Son-Rise is a home-based program for children with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, which was developed by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman for their autistic son, Raun, who is claimed to have fully recovered from his condition.[self-published source?] The program is said[by whom?] to be a parent-directed, relationship-based play therapy.
Parents are trained at the Autism Treatment Center of America (ATCA), the division of The Option Institute in Sheffield, Massachusetts that teaches The Son-Rise Program. There, the Kaufman family and their fellow staff members teach families how to be aware of their attitudes—a core principle of the therapy—for bonding and relationship building, as well as creating a low-stimulus, distraction-free playroom environment so the child can feel secure and in control of the over-stimulation. Parents and facilitators join in a child's exclusive and restricted stimming behavior until the child shows social cues for willing engagement. Then encouragement for more complex social activities is done in a non-coercive way. If the child moves away from social interaction, the facilitator gives the child their space by using parallel play in order to gain the child's trust. To encourage skill acquisition, the program uses the child's particular motivation for learning.[medical citation needed]
The program's developers claim if the parents learn to accept their child without judgement that they will teach themselves to interact with others, and that this will allow them to engage in social interaction because they chose to learn the skills.[self-published source?] However, due to the lack of adequate training with the parents during the training sessions at the center, no published independent study has been able to accurately test the efficacy of the program. A 2003 study found that involvement with the program led to more drawbacks than benefits for the involved families over time, though there was a strong correlation between patterns of intervention implementation and parental perceptions of intervention efficacy. A 2006 study found that the program is not always implemented as it is described in the literature, which means it will be difficult to evaluate its success and failure rate.
In the 1970s, Barry and Samahria Kaufman created the treatment modality for their son, Raun, who had been diagnosed with severe autism. However, it remains unclear if Raun Kaufman had ever been autistic. Of the five clinics who evaluated the boy in New York State—each describing him as "socially withdrawn and uncommunicative," it was only the sixth clinic that felt he was autistic.
In 1976, Barry Neil Kaufman published Son-Rise, a book recounting his son's claimed recovery, which he self published in 1995 with the title Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues. The book was adapted into a televised docudrama film, called Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love and aired on NBC in 1979.
Today, Raun Kaufman is the Director of Global Education for the Autism Treatment Center of America. A 1997 BBC documentary followed the family of a five-year-old autistic boy treated by the program.
In late 2013, the first peer reviewed journal article providing evidence for effectiveness of the Son-Rise Program was published by researchers at Northwestern University. Children in the experimental group received 40 hours of Son-Rise program for one week. The study found that children in the experimental group had a significant increase in the rate of head orientation and gestures exhibited during 15- minute probes as compared to a control group that received no intervention. It should be noted, however, that the study did not use random allocation or a single-blind experimental design, rather the control groups were chosen by the parents based on their perception over the effectiveness of the intervention. The researchers suggests more research should "evaluate the difference between parental attitudes and the actual effectiveness of the intervention." [non-primary source needed]
Criticism and lack of cured cases
There are no documented normalizations with older children, and it may be that success "depends on a certain level of intellectual potential". Some professionals have questioned the emphasis placed on eye contact and its potential problems for some children. The consensus within the medical community is that there is no cure for autism and only a very few treatments have empirical evidence for improvements in symptoms. A 2003 study found that involvement with the Son-Rise Program led to more drawbacks than benefits for the involved families over time, although family stress levels did not rise in all cases. A 2006 study found that the Son-Rise Program is not always implemented as it is typically described in the literature, which suggests it will be difficult to evaluate its efficacy.
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- "I Want My Little Boy Back". 1997. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- Houghton, Kat; Schuchard, Julia; Lewis, Charlie; Thompson, Cynthia K. (2013), "Promoting child-initiated social-communication in children with autism: Son-Rise Program intervention effects" (PDF), Journal of Communication Disorders, 46 (5): 495–506, doi:10.1016/j.jcomdis.2013.09.004, archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-08-19
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- Lack of support for interventions:
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- Francis K (2005). "Autism interventions: a critical update" (PDF). Dev Med Child Neurol. 47 (7): 493–99. doi:10.1017/S0012162205000952. PMID 15991872.
- Howlin P (2005). "The effectiveness of interventions for children with autism". In Fleischhacker WW, Brooks DJ. Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Springer. pp. 101–119. doi:10.1007/3-211-31222-6_6. ISBN 3-211-26291-1. PMID 16355605.
- Rao PA, Beidel DC, Murray MJ (2008). "Social skills interventions for children with Asperger's syndrome or high-functioning autism: a review and recommendations". J Autism Dev Disord. 38 (2): 353–61. doi:10.1007/s10803-007-0402-4. PMID 17641962.