Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Five helpful tips for CREATIVITY!!!

Article by : Kim Korpady
Son-Rise Program®Team Trainer
& Professional Training Coordinator

In The Son-Rise Program® we see creativity as a key piece in helping form a deep connection to our children on the Autism Spectrum. Oftentimes we hear from parents around the World … “I’m just not creative.”

But the thing is … WE ACTUALLY ARE CREATIVE!  Isn’t that wonderful!?!
As humans, we all have the capacity to be creative - we were not born as “UN-CREATIVE” beings!  In fact, as children we spent much of our childhood practicing our creativity… and for many of us this was encouraged as a way to help us develop … playing with our peers, running around imagining we were pirates or princesses, turning inanimate objects into the most magnificent playmates, etc.

Somewhere along the line of growing-up into the adults we are today, the idea of playfulness and creativity has been pushed to the side to make way for responsibility and handling life in an “adult” way.

Growing up we were easily able to access our imaginations, silliness, and creativity, so this is not something we are born without having.  Oftentimes what is happening is that we have just not put this skill into practice for quite a while, therefore we haven’t allowed ourselves to experience this, and then we create the belief that we aren’t creative (based on all the evidence we have created for ourselves over the years) … So for those of you out there wanting a bit of a kick-start to CREATIVITY, here are five simple steps to getting your CREATIVE on!

Five helpful tips for CREATIVITY!!!

1.Remind yourself you actually DO have something fun and wonderful to offer your child.  You are a powerful FUN MAGNET!!! 

Our beliefs fuel our actions - and when we are believing and telling ourselves that we are full of fun and creativity we will be more likely to carry this out by offering our child fun games and activities! Believe in yourself!

2.There are no good or bad ideas. 

 Rather than putting a filter on what we are about to present (“Is this fun enough?” … “Is this exciting enough?”… “Will my child enjoy this?”…etc.), instead try out being FILTER FREE…
Oftentimes a big thing that gets in the way of us being able to access our creativity is when we filter our ideas; or when we think, "is this a good or bad idea." The minute we start judging our ideas, or start thinking "I have to get it right" … or "I have to have the right game"… or do it the right way – we are essentially judging our ideas.
Here is a thought that might help if you find yourself judging your game or ideas when playing with your child … We can't be in our child’s brain, so we don’t even know what the “right” thing would be … what we can do instead is rely on ourselves and think what is my idea, and then carry out that idea to help our beautiful children see how alive and inviting people can be!!!

3.Think about something you would like to do - and do it!

Do you like playing soccer? Offer to play a game of soccer with your child!  Do you like to cook? Have fun pretending to cook with your child!  Do you like to sing?  Sing for your child!
Try thinking of something that would be FUN FOR YOU, and offer that to your child!  When we are behind our ideas and we offer our child something we ourselves are really into, they will be much more likely to come on board with our ideas and play the games and activities we are offering because they see how much fun we ourselves are having with it.

4.Pick up any object and BRING IT TO LIFE by TAKING ACTION!

  •         Throw it
  •         Spin it
  •         Give it a goofy voice
  •         Cheer for it
  •         Make it sing
  •         Make it dance
  •         Give your child tickles with it
  •         Sometimes we hear “Oh if I do that, I might look really silly …”  and the thing is … you might!  But how wonderful for your child to see you there offering them silliness and playfulness!  Our children are not judging our ideas.  In fact, when we let loose and take actions that invite a sense of silliness, we are inspiring them to see how fun people really are!  This is a beautiful invitation into our world.

5.Say you get “stuck”... it doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck … Bring yourself back to the present moment and START AGAIN!  Have fun practicing staying PRESENT and PLAYFUL.

Most importantly, let the LOVE you feel for your child be your inspiration as you take yourself to new amazing places with your creativity!  Have the best time with your AMAZING CHILDREN!!!

With love,


Monday, May 2, 2016

Motivation is the key to all social interactions.

Article by: Camila Titone
Son-Rise Program® Teacher
Senior Son-Rise Program® Child Facilitator

This morning I was in the Son-Rise Program® playroom, here at the Autism
Treatment Center of America® with our very sweet five year old friend. He had very fine, long, blonde hair and he loved to move his head around and watch his own hair hit his face. He also moved his fingers in front of his face watching this most perfect finger choreography in fascination.

