What is the Son-Rise Program®?

Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post on the Son-Rise Program®. I am writing to educate parents because this program has sincerely changed our lives and the hope we have for our kids on the spectrum.

If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ve heard me talk about the Son-Rise Program® more than once. I wrote a complete book review of Autism Breakthrough (which outlines it) and I’ve referred to “our therapy” often.

But today I want to unpack the question…

What is the Son-Rise Program®?

If I had to describe the Son-Rise Program® in one word it would be HOPE.  It encourages you to open every closed door you have concerning your child and dream…”why not?” It challenges every defining remark and negative ceiling put over him…

“He’ll never speak.”

“She’ll never show affection.”

“He’ll never have real friends.”

“She’ll never hold a real job.”

“He’ll never be able to live on his own.”

“She’ll never say I love you. Never call you ‘mama’. Never laugh at your jokes.”




Say never.

What is the Son-Rise Program via cindyrinna.com

About the Program

The Son-Rise Program® is a home-based program for children with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities. It was slowly and carefully developed by parents Barry and Samahria Kaufman in the 1970s for their autistic son, Raun, as a response to being told their only option was to institutionalize him. Raun is now fully recovered from autism and is the current CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America™ where he teaches and trains other parents to do what his parents did for him. My husband and I have both had the pleasure of attending this training.

The most important thing Son-Rise has done for us is to redefine autism.

Most people will tell you autism is a behavioral disorder but it’s not. If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met ONE child with autism because every parent, teacher and family member knows children with autism behave quite differently. They have very unique strengths and challenges.

So what is the common tie among people with autism? It’s their struggle with social and relational skills. Son-Rise teaches that autism is not a behavioral disorder, but a social-relational one.

You might be thinking, “tomato/tomato…does it really matter how we define autism?”

It absolutely matters because how we define autism will determine how we treat it.

If you believe autism is a behavioral disorder, you may never get to the root of any of the issues. You’ll get stuck on the surface attempting to stamp out behaviors and haphazardly trying to teach social and independent skills.

But if you know it’s a social/relational disorder, you will come at it wanting to get to the core and develop a relationship first and foremost. This relationship will then be the jumping off point to teach more successful social behaviors and independent skills.

I believe we all want the best for our children – every parent wants a relationship with their child. But how you go about getting there makes all the difference.

What the Program Is

1. A Way to Intentionally Connect with your Child 

“They show us the way in, and then we show them the way out.”

This is a common saying among Son-Rise teachers. At the root of all human interaction and relationship is connectivity. Son-Rise helps you to find a way to truly connect with your child and in the end, that connection is what helps to show them the way into our world.

2. A Breath of Fresh Air

Do you ever get tired of working against your child?

Yeah, me too.

Many autism therapies don’t meet your child where they’re at and inadvertently set up power struggles between you and your child. The Son-Rise Program® teaches two key components of joining and motivation that make it unique among autism therapies.

Those stimming behaviors your child does?  Don’t work to extinguish; join instead and they’ll end up doing them less.

The classic reward principle most teachers and parents operate off of (ya know, first do this terrible thing and then I’ll give you this great reward)? Throw it out the window and work instead with your child’s natural motivation to get them to LOVE doing the terrible thing and think it’s wonderful.

A lot of things recommended by this program are completely opposite of what you’re used to seeing in autism books as well as what you’re used to hearing from therapists and other professionals.  Rest assured, this is a good thing.

3. A Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone 

This is not a “drop off” therapy. This is a “get down on your child’s level, get your hands dirty, flip your life upside down for a little while” therapy. Because it’s a parent-led training, you will be required to stretch and grow as a person in order to help your child to do the same. But I promise you, it’s oh so worth it.

4. Thorough 

With three outside-the-box kids, I am no stranger to evaluations. I have binders full of them but I promise you this program has the most thorough and practical evaluation that I’ve ever seen. There are no arbitrary goals; each goal specifically sets your child up for success and even when your child moves into the higher goals, the program works to refine social skills beyond what many typical children are capable of. In addition to this, we were able to stop speech therapy because it’s rolled right into the program.

What the Program is Not

1. A Quick Fix

There is no guarantee that your child will 100% recover from autism…but they might. And that’s a much brighter promise than most therapy programs. No matter what progress your child makes (and I promise you, he will make progress), it will take time and energy.

2. An End-All-Be-All

Autism is a complicated disorder and there is no easy answer. Beware of any therapies that claim to be the one single solution to the myriad of symptoms and challenges that accompany an autism diagnosis. Biomedical therapy is just one example of a complimentary therapy that fits beautifully with the Son-Rise Program®.

3. A New Fad

Like I mentioned earlier, this program has been growing and developing since the 1970s. From the beginning, is was created by parents, for parents and believe me, the roots of a program make a difference.

4. Easy 

This therapy is not for everyone. It requires long-term commitment and is not for the faint of heart. There’s a reason drop-off therapies and even biomedical therapy are attractive; in all honesty it doesn’t require much change in you personally to drive your child to a therapist or give them a pill in the morning and buy gluten-free bread. Now I’m not discounting those therapies; we firmly believe in occupational therapy, S.O.S. feeding therapy and biomedical therapy. We are still doing biomedical therapy with two of our boys and continue to see great results. What I am saying is this: this is not one of those therapies. This requires not just sacrifice but CHANGE on your part. You are going to have to work on YOU for this therapy to work.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Two years ago, we started running three Son-Rise Programs in our home for our three boys with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. Within the first two months we saw…

  • Less stimming
  • More eye contact and communication
  • Way fewer aggressive behaviors
  • Less whining
  • Fewer meltdowns
  • Better self-regulation
  • Closer relationships

After two years of running the programs, here is where we’re at…

Our son with autism who began in stage 2/3 (there are 5 stages of the developmental model) is now in stage 4/5. He has no trouble with eye contact anymore and is a very friendly boy. He has become much more flexible and he is able to articulate his needs and requests with ease.

