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A hope for every child

Embracing autism through the Son Rise Program

By Aimee Lagman

Like any other family, we always thought that the first grandchild is the apple of the eye. They are the gleaming hope of all the possibilities and dreams that we couldn’t accomplish for our children and ourselves. Especially in our case, you can imagine the excitement of the parents, grandparents, and titas, when we found out it was a boy in a household dominated by women. It had a similar effect as that of the announcement of Prince George’s arrival.

On Dec. 25, 2009, my sister  Anne and her husband Denton welcomed their eldest son, my nephew Isaac, whose name means “God’s gift of laughter.” True to his name, he brought us overwhelming joy. Every first was a milestone and a cause for celebration. Our lives were perfect in our own standards, until his first year. Then came the news that completely changed our lives but brought us closer together.

Isaac used to stare at the window for hours. Months into applying the Son Rise program, he would now stare at the window from time to time but just for a few minutes.

Isaac used to stare at the window for hours. Months into applying the Son Rise program, he would now stare at the window from time to time but just for a few minutes.

 Diagnosis

A few months after his first birthday, Anne and Denton realized that Isaac was a little different. He seemed to be caught up in his own little world. Among the first few signs they noticed were no eye contact, interaction was robotic, blank stare, and no response when called. At first, they thought that he was maybe just shy and reserved, but growing up with cousins the same age, one could not help but compare his distinctive behavior. They were convinced to seek professional advice for an assessment. The result was that their firstborn, our pride and joy, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 Acceptance

No one can ever prepare you for autism. We’ve experienced a different range of emotions, but predominantly was fear, mainly for his future. “The truth is, I think any parent who has a young child, with or without autism, will always have a yearning to see how to become better parents, of how to connect with our children more and lead them to grow up well,” says Denton. Despite the fear, Isaac’s parents accepted it wholeheartedly. The best thing we could do as a family was to support them. If they can accept it, and so could we. We hoped that the world would be a better place for them to live in.

(from left) Denton Chua; Raun K. Kauffman, author of Autism Breakthrough; Anne Chua; Michelle Licauco-Tambunting,;and Mary Lynn of Embrace Autism Singapore

(from left) Denton Chua; Raun K. Kauffman, author of Autism Breakthrough; Anne Chua; Michelle Licauco-Tambunting,;and Mary Lynn of Embrace Autism Singapore

 Working with Son Rise

I knew in my heart Anne and Denton, despite their calm façade, were scrambling to look for answers to help improve Isaac’s condition. In one of Denton’s trip in Singapore, he randomly picked a book by Raun K. Kauffman, entitled Autism Breakthrough. Little did he know that it would become a revelation for them.  Their seemingly endless questions started to have answers. Raun’s book introduced an unconventional way of treating autism called The Son-Rise Program, an alternative autism treatment based upon the idea that the children show us the way into their world, and then we show them the way out to ours. This means that, rather than trying to force children to conform to a world they don’t yet understand, we join them in their world.

Mr. Kauffman was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two with an IQ below 30, and was destined to be institutionalized the rest of his life. His parents refused to conform to the idea and developed their own home program. Raun’s full recovery with no trace of his former condition attests its success. He became the CEO of  The Autism Institution of America, a graduate of Brown University with a degree in Biomedical Ethics, and now a successful author and renowned autism lecturer.

This new method was the light at the end of the tunnel, an answered prayer, and a beacon of hope for Isaac. Anne and Denton attended a five-day training program in Singapore, called “The Son-Rise program start up” to help them with their son’s case, and Raun was the lecturer. They wanted to see for themselves that he was real, and not a character brought out of desperation. True enough, he was real and so is his program, and that there are other parents like them who are going through the same experience. And for the first time, they didn’t feel alone.

From solving picture puzzles in minutes, he has now moved on to crossword puzzles

From solving picture puzzles in minutes, he has now moved on to crossword puzzles

 Connection

Parents with Autism Spectrum Disorder want to have a connection with their child, something that even normal people have difficulty achieving. It poses a bigger challenge for them to do so with a child living in a completely different world.

“What’s really hard is every time he looks at me, it feels like an empty stare. I wanted him to see me, not just merely look at me,” Anne says. By using the Son Rise program, they started to join Isaac’s world. Gradually, they removed the veil that was blocking the connection, slowly pulling him out to see our world. When they got home, the first thing they did was join Isaac as he stared outside the window for hours. Later on, to Anne’s surprise, Isaac moved to sit beside her and leaned on her. “That was our first connection. He started to notice me and the joy was indescribable,” Anne adds.

From that moment, Isaac started to open up and became more sociable. He doesn’t stare at the window for hours anymore. He has memorized the alphabet, learned to count up to 100, solve picture puzzles in minutes, and his words have become phrases. Now seven, he is studying in a big school and knows how to read and write. His greatest achievements go beyond technical skills—he has developed social skills. To hear him say “I love you, Mama”, and “School was fun today” shows his amazing progress. To us, it is the best feeling in the world to see him grow and see how far he has come.

Isaac has started his road to recovery from autism. He may overcome it like Raun Kauffman, or he may not, but the important thing is that the Son Rise program gave us the opportunity to see how beautiful and unique his world is. We created a special connection that allows us to show him how beautiful our world is, too.

Isaac second Christmas production is a complete turn around compared to his first Christmas production.

Isaac second Christmas production is a complete turn around compared to his first Christmas production.

Inspiring Autism Breakthrough

What the Son Rise program is about

The personal success of the Son Rise program for Denton and Anne, and for their friend Michelle Licauco Tambunting,  led them to invite Raun Kauffman for his first autism lecture in the Philippines. Last Oct. 9, 360 people attended the conference, composed of parents and family of children with autism, and professionals. He discussed key strategies being used at the Autism Treatment Center of America and the Son Rise program.  Raun’s autism breakthrough filled the room with hope that recovery is possible and that there is a chance to improve the quality of life for the children.

 1. Autism is often viewed as a behavorial disorder but actually it is a social relational disorder.

2. The behavior is a symptom and not a cause. They only do what they do  because it is their way to cope, and it plays a key role in understanding a child’s social challenge. For example the behavior of excessive scratching is a symptom that must be looked into and one that requires a deeper understanding. Once we find the reason behind his scratching, we can stop the repetitive behavior.

3. Accept the diagnosis, reject the prognosis. Not everything is set in stone. The doctors will tell you a lot of things but it is up to you to believe that your child has a fighting chance in this world. They could be more than what is expected of them. Do not put them in a box. Every child is unique. Every case is unique. There is always hope.

4. A technique on how to connect with your child is called joining. It is finding the connection through common interest. It’s not about copying what your child is doing, it’s all about falling in love with what they love. Once they feel this, they will open up to you. In Raun’s case when he was young, he would spin plates and his mother would join him. From there, they were able to establish their first connection.

5. Socialization is key. It is more effective to work on social skills rather than technical skills. If we work on the social aspect, everything follows. Hearing your kids say “I love you” is more important than solving a math equation.

For more information on Son Rise Program, visit autismtreatmentcenter.org or embraceautism.sg. The next Son-Rise program start up will be held in Singapore on Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2016. For registration, visit www.embraceautism.sg/events/.