I gathered that he loved watching things move. This was a very important discovery for me!!! This is my very special friend and whatever is important to him, is important to me! And so it was, that the two of us moved our hair and our fingers around the room as I joined him in his actions.

Until he became still, his hands became quiet and his eyes were actually looking at ME… We both smiled – we both knew that what we had been doing together had great importance!

Now that I had my friend’s attention, I invited him into my world!  Knowing now what he likes to do, I danced around the room trying to match his fingers choreography.  I got hold of some scarves from the shelf that could aid me to continue with my choreography of movement, color and fun ... It was certainly a lot of fun!!! Then I noticed my friend was still there with me!!! He had carried on watching me.  I paused, he looked at me and said “up” and so I continued moving the scarves … Hooray! He was not only watching me now, he also spoke and told me what he wanted!!!
In The Son-Rise Program we follow what our children are motivated for because this is how we connect – by being the doorway into their world.

Motivation is also the key to all social interactions…
So here are some questions for you:
  • Do you want your child to answer your questions?
  • Do you want your child to look at you?
  • Do you want your child to to say that he/she loves you? 
  • Do you want your child to play to play a game with you?
  • Do you want your child to engage more with you?
Here are some steps that will help you discover some of your child’s motivations and ways to create more social interactions with your child with Autism:
1. Join them in their ism (stim) and show them that you are predictable and easy to be with. Be curious and interested about THEIR WORLD.

2. Be a detective! Observe your child and ask yourself –“what does my child like to do?”, “what gets my child’s attention?” Our children are ALWAYS doing something, even if it seems to you that they are not doing anything…

**Remember, our children are always doing something and that’s important to them. And you want to find out what that is!**

1. As you observe your child and you notice the things your child moves towards or seeks more of, create a list. You are creating a list of what we call your child’s motivations.

2. When you are spending time with your child, there will be times when your child might look at you, talk to you or reach out to you – your child might give you, what we call green lights.
Once you get a green light and your child shows an interest in you, this will be an opportunity for you to offer an activity! Offering activities will create a space to help your child do different things, and learn and grow from it – it’s an opportunity to inspire your child to grow. 

When we get a green light, we want to offer activities that are around our children’s main areas of interest and motivation (that thing that your child likes to do).

1. The motivation is your “bait” and by “giving” that to your child, you are creating a stage where the two of you can play together and where your child will be able to engage with you longer (because this is about the thing that he/she LOVES).

2. We all learn more when we are motivated and interested in what we are doing. We all are also more likely to try a little harder if we are enjoying our experience (if we are doing what we like). Using your child’s motivation in an activity will help your child grow and learn more.  

So if you want your child to answer that question you ask them, if you want your child to look at you, to tell you they love you, to play with you … remember that it all starts with us embracing THEIR WORLD FIRST, loving what they love (even if it’s a piece of paper, a silly cartoon character, a piece of lint from the floor) – we want to love whatever it is and find the fun in it! 

Our children’s motivation is the doorway into their world and the key to all social interactions.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Autism Parenting: Should We Do the Opposite of What Everyone’s Telling Us?

Article by: Raun K. Kaufman
Director of Global Education
Autism Treatment Center of America®

Facing the turmoil of an autism diagnosis, it’s totally understandable for us to feel pressured into using an approach with our children that doesn’t feel right to us. Most parents of children on the autism spectrum have been told that they have to rush around trying to stamp out their children’s repetitive “stims” – and push their children to do or learn other, more “appropriate” behaviors. But maybe you’re one of the many parents who feels that parenting this way is difficult, stressful, exhausting, and goes against your natural instinct to connect and bond with your child.You’re not alone. And you’re not wrong.

If you do the opposite of what everyone’s telling you to do, you could actually see significantly more progress with your child – and feel so much more connected to your child and to your own parental instincts. In fact, I wrote my book, Autism Breakthrough, specifically to enable parents to help their children grow and learn while going with instead of against their children, bonding more with their children rather than doing battle with them.

Getting our children to change their behaviors does not address our children’s autism. Why? Because autism is not a behavioral disorder; it is a social-relational disorder.

Our children certainly behave differently. There’s no doubt about that. But these behaviors are symptoms, and stamping out symptoms does nothing to help our children with their core challenge: connecting to, relating to, and communicating with other people.

