Is it possible to recover from autism?


Posted at Oct 07 2017 10:44 AM

Raun Kaufman was diagnosed with autism at age 2. His parents were told his IQ was less than 30 and that his was a "hopeless condition."

"I had no language, no communication, I didn't look at people, didn't communicate with people. I would spend hours and hours every day rocking back and forth, flapping my hands in front of my face," he told ANC's Headstart.


While the diagnosis and the prognosis would have been heartbreaking for any parent, Kaufman said his mother and father, neither doctors nor autism specialists, didn't give up. 

Instead, they developed their own home-based child center program called the "Son-Rise Program," where they did "opposite of basically everything that was being done."

Specialists working with children and adults with autism often see the condition as "a group of behaviors," Kaufman said. They, thus, strive to stamp down behaviors seen to be "autistic" and to promote the behaviors they want, said Kaufman.

"Autism is not a behavioral disorder; it's a social disorder, a relational challenge at the core," he said.

So rather than forcing him to conform in a world he didn't yet understand, Kaufman's parents did the reverse: they joined him in his world.

"What my mom did with me was every time she would see me spinning a plate, she would get a plate of her own. She'd sit down next to me, and she would spin with me," he said.

"What happened when my mom joined me in spinning plates is it didn't make me want to do it more. What happened was I started looking at her, I started smiling at her and including her in my play. The more she did that, the less I spun plates," he added.

By the time he was about 5 and a half, he was "completely recovered," Kaufman said.

When the Kaufmans were still experimenting with their method, they were told it was a terrible idea. But they did not give up and, instead, developed the program further. 

Some 35 years hence, the Son-Rise Program has helped thousands 
of children with autism in over 120 countries. 

"Once she had my willing engagement, she kind of coaxed me across the bridge from my world to hers," he said of his mother.

One of the things his mother did, he recalled, was to take things he was already interested in and "build activities around those."

"And those activities, she'd add social interaction into that, and we'd get more and more social as the time went on," Kaufman said. 

"It took a while, it took 3 years, but over that period, I became more and more interactive and more and more part of the neuro-typical world until, eventually, there was no more difference," he said.

Now, Kaufman is a lecturer and author whose book, Autism Breakthrough, was published in 2014.