am blessed, not only to help the children who come here each week, but for who I have become in the process of learning to help them.

"When I walk through the door to the playroom, I enter a paradise in which I believe in my capacity to open my heart in a deep and meaningful way. Spinning in circles; reciting lines from Thomas the Tank; flipping through the pages of a book; watching bubbles fall through the air; lining up blocks; dancing in front of the mirror; giving tickles, squeezes and rides on my back; singing; laughing hysterically; celebrating wildly; wanting passionately; listening curiously; joining intensely; seeing an entire universe in one moment, with one child."

Name: Molly B.

Loving, Accepting and Celebrating Every Child

"I want to describe for you the depth of gratitude and honor I feel for training as a child facilitator in The Son-Rise Program®, for touching the lives of special children every day, for being touched by the lives of special children every day. Every day I go home with a sense of being one with the world, a sense that I have given and received bountifully. It amazes me that I feel constantly turned on to how I can make my love deeper, my acceptance purer, my creativity wilder and my contribution greater.

"I feel like the whole world is at my fingertips. Where before my life felt so unintentional, now I am learning how and what it means to be a Force of Nature™. Before, I felt like an adult around children—you know, unplayful, cautious, serious. Now, I am clear in my purpose to be each child's funniest and best friend. Before, I kept my distance and judged most children if they kept their distance from me. Now, I am strong in my conviction to love, accept and celebrate every child I meet. As I do, I love, accept and celebrate myself more.

"I am learning to be daring in going for what I want and what I believe, where before i gave up rather easily. I am learning that persistence means doing it all again and again and again—with the same purpose, same conviction, same daring and same passion each and every time. I am learning to give myself fully, to love without bounds or judgment. I am learning that I make a difference. I giggle just at the thought of these words, because I always dreamed of saying them and never thought I would.

"My teachers range in age from 2 1/2 to 56 and each comes with a wealth of knowing beyond imagination. My formal, older teachers are kind, powerful, loving, supportive, creative models of love and acceptance. My informal, younger teachers are the most precious people on earth. They teach me that the greatest gift I can give any living creature, including myself, is respect, love and acceptance. They teach me that I am my own best expert and they are theirs. They teach me how to listen with a fine ear and be present with all my senses. They teach me how to be grateful for the most 'banal' events and how to let go of outcomes and expectations. They teach me there are no mistakes. They teach me I am the luckiest person alive: I have the privilege of working with them.

"There is not one day I don't thank the universe for the privilege of being a part of The Option Institute, The Son-Rise Program® and the lives of all these special children. I feel blessed."

Name: Judith U.

Learning the Power of Love

"Recently, I was scheduled for the last session of the week with one of the children. I went to the observation room a few minutes early to see what game the child facilitator and this little guy were playing and what words they were working on. As I watched them blowing streams of bubbles together, I thought about this boy going home, back to his life. I realized that there were so many aspects of his future about which I did not know. I did know, however, that I had the chance to love and accept him for the next hour—and that might be the last time in his life that he is loved to the extent that I can do it. I walked into the playroom, determined that my love for him would ooze out of my pores—so he could feel my delight in him and take it with him wherever he went.

"I spent the next hour doing just that. Every time he looked in my eyes, I felt tingling all over my body. When he tried to say a word, I wanted to shout from the roof tops. And as we sat there, staring at the wall, I felt a deep, profound connection with him—I was simply with my best friend. I felt my love for him shining through my eyes. There was no way this little guy didn't know he was loved.

"It was one of the best hours of my life. Opening my heart so boundlessly to this child felt extraordinary. I've learned that confidence through Son-Rise training. At different points in my training, I've questioned my capability to help these children. I've thought, 'Who am I to believe I can change someone's life?' But what is so tremendous about The Son-Rise Program® is its fundamental belief that love matters and is most important. And I've come to trust that, to believe that love is the best way to help the children. I now walk into that playroom with the strong conviction that my love and my acceptance make a difference. What a feeling it is to believe that, to know that I can show children they are perfect and wonderful exactly how they are. I have the best job on the planet!

"It's been phenomenal to witness the substantial ways that love affects these children. One time, I was with a boy who rarely made any kind of contact with people. He was lying on the floor, wanting nothing to do with me. So I lay down on the other side of the room and focused on loving the tiny person staring at the ceiling. Three minutes later, he got up, came over to me, took my hand and soon we were playing a game together, hysterically laughing, which his parents said he never does. Life does not get any better than that.

"So, thank you for helping me to learn the power of love. Not only am I believing in it more and more as a way to help these amazing children, but also, I am turning it more and more on myself. I love myself more now than I ever have. Last week, I was driving in my car with the music blasting, singing at the top of my lungs, and I just started laughing at how cute I was. I'm learning to take myself much less seriously and to revel in my idiosyncrasies.

"These children have taught me that anything is possible. Every day, they perform miracles. One little boy came to us seeming not to understand the power of language—that by speaking, he could get what he wanted. That week he looked directly in my eyes and said, clear as a bell, 'eat'. I know that part of the reason the children grow in such leaps and bounds is because I love them and I believe in them.

"My training at The Option Institute has been the most meaningful, challenging, outrageous, turbulent, in-your-face, fun-filled experience of my life. I feel honored to be at the Institute, to be a part of this mission, and most of all, to spend time with those beautiful children and all those who come asking for our help."

Name: Joanna W.