Helping our children with their central deficit requires defying everyone else’s behavior-obsession and committing to one thing: creating a relationship – on your child’s terms, in your child’s world. Deep down inside, you know this. Your own parental instinct is probably screaming it. But it’s hard to hear it over the din of everyone else’s voices.

What if there were a specific way to translate your love and your instinct to connect with your child into concrete, results-producing action?
There is.

Next time your child “stims,” join your child. Yep, that’s right. Everyone else says to stop, limit, or redirect these behaviors. You’re going to join in with them. If your child is stacking blocks, you stack your own pile of blocks. If your child is ripping paper into tiny strips, you do the same. If you child is repeating a line from a movie over and over, you repeat it, too. And if you have a child with Asperger syndrome who loves to talk about airplanes, then listen to what he or she says with baited breath; become an airplane fanatic! Some well-intentioned people who are used to focusing on behavior may tell you that joining will cause your child to “stim” more. It won’t.

Since autism is a social-relational disorder, we can’t help our children to overcome their significant social-relational challenges with an anti-social approach. Trying to stamp out our children’s behaviors breaks trust and alienates them. And this trust is your most important asset in helping your child to progress!

When you join your child in his or her “stim,” you create a connection around a common interest. Joining is about creating a relationship, a trusting bond, a sweet rapport, based upon diving into your child’s world, loving what your child loves, exploring what your child is exploring, cherishing what your child cherishes.

Have you every wondered if your child can understand the deep love you feel for him or her? When you join, you are showing deep love for your child in a way that he or she can truly understand. You are saying (through action), “I love you. And because I love you, I love what you love.”
I’m speaking to you not as an academic or even solely as a professional (though I’ve been working with families for seventeen years). For me, this is very personal.

When I was a little boy, I was diagnosed with severe autism. I had no language, no eye contact, and a tested IQ below 30. I would spend my days engaging in repetitive behaviors such as flapping my hands in front of my face, rocking back and forth, and spinning objects such as plates on the floor. My parents were told that my condition was permanent and that I was destined to spend my life in an institution, where I would be fed, bathed, etc.

Seeing the dismal outcomes offered by conventional treatments, my parents pioneered a new approach: The Son-Rise Program®. After three-and-a-half years, I recovered completely, bearing no traces of my former condition, living a normal life, graduating from the Ivy League’s Brown University with a degree in Biomedical Ethics, and, now, spending my days involved in the most social of professions: working with families, teaching workshops, and lecturing worldwide.

It means so much to me that I get to work with our team of over 60 at the non-profit Autism Treatment Center of America® to show parents how to help their children in the same way that my parents helped me. I have seen first-hand how joining children in their own unique worlds results in these children engaging with us more and “stimming” less. Of course, there is a wide range of techniques we use in order to help our children learn new things and reach new heights. But it all begins with joining – and with the deep desire to bond and connect that parents just like you have unleashed.

RAUN K. KAUFMAN is the author of the new book, Autism Breakthrough, and the Director of Global Education for the Autism Treatment Center of America®, the worldwide training center for The Son-Rise Program®.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Simple games to introduce to your child with Autism.

If you are searching for the perfect game idea then look no further. This article will give you ideas for how to turn easy household objects in to interactive play back and forth with your child. There’s no need to spend lots of money on new toys or put valuable hours into creating something elaborate! Whether you are a parent or therapist, the chances are you will probably have the following things lying around your house somewhere or in your place of work.

Remember with any Game4Socialization you are presenting to your child, it’s important to first wait for a green light of interaction from your child. We have 4 green lights that we use at The Son-Rise Program:

1) Eye contact
2) Verbal communication/speech like sounds
3) Physical touch from your child
4)Your child looking over at what you are doing/looking at your items as you join them
We would not recommend you initiate any games when your child is showing you a red light (engaging in an exclusive and/or repetitious activity – stimming). This would be a time that you would be joining in with your child’s activity and doing exactly the same as them.

String Clothes!

