The latest figures show that 1.1% of the UK population has autism.

While in the US, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were recently found to be 30% higher than previously thought.

Hearing that your child has been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, a lifelong condition for which there is no apparent cure, often shatters a parent’s world and brings feelings of shock, despair and guilt. Along with this is the worry and fear for the future and quite often I hear parents ask,  ‘What will happen to my child when I’m no longer around?’.

Raising a child with autism involves daily challenges, frustrations and difficulties but parents also see that there is something so serene and beautiful about their child.

Parents know that their child has the most incredible intelligence, charisma, personality, love and potential to grow but the question then arises, ‘how as a parent do you build the bridge between your child’s world and your own?’

 Your child’s potential is limitless

One great resource for parents of children with autism was created 30 years ago by Barry and Samahria Kaufman who developed  the Son-Rise Program for their son Raun, who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, with an IQ of below 30. Raun, an extroverted loving affectionate little boy, became withdrawn and detached from his environment and began to perform repetitive movements. Over time, and with his parents’ help, Raun totally reversed his symptoms and is now the CEO of The Autism Treatment Centre of America.

The Kaufmans looked into the support that was available at the time and felt that with the conventional treatment available their son’s behaviour changed momentarily but would then revert back to old patterns of behaviour. Ultimately they were concerned that their child would become more detached and be pushed further into his own world. It was quite clear to them that their child could not find his way in to their world so they had to find a way to get into his.

The program is essentially based around three important steps, although the training program for parents is quite extensive. These really do resonate with me, and hopefully will with you too. They may help turn your challenges into an opportunity that strengthens your bond and helps your child connect with the world that he or she is living in. The best part of this is that it can be easily introduced into your daily routine and in the comfort of your home.

Step 1 – Create a distraction free environment

The first step is to create a distraction free environment. This is fundamental and underpins the whole program.

You should set aside 30 minutes for this each day.

Children can be easily overwhelmed visually and audibly. The important thing here is to ‘eliminate the competition’ so that your child has your full and undivided attention.

So put the mobile phone away, unplug the television, sound system and computer, and remove any clutter, objects, toys or clothes from the room. Simplify the room as much as possible and turn it into a room that will work for you and your child.

If you have a younger child also then bring in toys for that child, if you have an older child that is higher functioning then bring in their books, games, cards or whatever they are happy with that will keep them stimulated and contented for the duration.

Step 2 – Join in with your child

This is all about joining in with your child’s repetitious behaviour, building a connection and strengthening your bond.

Ideally, this step should be carried out for 15-20 minutes every day.

The Kaufmanns call the repetitious behaviour the ‘ism’ so whether your child is walking on their toes, flapping their hands, continuously lining up rows of blocks, rolling around on the floor, climbing sofas – whatever it may be – copy them. You should try to synchronise with your child in these moments, think of it as tandem dancing, so that you are both doing the same action at the same time.

The best way to start would be to first observe your child from 2-3 feet away and then copy them but the important thing here is to do it wholeheartedly and with sincerity.

Let’s just reflect on ourselves for a moment.

As humans we engage with people and develop relationships based on being accepted and feeling comfortable in our surroundings.

Take for example, a baby, how do we communicate with a baby?

Subconsciously, we change our behaviour. We create sounds and jibbery goo-goo and ga-ga sounds, we adjust our voice, tone and behaviour in order to relate to the baby and stimulate a response.

Now think of an older person with a hearing impairment, again, how would we communicate with this person?

We would adjust our tone, volume and pace in order to make ourselves understood and create a rapport ensuring that we are putting the person at ease in their surroundings.

The same rules would apply to children and particularly those on the spectrum.

So by joining in with your child you are giving them the message that you are accepting their behaviour and the way they are, this is the first step to creating a positive, socially engaged relationship.


image Mother Child copying


An important concept here is that in order for your child to accept the world you are living in, you first need to accept theirs, ‘they show us the way in, we show them the way out’, as the Son-Rise Program explains.

Some children may respond to your behaviour immediately but others may need more convincing. So don’t give up, persistence is key.

There may be an element of releasing past negative experiences which may be holding them back, so for example, if they have had their toys taken away from them in the past it may take a little longer for them to trust again, so think of this as a doorway to express warmth, respect, care, love and instilling trust in your child.

Step 3 – Focus on eye contact

We all know that the deepest way to maintain social relationships with another human being is through eye contact, as this is when we create a connection and feel the warmth and emotions that helps us to develop a rapport.

The Son-Rise way of working is different to any other modality as the program is not about changing a behaviour to tick off a checklist box, it is more about encouraging the child to look at you in the eye because they want to and enjoy making that deep connection with you.

The more a child will look at you, the more they will learn from you.

 image Father Child Eyes


Many children on the spectrum tend not to do this. Children that are higher functioning are often very successful academically and at communicating but again, may have difficulty maintaining eye contact.

Activities to boost your child’s progress

Firstly, position yourself two feet away and be at your child’s eye level or below.

If you are offering them food or a toy hold the object by your eyes, to the front or to the side and talk to them. It may take a while for you to achieve a response but persist and continue doing this for 15 minutes each day.

Some children may respond to your behaviour immediately but others may need more convincing. So don’t give up, persistence is key.

Secondly, as soon as you notice that they look at you, acknowledge it by thanking them and celebrating.

Celebrate with a big cheer, a quiet cheer, by waving your hands in the air, by doing a little dance.

The key point here is to do whatever you are doing with great sincerity and furthermore, the more you cheer the more your child will look at you.

What amazes me most about this program is the simplicity of it.

Thousands of children worldwide have benefitted from these simple strategies and have managed to turn around their behaviour, improve their communication and ultimately reverse their symptoms, so why not give it a try?

Let’s recap some key ideas:

1.  Believe in your child – their potential is limitless

2.  Commit to taking half an hour out of your day daily

3.  Practice the steps from the heart with sincerity and watch your child grow and flourish

4.  Adopt an attitude of acceptance of your child’s behaviour – this is paramount  and has to be far more alluring than disapproval

5.  CELEBRATE each new development, the more you celebrate, the more they will be encouraged to participate and look at you.

Each child in this world is a precious gift, and amongst all the challenges parents experience there has to be hope for the future.


Open the door, build a bridge and fulfil dreams!

I would love to hear what works for you and your child and any further tips you may have. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Sadhna Chaman