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The Son-Rise Program versus ABA

The Son-Rise Program and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of autism treatment methodologies. The major differences are briefly outlined here. To read a much more detailed and comprehensive explanation of the differences, click here.

ABA vs. The Son-Rise Program

Understanding of Autism


The Son-Rise Program

Sees Autism as a behavioral disorder, with behaviors to be either extinguished or reinforced. The Child needs structure and must learn to sit appropriately, follow a schedule, and comply with requests.

Sees Autism as a social interactivity disorder, where the central deficit is relating to other people. Helping the child to be flexible and spontaneous enables him/her to handle change and enjoy human interaction.

Area of Focus


The Son-Rise Program

Changing the behavior of the child. Seeks to "extinguish" the child’s repetitive "stimming" behavior.

Creating a relationship with the child. Uses "joining" technique to participate in the child’s repetitive behavior.

Method of Teaching New Skills


The Son-Rise Program

Repetition - Uses discrete trials or similar method to prompt the child to perform a behavior (followed by a reward) over and over again until the child has demonstrated mastery.

Motivation - builds the child’ own interests into every game or activity so that the child is excited, "comes back for more," generalizes skills, and relates naturally rather than robotically.

Areas of Learning


The Son-Rise Program

Often focuses on academic skills. Sees academic areas such as math as an excellent way to help the child compensate for lack of social skills.

Always teaches socialization first. Seeks not to help the child compensate for social skills deficits but rather to overcome them.

The Role of the Parents


The Son-Rise Program

Professionals are the major players, with parents having a more observational role.

Parents are given the most central role, because their love, dedication, and experience with their child is unmatched.

The Role of the Facilitator’s Attitude


The Son-Rise Program

Sees attitude as largely irrelevant, with effective application of behavior shaping techniques being what matters.

Sees attitude as vitally important, since having a non-judgmental and welcoming attitude determines whether the child feels safe and relaxed enough to interact and learn.

To learn more about The Son-Rise Program of the Autism Treatment Center of America:

Video Testimonials

Watch the video clips of program participants talking frankly about how The Son-Rise Program has taken them beyond hope to totally changing their children’s lives.


By: Raun K. Kaufman

You’re really going to want to listen to this. It’s an audio recording of a woman’s experience being trained in ABA and then working in an ABA center for children on the autism spectrum. It’s pretty intense.

I totally get that there are some people that don’t like me posting these kinds of things, but if people all over the world didn’t continue to have these experiences of ABA, I wouldn’t be posting them.

And if ABA practitioners didn’t keep insisting that this doesn’t happen or “isn’t real ABA,” it wouldn’t be so important to share this. (And we must ask: If this isn’t “real” ABA, how is it that so many practitioners worldwide seem to be getting the idea that it is?)

Look. When people claiming to practice The Son-Rise Program® do so in a way that violates its principles, we take them to court. (We really do!) We don’t just stand around and say, “Well, I know they’re holding this child down against his will and calling it The Son-Rise Program, but, oh well, that’s not the real Son-Rise Program®”

ABA practitioners can make a very nice living practicing ABA. And that’s totally fine. But you can’t profit off it while taking no responsibility for the children being treated in a way may would call abuse.

And that’s why I’m going to continue to post these true accounts... until something fundamental changes in how our sweet and beautiful children are treated.


From ABA to The Son-Rise Program/No More Tantrums

When Zachary started to show signs of autism, Beverly was told there was nothing she could do for him. The autism support that she was offered was minimal and she was given no hope. Zachary showed symptoms of autism such as minimal eye contact and no speech. Four weeks after reading Son-Rise The Miracle Continues, Beverly attended the The Son-Rise Program Start-Up autism training program and was offered a potential cure for autism. Just one week after, Zachary’s eye contact had increased dramatically and he now has confidence about who he is. Listen to Beverly’s story:

After 5 years a mother finds a way to help her son recover from Autism

William was diagnosed with autism 5 years ago. Although he had had substantial ABA treatment, he still had many symptoms of autism. He was non-verbal, made little eye contact, and spent a lot of time hand flapping and pacing. Now just four months, after coming to the Autism Treatment Center of America and implementing The Son-Rise Program with William, his mother reports that he has begun to speak, his eye contact is much improved, and his stimming behavior is rapidly decreasing. But most important there is now a meaningful connection between them that was never there before. His parents always believed he would recover from autism. Now they know how that will happen.