  • Cut up different pieces of string
  • Tape them onto your clothes
  • Create a new outfit together (e.g. a hula skirt)
  • Once the outfit is made you can dance around the room in your new ensemble!
Variation:  Make different outfits for the stuffed animals in the room- sing a song while you are making your outfits together, make hats, gloves, shoes, etc.
What to work on with your child:
  1. Physical participation:  When your child is motivated to watch you make your own clothes, invite them to join you by helping you hold the string, cut the string or tape the string onto your outfit!
  2. Eye contact: Once you have string on your clothes and you have made part of your outfit then invite your child to look at you to watch you dance around the room in silly ways in your new clothes!
Pirate Straws!
  • Grab a straw from the playroom shelf
  • Pretend your straw is a pirate telescope
  • Search the room using your pirate telescope for some of your pirate booty
  • The things you could be looking for can be make believe such as “ohhhh look what I found under the table it’s a giant tickle!” 
Variation: As you search the room for your pirate booty try singing a song or skipping around the room so you are dynamic for your child to watch! You can also pretend to drop your telescope and have your child help you pick it up!

What to work on with your child:
  1. Physical participation:  Have your child help you search for the pirate booty (their motivation), hand them their own telescope and invite them to search the room with you.  If you drop your telescope then ask them to help you pick it up or look for it!
  2. Simple gestures:  Ask your child to point to where they think the next bit of treasure it hidden!

Magic Hat!

  • Grab a hat from the playroom shelf
  • Put different objects that your child is motivated for into the hat (e.g. balls, feathers, toy cars, etc.)
  • Wave your hand above the magic hat saying fun magic words such as “Abracadabra”.
  • Using anticipation as you pull each object slowly out of the hat (e.g. for example pull a ball out and then throw it across the room).

Variation: The variation here is adding new things to the hat- such as an animal themed hat where you fill the hat with different animals and then have them pop out making different animal sounds.Another variation could be putting different sensory items into the hat and then deliver sensory stimulation to your child each time you wave your hand above the hat.

What to work on with your child:
  1. Verbal participation: Ask your child to say the magic words with you, or have them tell you “out” to help you take out the next item from the hat.
  2. Eye contact to continue the game: try saying “look at me if you want to bring out the next magic toy”.
  3. Physical participation:  Ask your child to help you by waving their hand above the hat, or even give them a magic wand (this could be simply be a marker) they can tap on the hat!

Acting Book!

  • When your child requests a book from off the shelf then open the page up and act out the scene of the book.
  • Continue to turn the pages of the book and act out different scenes.
Variation:  You can even bring down puppets or figurines that you know your child is motivated for and act out the book with those different characters.  Try using different voices and varying the volume and tone of your voice, you can also vary the way you use your body- get up and use your body in big ways and also use your body in small ways – see how your child reacts to each and then deliver more of the acting they are motivated for.

What to work on with your child:
  1. Physical participation: Invite your child to get up and act out the pages of the book with you.  Give them one clear role in the game such as holding a prop and then shaking it, or jumping up and down.  You can also invite them to turn the pages of the book for you as you entertain them.
  2. Verbal Participation:  Have your child read the book aloud as you act it out for them.  Invite them to continue reading to see more of the show.
  3. Eye contact:  Ask your child to look at you for more of the book act!
Bubble Soup!
  • Make bubble soup by blowing  bubbles into a bucket
  • Add in other ingredients such as pretend vegetables, then add in more bubbles and then more bubbles
  • Ladle it in to two bowls, one for you and one for your child, maybe even one for the teddy bear, and then pretend to eat it together, don’t forget to rub your belly to say, “Yum Yum”. 

Variations: Invite many different friends (stuffed animals) to come and join you in testing out your soup!You can even make other items such as bubble bread, or bubble salad, etc.Have fun creating a whole meal with the help of bubbles!

What to work on with your child:
  1. Physical participation - Encourage your child to participate by putting the pretend vegetables into the bowl or by serving the soup into the bowls and then pretending to eat them.
  2. Verbal participation- Ask your child to verbally participate in the interaction by telling you which vegetables to put into the soup.

For more ideas on games to play with your child we recommend the DVD Games4Socialization

Article by: Becky Damgaard 
Son-Rise Program® Senior Teacher

Monday, October 26, 2015


By: Raun K. Kaufman
Director of Global Education, Autism Treatment Center of America®

Does your child scream, hit, pinch, or throw objects when things don’t go his/her way (or sometimes for no reason you can fathom)? 

Here’s what to do: 

The First Half: I don't understand tantrums.
1) ATTITUDE FIRST. It is absolutely crucial that you make your mission in life to remain calm, relaxed, and comfortable. This isn't about ACTING comfortable. This is about BEING comfortable. If you need help with this, call us (413-229-2100). But here’s a starting hint: Don’t make what your child is doing mean anything about you.