Our son with Asperger’s Syndrome has completed his program after beginning in stage 3/4. Although we have not had his diagnosis formally reversed, his ATEC score has gone from 51 to 1. Last year when he was in public school, he graduated from special services. Over the past five years, we have done speech, occupational, S.O.S. and biomedical therapy. He no longer needs autism therapy of any kind.

Our son with ADHD has completed his program after beginning in stage 2/3. Although his symptoms of ADHD have not been reversed, our relationship has greatly improved and his mood swings have leveled out a quite a bit. He has become much easier to work with and because we have learned more effective ways to interact him, we are able to help him be more successful socially.

How to Get Access to this Therapy

The beautiful, yet challenging, thing about this therapy is how it has stayed very “mom and pop.” There is currently only one training location which means you have the joy of being trained by the founders and the next generation who work very closely with the founders. The challenge, of course, is that you’re not going to get it where you are right now…unless you happen to live near Sheffield, Massachusetts.

You can get access to this therapy in two ways…

  1. Buy the book
  2. Attend the Start-Up Parent Training

I recommend you do both and here’s why…

Why you Should Buy the Book

In my full post on Autism Breakthrough I talk about the book in great detail but I will give you the cliff’s notes here.

The book is beautifully written. Kaufman’s conversational tone makes you feel like you’re sitting across the room from him, enjoying a cup of coffee together.  He gets it.  I mean, he really gets it.  If you’ve ever felt deflated or dejected after reading an autism book, let me assure you, this one will not leave you feeling that way.

This book breaks down the entire program and although it doesn’t replace the week-long parent training, it teaches you how to start in your home TODAY.

It’s a heavy read – all meat, no potatoes.  This is not an autism book that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and encouraged but leaves you without much application. Each chapter is chock full of well-organized information, wonderful examples, and relevant stories. The chapters introduce a principle or technique and end with three very applicable steps:

  • Activity Time! – a practical call to action (have a pencil ready)
  • Online resources – exclusive videos to assist you with the principle learned in that chapter
  • Starting Point – an extremely practical segment that you can literally set the book down to go apply right then.

If you love someone with autism, you need to read this book.  Bottom line.

We’ve done a LOT of autism therapy and I promise, this is  the lowest price I’ve seen…and it’s on sale this month!

Why you Should Go to the Training

The book – as thorough and wonderful as it is – simply cannot replace the week-long focused respite & instruction, the small group training where your individual questions can be answered, the camaraderie of the other autism parents you will meet at training, and the long-term relationships you will develop.

And no, of course insurance does not cover it. But there are scholarships available and many people (like us) have done fundraisers to help with the cost as well.

Let me convince you further…

A Week-long Get Away without your children? Do I really need to talk you into a peaceful retreat to gorgeous Sheffield, Massachusetts in a rustic cabin away from all the pressures and stress of home with someone else feeding you delicious meals? If that doesn’t convince you, watch this…and remember it’s even more breath-taking in person.

Small Group Training is where you go to school and earn 35 hours of training. You can ask questions about your specific situation and get quality answers. Plus you will learn a ton from other people’s questions as you relate them to your own life.

Camaraderie can be scarce for outside-the-box families. Do you ever feel like your in a room full of people and no one understands you? Now imagine you’re in a room full of people and everyone understands you. There is power in numbers and it is so healing to be surrounded by people from all over the world (in my class of 75 there were 23 countries represented!) who are going through the same things you are going through.

Long-Term Relationships are essential in working your program. You truly cannot do this alone. You need your counselor. You need phone consultations with teachers and facilitators. You need other autism parents cheering you on, answering your questions on the private Facebook board, encouraging you when win and rallying you when you fail. Because you will. And you’ll need people to help you dust yourself off, get up, and go at it again.

Ready for Some Action?

If you are jumping out of your seat right now with excitement (I don’t blame you!) you can contact me directly for more information. In the month of April, I will help you get registered for the training and answer any questions you have that might be holding you back. You can email me direct at rinnace at gmail dot com. (type it in like a normal email address. I have to spell it out so bots don’t find me and send me lots of spam ;)).

All the links you need

Be sure to check out The Autism Treatment Center of America™’s website (home of the Son-Rise Program®) for tons of information including FREE webinars and videos.

Meet the co-Founders and get an introduction to the program

How to Get Started 

Calendar of this year’s training courses

Supportive Research for those of you who want to be sure it’s evidence-based (I know you are out there!) And here’s more.

How the Son-Rise Program® differs from ABA Therapy

See if what you’re doing already is a complimentary therapy to the Son-Rise Program®

Other Q & A’s you might want to read

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  If you’re not where you want to be on your autism journey with your child, why not take a look at something new?

Let’s Talk! Have you ever heard of Autism Breakthrough or the Son-Rise Program®?

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