No Longer Rigid or Rote – Is now Flexible & Spontaneous

Tyler was a high functioning child with autism but there was no emotional connection. His symptoms of autism included spinning and an obsession with shapes and his parents were told by doctors and ABA centers not to let him participate in these behaviors. His parent’s health and marriage were suffering. After hearing Raun Kaufman speak at an autism conference, his parents came to the Autism Treatment Center of America™ where they attended The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up and learned to run a Son-Rise Program for Tyler. They play with shapes a lot! Tyler has achieved the 10 goals his mother had for him - including kissing her spontaneously on her birthday.

request info

Click Here to Complete the request form to receive The Son-Rise Program catalogue, the free DVD Autism Solutions, as well as descriptions of simple Son-Rise Program techniques you can try right away with your child at home.

call me now request

Request a complimentary, private 25 minute call with one of our Program Advisors to answer your questions and discuss how The Son-Rise Program can help you and your child

Helpful Books to Read

Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues

Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues

This book documents the development of The Son-Rise Program® and Raun K. Kaufman’s incredible journey out of autism as well as the journey of five other special children.

Read samples on-line.

“Barry Kaufman’s work is inspiring, ground breaking and visionary… Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues, continues to establish the fact that yesterday’s miracles are becoming the science of today ... the science of love, compassion, and insight which will transform the world.”

~Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Author of Reinventing the Body, Ressurecting the Soul.

Happiness is a Choice

Happiness Is A Choice

This book describes the attitudinal backbone of The Son-Rise Program® with specific techniques of how to be more comfortable, and, therefore more effective, in working with your child.

Read samples on-line.

"... reveals the options and choices we can all make to find the road to happiness"

~Dr. Bernie Siegel
Author of 365 Prescriptions for the Soul.

The Son-Rise Program Vs. ABA

The Son-Rise Program and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of Autism treatment methodologies. The major differences between the philosophies, principles, and techniques of these two treatment modalities can be broken down into the following seven categories:

Understanding of Autism

ABA treats Autism as a behavioral disorder, with behaviors to be either extinguished or promoted. This means that repetitive, exclusive, so-called “stimming” behaviors common to children with Autism is not permitted during learning sessions, “correct” behaviors are rewarded, sometimes with food, and new skills/behaviors are taught through structured repetition referred to as discreet trials.

The Son-Rise Program sees autism as a relational, interactivity disorder. The central deficit of children on the autism spectrum is that they have difficulty connecting with and relating to other people. Almost all other difficulties spring from this primary challenge. Therefore, we do not seek to “correct” so-called “inappropriate” behaviors in the absence of a deeply bonded relationship. Rather, we endeavor to build a relationship with each child – a relationship that is the platform for all future education and development. We then help our children learn to connect and build relationships with others, and to genuinely enjoy such interaction. The many other skills we teach (self-care skills, moving beyond “stimming” behaviors) are addressed within the context of our focus on human interaction.

We also believe that each child has a reason for every behavior they perform. Rather than forcing children to conform to a world they do not yet understand, we enter their world first. We seek to understand so that we can be most effective in helping the child. In The Son-Rise Program, the children show us the way in, and then we show them the way out.

Area of Focus

The focal points of each program are based upon how we see autism (discussed above). In simple terms, ABA focuses on changing behavior, The Son-Rise Program focuses on creating a relationship.

An ABA facilitator might punish, reprimand, or attempt to discourage a repetitive or aggressive behavior. Compliance is seen as very important. Of course, there are a range of ABA-type programs and facilitators out there, some using strong punishments of behaviors, and others using much gentler forms of discouragement, but the overall focus is the same: behavior change and compliance with the requests of the facilitator. New behaviors and skills are often taught using a system based upon repetition and rewards called discreet trials, which will be discussed in more detail below.

In The Son-Rise Program, we consistently seek to built rapport and relationships with our children. One critical way in which we do this is called joining. Instead of prohibiting or discouraging repetitive, “autistic” behavior, we actually participate in these activities with the child. Far from reinforcing “autistic” behaviors (a concern voiced by some), we have seen, with thousands of children from around the world, the exact opposite. When children are joined, they tend to look at us more, pay more attention to us, and include us more in their activity. We see such children “stimming” less, and interacting more. After all, we are building a stronger and stronger bond with the child, and, at the same time, by showing genuine interest and participation in what is important to the child, we are actually teaching the very interpersonal skills that many of our children lack. When we have the child’s willing engagement, we then use a variety of motivational and educational techniques (discussed in brief below) to promote learning and skill acquisition.

Repetition vs. Motivation

With ABA, when attempting to teach a particular behavior or skill (such as getting dressed, to use a simple example), discreet trials are often used. With this methodology, a child might be told (or made) to sit in a chair. The facilitator would then say “coat on” and endeavor to train the child to put his/her coat on but doing this over and over again until the child has “mastered” the skill. Each time the child gets it right, they would get praise, a piece of food, or some other reward. While this approach can definitely succeed at getting some children to perform particular activities or skills, a common complaint we hear from parents is that, although their children perform the prescribed activity, they tend to do so in a manner that appear robotic and pre-programmed, rather than displaying any kind of spontaneity or enthusiasm. A second difficulty that we see is that many children, after participating in this program over a period of time, become aggressive and rebellious.