2) DUMB YOURSELF DOWN. Be a confused person trying (but mostly failing) to be helpful. Make a confused face. Say something such as, ”I’m not sure what you want when you hit/scream/cry.”

3) BE SLOW, QUIET, & MELLOW. Fumble around trying to figure out what your child wants for a few minutes. (But make sure you are being slow, quiet, and mellow.) Don’t keep doing this forever, though. If the crying or whatever continues, you can wander away (assuming the situation is safe).

4) NO VENGEFULNESS. smile emoticon Remember, attitude first. This is not about sticking it to your child or disciplining them. It’s about the fact that you don’t understand crying, hitting, or screaming.

The Second Half:
I DO understand language & gentleness

1) FEED GENTLENESS. Find ANY excuse throughout the day to make a very big deal whenever your child does anything that can be construed as gentle – to you, to his/her sibling, or to anyone else. Cheer it. Jump up and down. Celebrate. Freak out a little.

2) TURBO BOOST YOUR RESPONSE TO LANGUAGE. Whenever your child uses language (in a non-crying, non-whiny way) – even if it is only an attempt at part of a word – SPRINT to go get it (and, yes, also cheer, jump up and down, celebrate, and freak out). Show your child how effective even trying to use language is! (If your child wants something you can’t get, hugely celebrate and offer an alternative.)

3) STAY CONSISTENT. Remember: You only understand language and gentleness. You do not understand (and are not agitated by) screaming, yelling, biting, hitting, etc. (And also remember that not understanding hitting does not mean that you have to stand there and let yourself get hit. But when you move away, stay calm and relaxed about it.)

I delve into this subject in MUCH more detail in Chapter 14 of my book, Autism Breakthrough which you can find here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


By Raun K. Kaufman
Director of Global Education, Autism Treatment Center of America®

Joining is one of the most crucial techniques of The Son-Rise Program®. It’s the first thing we do, and it is absolutely essential for building trust and rapport. When we join our children, we participate in their ism (“stims”) with deep interest and acceptance – without trying to change or redirect it. All learning and interaction rests on the platform of the relationship that is built with your child through joining. This is why getting joining right is so important. I have seen many, many people join, and I never ceased to be moved when I see someone joining their child with love and sincerity. However, I also see quite a number of people do things during joining that they may not realize totally undermine its effectiveness.

Below are the top seven Joining No-No’s that I see. There is a good chance that you’ve done some of these things. But, hey, that’s okay! You’re in good company! Most people I’ve ever worked with – people who love their children and who are stepping out from the crowd by doing a Son-Rise Program – have done at least one of these things (and usually more). So I beseech you to read these seven no-no’s with a sense of self-acceptance, ease, curiosity, and – yes – humor.
  1. STARING. Many people keep watching their child as they join. The problem is, that isn’t joining. It’s observing. And your child can easily tell the difference. When you’re watching a movie with someone, and they are staring at you the whole time, it doesn’t really feel like you’re watching a movie together, does it? So once you begin joining, rather than staring at your child, stare at what you’re doing. Instead of looking at your child every two seconds, really get involved with what you are doing. Remember, you aren’t trying to prove that you can mimic, you are getting involved with the activity that your child loves. You are building a connection around a common interest – the operative word being common.
  2. HOVERING. I see lots of people who hover when they join. They get too close, and their child really just wants some breathing room! When joining, you don’t have to get in your child’s face. Remember that part of the reason your child is “isming” in the first place is to tune out everyone who’s in their face! You want to give your child some space. If your child is sitting down, then, by all means, sit down, but don’t sit down an inch from where he/she is sitting. If your child is standing or pacing, then stand or pace, but not right up on top of him/her.
  3. STEALING. Hey, man, don’t take your child’s stuff. (I know your child’s stuff is awesome, but try to resist!) If your child is lining up small green cars, then, whatever you do, don’t take his/her green cars and start lining them up. Yes, that’s right, you’ve got to use the rejects. If your child likes to use the shiny green cars but shows no interest in the old, half- broken yellow cars, those yellow cars are all yours, baby! Use the same typeof item that your child is using, but not the ones your child is actually using.
  4. NARRATING. Many of you think that you’re a sportscaster. As your child is, for instance, stacking blocks, you are narrating his/her every move. “Oh, now you have the green block. Oh, that’s nice how you’re putting it on the red block. Here comes the blue block!” Believe me, I’m not questioning your narrating skills. I’m sure they’re awesome. But, when you’re joining, that’s not the time to put them on display. If you are joining, and your child is not speaking, don’t speak.Get into the activity you’re doing rather than doing anything that smacks of trying to interact with your child. Which brings us to the next no-no.
  5. CHEATINGWhatever you do, don’t try to change your child’s behavior in any way when you’re joining.This is the biggest mistake people make, and it’s the mistake that is most detrimental to the whole point of joining. Your child is no dummy. If you try to use joining as a way to get your child to change, alter, or stop his/her behavior, your child will immediately see that, and you will have torpedoed the entire joining technique. This means no saying “Hey, buddy, look at me!” No trying to get your child to take his/her little car and race your little car. And no gimmicks to try to get his/her attention. What is so spectacular about joining is that it results in child-initiated interaction. A major characteristic of autism is the lack of social interaction that is initiated and wanted by the child. One of the factors that makes The Son-Rise Program unique is that it focuses on developing within each child the ability to initiate social interaction. We want to enter the child’s world, wait for her to voluntarily initiate interaction, and then (and only then) use that interaction to invite her to stretch and communicate further. We want our children on our side. The only way to achieve that is to join them in their world until they join us in ours. This can’t be forced. Joining isn’t a trick we use to sneak our child into a different activity or behavior. Joining is the way we enable our child to form a bond with us.
  6. TIMETABLING. (Yes, that is a word. My spell check says so.) In the last several years, a few autism treatment methods have sought to adopt aspects of The Son-Rise Program by doing what they thinkis joining as a way to create interaction. So they will, for instance, set aside 15 minutes of each session to “join” the child. (The length of time is decided upon by the therapist, of course, not the child.) The problem is, these methodologies still end up missing the boat because they try to adopt joining without understanding it. Joining correctly means joining until your child stops isming of his/her own volition and looks at you or approaches you in some way. It does not mean that we set aside fifteen minutes for joining, after which our child must do as we say. The length of the joining is determined by your child, not by you. That is the key.
  7. COPYING. This last no-no is for all of you who have a child or adult who has Asperger’s Syndrome or is highly verbal. Many of these kids/adults don’t have traditional-looking isms such as hand-flapping, repeating sounds, tearing paper, etc. When theyism, they talk about their favorite subject. In depth. For a copious amount of time. People will sometimes join these activities by either repeating back everything the child says (i.e., “copying”) or talking (often over the child) about the child’s subject. This will often feel, shall we say, less than thrilling to your child. Instead, listen with great interest and enthusiasm. Joining, at its core, is not about copying, mimicking, mirroring, or imitating. It’s about creating a relationship, a trusting bond, a sweet rapport, based upon diving into your child’s world, loving what they love, exploring what they’re exploring, cherishing what they cherish. It’s a way of showing your deep love for your child by saying (through action), “I love you. And because I love you, I love what you love.”
An important note. I have some parents and professionals (not many) tell me that they’ve tried joining, and it doesn’t work because their child always tells them to stop.  This almost always happens when the people “joining” are doing one or more of the no-no’s. So, of course, the child, who doesn’t want to be interfered with and manipulated, wants them to stop. If your child does tell you to stop, the first thing to do is stop. Then give your child a little time, and try resuming your joining from much farther away – making absolutely sure that you aren’t doing any of the no-no’s.
I know that you love your child. I know that you so much want to forge the most powerful, loving, close relationship possible with your child. And that is beautiful. And sweet. And deeply meaningful. Joining is your way in. Use it. Capitalize on that boundless, limitless love you have for your child.
And know that I’m cheering for you every step of the way.
All the best,

Raun K. Kaufman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feeling Loving and Easy … no matter what your child is doing

Susan Humphries
Son-Rise Program® Teacher,
Autism Treatment Center of America®

All of us have moments when we are uneasy, frustrated, angry, sad, afraid, or some version of “uncomfortable” in circumstances involving our children. So let’s talk about turning this frustration into elation!