In The Son-Rise Program, we want each child to “come back for more.” This means that we want the child’s willing engagement over time, so that we can teach them all that they need to learn, and so that they value and enjoy interaction. We also see the importance of children being able to generalize learned skills to other areas, so that they don’t need prompts, rewards, or our presence to act on what they’ve learned. Therefore, we do not want to continually repeat commands when the child, in all likelihood, does not understand why he/she is being asked to do this.

Consistently, we have found that motivation works faster, more powerfully, and promotes greater generalization than repetition does. If a child likes Thomas the Tank Engine, or physical movement, or numbers, then we use this motivation as a teaching tool by combining it with an educational goal. For instance, if a child likes Thomas the Tank Engine, and one of our educational goals is toilet training, we would construct a game that centered around Thomas and involved using the toilet. In this way, we create a desire to learn and use a skill (going to the toilet), and we keep the interaction with the child alive and well (and fun). An additional benefit of this approach is that it does not tend to produce a robotic, pre-programmed response because children get genuinely excited about the learning process. For this reason (as well as because of the joining described above and the attitudinal component described below), we also do not see children becoming aggressive or rebellious from participating in The Son-Rise Program.

Structure vs. Spontaneity

In ABA, a high premium is placed upon structure. It is important for children to sit still in a seat, and to perform activities in a prescribed, regulated fashion. The thought behind this is that children on the autism spectrum need this kind of structure. Also, if they are to ever participate in school, they must learn to sit appropriately, to obey a schedule, and to comply with requests from the teacher.

In The Son-Rise Program, we see it differently. If children are to be successful in school and in life, what is most important for them to learn is to interact with others, make their own decisions, and to be flexible (something with which many children with autism have difficulty). Because of this, we spend our time engaging in interactive games (when we aren’t joining, as stated above). In addition to teaching interaction and socialization, these games challenge children to be more flexible (rather than needing things to go a particular way) and to use their imagination to come up with different ideas and directions on the fly. We also keep the games fun, so that our children see that participating in our world (vs. staying in their own) is both enjoyable and useful, rather than rigid and demanding.

Academic vs. Social Development

ABA practitioners tend to focus heavily on academic skills such as reading, writing, and math (in addition to verbal communication and basic “appropriate” behavior). We in The Son-Rise Program would certainly agree that such skills are important. However, if choosing between helping a child to be great at math and or to be great at making friends, we choose the latter every time. In actual fact, academic and social skills are not mutually exclusive, and there are many instances where we do teach reading, writing, and math. When we do, though, it is always in the context of an activity that teaches socialization first. If our children can learn to enjoy people, make friends, laugh at a funny joke, socialize, etc. (which many of our children do), then they have achieved what, for most of us, makes life most meaningful.

The Role of the Parents

ABA has many dedicated practitioners, many of whom often work with children in their own homes. The way the programs generally work, though, is that parents tend to be in a more observational role in their programs. The professionals are seen, in most cases, as the major players in the program, with parents watching on the side so that the practitioners can do their jobs.

We in The Son-Rise Program have seen nothing that matches the motivation, love, dedication, and lifelong commitment possessed by parents for their special children. Furthermore, no one has the kind of long-term, day-to-day experience with their own particular child that parents possess. Without question, professionals and other family members can be critically important. At the same time, because of their unique position in their child’s world, parents can positively affect their child’s life in a way no one else can. Therefore, not only do we acknowledge parents as the child’s most important resource, but we seek to empower them to the child’s advantage. This is why we teach them how to design, implement, and take a central role in their children’s programs.

The Role of the Facilitators’ attitude

ABA focuses heavily on what the facilitator does. The Son-Rise Program not only focuses on what the facilitator does, but also on how the facilitator does what he/she does. We address and provide training in an area that we see as the most overlooked factor of autism treatment: the attitude of the facilitator. We see a non-judgmental and optimistic attitude as crucial to effective child facilitation. What does this mean? First, it means that we don’t label our children’s repetitive and ritualistic behaviors as inappropriate, wrong, or bad. This principle is every bit as practical as it is idealistic. We see time and again that children with autism tend to move away from people they perceive as uncomfortable or judging and toward people they see as comfortable, easy, fun, safe, and non-judgmental. Thus, we can use our attitude to become an interaction magnet.

As well, having a sincere sense of optimism – really believing in the child with which one is working – is key to helping that child to break through barriers that previously seemed insurmountable. We do not put limits on any child ahead of time, we do not believe that hope can ever be “false,” and we believe in the potential of every child, regardless of age or diagnosis.

Moreover, we believe in the parents who work tirelessly to reach their children. That is why we spend a significant percentage of our time and effort providing parents with attitudinal training. We help them to create and sustain a non-judgmental, optimistic, and hopeful attitude with their children. In this way, they can maximize their children’s progress while finding peace with their children’s diagnosis

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