Here are some of the most common “uncomfortable” circumstances that parents tell us about:
  • My child is physically intense with himself or others.
  • My child is screaming and crying for hours at a time.
  • My child is destroying my house (breaking glass, kicking holes in the wall, throwing her/his dinner across the room).
  • My child is eating and smearing his/her poo.
  • My high functioning child only wants to talk about; (kitchen appliances, "What time is Mom coming home," Minecraft™, "What would happen if I ran outside with no clothes on," etc.)
Most people would react in an uneasy way to one or all of these scenarios above.

Taking a closer look, your initial response of discomfort actually has nothing to do with the circumstances. Your discomfort actually comes from what you are thinking or the beliefs you are holding when you witness your child’s challenging behavior.

Here are some simple steps you can use right away to stay relaxed in response to any of your child’s challenging behaviors … to help you turn your frustration to elation. These tips will help in a variety of situations. We will use the “pooh scenario” as an example.

1.   Be Aware, Acknowledge and Accept your uncomfortable feeling in the moment
o    Be aware of what you are feeling in the moment i.e. sad, angry, irritated, nervous, etc. For example, when you see your child smearing pooh, do you feel your muscles tighten? Do you start running towards your child? Do your eyes pop out of your head while you scream, “Noooooo”? The feeling behind all this action is irritation.
o    Acknowledge the feeling by thinking to yourself, “I am getting myself irritated.” Notice, I am saying “getting myself” vs. “the poop on the wall is getting me irritated.” You are choosing this feeling based on a belief you are having about the circumstance. You are doing the absolute best you can in this moment based on this belief. For example, you may see the pooh on the wall and get yourself irritated because you are believing that your in-laws will judge you as a poor and ineffective parent when they come over to visit. To avoid this future judgment you reacted by yelling at your child in the moment. You did this in hopes that your child will whip himself/herself into shape before your in-laws next visit.
o    Accept your feeling in the moment. Say to yourself sweetly, “I am getting myself irritated and that is totally OK!” This way you will be more motivated to understand your thinking. Remember, you are doing the best you can with what you know in the moment.

2.   Decide that your happiness is your priority! All of the actions are based on what you believe. Here are some supportive beliefs to help you feel more comfortable right away.
o    My child is doing the best they can with what they know and how their sensory system copes with the world.
o    My loving relationship with my child is the most important thing at this moment. I only have control of my feelings, thoughts and actions. I am not in control of my child’s feelings or others’ feelings, thoughts and actions.
o    When I am feeling comfortable and easy, I am a part of the solution. My comfort will help me be a more effective teacher to help my child accomplish our long term goals.
o    When I am easy, my child will move towards me. When I am uneasy, my child will move away from me.
o    My child’s challenges do not diminish who I am as a parent and how much I love my child.
o    The more I think in supportive ways, the easier it will be for me to be happy.

3.   Take Action
o    Explanations are powerful for your child’s comfort and for yours. Let your child know why you want to help them and how you will do that.
o    Lower your energy when your child behaves in ways you do not want to encourage and be certain to CELEBRATE the behaviors you do want to encourage.
o    Feed yourself with supportive thoughts or a belief you want to try for the day, etc. Post them on your mirror. Set reminders in your smart phone. Read these books for even more ideas: Happiness Is A Choice by Barry Neil Kaufman, Autism Breakthrough by Raun K. Kaufman, Autistic Logistics by Kate C. Wilde.
o    Think of a reason to be grateful in the moment. Love all parts of your child, even when they are challenged. This way you are practicing loving of all aspects of your child; their beautiful smile, their infectious laugh, their intelligence and their autism!
o    Run your Son-Rise Program. This will help your child in all areas in and out of the playroom.

All of us at The Autism Treatment Center of America® and The Son-Rise Program® are cheering each of you on through your loving as well as your most challenging moments. We know that you can turn these moments into opportunities to be totally relaxed no matter what your child is doing. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Son-Rise Program® Sleep Protocol™

This could be your child ... beautifully, quietly sleeping in their own bed.

Photo Notation: Vivek, Age 6, Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder – Slept in his own bed the first night his parents used The Son-Rise Program Sleep Protocol!

So many of our children have challenges with sleep: going to sleep, staying asleep, sleeping in their own beds etc. This, as you know so well, often results in you having challenges with sleep too!

The Son-Rise Program Sleep Protocol: (condensed version)
1.   Be Ready: In order for this protocol to be effective, it is essential that you really want this to happen. That you see the benefits for your child and family and that YOU are ready for your child to sleep on their own.

2.   Believe your child can change: Even if your child has had sleeping challenges for years, this does not mean they are not capable of sleeping on their own. The brain changes in response to changing stimulus and circumstances. By changing the way you behave around bedtime and sleep, you are offering your child (and their beautiful brain) the chance to change in response.

3.   Know that we can all have the capacity to put ourselves to sleep: When we are babies, we associate the sound of our mothers heartbeat, the smell of her skin and the sound of her voice with a soothing, ‘go to sleep’ feeling.

When we are tired, she may pick us up and again, offer us the sound of her voice, the feel of heartbeat and the sound of her voice, and we use this as our cue to relax and go to sleep. Typically, as children grow older, we begin to put them into their own beds and through this process they begin to soothe themselves instead. They may hug a teddy bear, or rock back and forth. They may wrap their arms around their pillow and hum, or rub their feet together – effectively replacing the old cues with new ones that they created!

Photo Notation: Casey, Age 13, Diagnosis: Autism - Slept in his own bed the second night his parents used The Son-Rise Program Sleep Protocol!

For our children that are unique or on the Autism Spectrum oftentimes this more ‘natural’ process does not occur and they continue to associate the smell and sounds and feel of their parents with sleeping and therefore may appear to ‘need’ Mommy or Daddy in order to fall asleep or stay asleep if they awake (those of you who have middle of the night visitors know what I am talking about). It’s vitally important, essential actually, that you believe that your child, once they are given the opportunity, is perfectly capable of creating a new ‘cue’ that will offer them the same, soothing ‘go to sleep’ message that they had previously gotten from you.

4.   Prepare Using these steps:
a.   Starting a few weeks before you will begin using the Protocol, start counting down on the calendar. Explain to your child (regardless of their age ability) what is going to happen. “Hey Buddy! I have some exciting news!! YOU are going to get to sleep in your own bed, like the big boy that you are! On this day, (show them the calendar) you will finally be able to sleep on your own! Isn’t this exciting??” Mention this at least a couple of times each day.

b.   Tell your child that you are going to get them a brand, new, wonderful Sleep Buddy! This means that just before the day that they are going to sleep in their own bed you go to the store and pick out a wonderful, new stuffed animal (or you can bring your child and they can pick it out!). You are also going to take a soft t-shirt that you own and you are going to sleep in it for a day or two (so it absorbs your wonderful mommy or daddy scent) and you are going to put it on your child’s buddy (so they still go to sleep with the familiar smell of those they love.

c.   On the day that you put them in your own bed, tell your child, “This is so exciting! From now on you will sleep in your own bed and Mom and Dad will sleep in their own bed."

5.   Do it!: After you walk out of your child’s bedroom, pause and take it in - you are on your way! If your child cries, that’s ok, perhaps this will be part of the process they use to find their own ‘soothing’ sound (I have heard many child transition from a cry to a humming at bedtime). If your child comes out, you will take them by the hand and very quietly and sweetly walk them back to their bed (without much talking on your part) and remind them that they get to stay in their own bed. If your child later comes into your bed, do the same thing again – walk them to their own bed, quietly, sweetly and remind them that they get to sleep in their own bed now.

Photo Notation: Leo, Age 6, Diagnosis: Autism - Slept in his own bed the first night his parents used The Son-Rise Program Sleep Protocol!
6.   Stay the course: You may have to walk them back to their room, or get up in the middle of the night and walk them back to their bed ten times in one night. Or perhaps 10 times a night, for numerous nights. Although I suggest being prepared to do the Son-Rise Sleep Protocol for 10 days, the majority of families I have worked with (see the children above?) have had success within 24-48 hours!) Remember, your child will not magically sleep in their own bed, they require our help and guidance and support to make the transition. By staying the course, and being consistent and committed you will offer them this fantastic opportunity to grow.

****Special Added Bonus: YOU GET MORE SLEEP! If you are well rested, you will probably find that you have more energy, more creative ideas, more patience, increased stamina, greater information retention and an increased ability to be playful. What’s not to like?

I am so excited for you to use this protocol!
I also invite anyone who uses it to please send a photo with their child sleeping in their own bed (like those above) to my Executive Assistant: Cyndi Chase at to be included in our soon to be created 'Son-Rise Program Sleep Hall Of Fame'.

Be well,
Bryn Hogan

Executive Director of the Autism Treatment Center of America®