Rain rolled down the leaves of maple and oak trees above us, as if to join the tears on our cheeks as we walked quietly, pushing our young son's stroller gently down the drive near our home. Jennifer and I were struggling to understand what the future would hold for us and little Eidan (ay-den). As I remember coming to terms with Eidan's diagnosis of autism, that scene comes to mind - the imagery to depict the helplessness I felt.
At Eidan's birth, panicked-looking faces around the delivery room gazed at his form - purple in hue, silent, limp. As their eyes turned to mine, I was aware of having a spiritual experience that I now feel braced me for the challenges to come - as if a feeling of comfort, hope, determination, and powerful love formed a mist that not only surrounded me, but became a part of my physical form. Humbled, I looked at my firstborn child and my wife, who had just mutually accomplished the most intense exertion of energy I have ever seen or imagined and smiled, feeling both adoration and concern.
Jump and fast forward now through a manic slideshow of doctor's offices, therapy sessions, IEP meetings, wheelchair fittings, hope, despair, hope again, and then more despair, to The Start-Up Program Start-Up. Sitting on a back-jack chair on the floor of a spacious room that seemed to me like a down-to-earth cathedral, I looked from the speaker, Bryn Kaufman, whose brother, Raun, was the first child with autism I had ever heard of having recovered from it, to Jennifer, who locked wet eyes with mine and smiled. At last, we were hearing something that underscored possibility, not hopelessness. Amazement and appreciation for the outpouring of facts, ideas and concepts that painted a common-sense picture of autism and, somehow, Eidan himself. I pushed my hand to "Please, write faster!", as I immediately recognized that this portrait of my son was a more accurate representation than the one I had been holding in my mind. The discouraging (to say the least) words of the neurologist, the developmental pediatricians, and other professionals were easily trumped by the clear explanation of how people like my son do the seemingly purposeless, socially unaccepted, sometimes gross or violent things to care for themselves - not to frustrate, disturb, or harm anyone else. Just like me, Eidan does what he does to do the best he can for himself with what he has.
This teaching/learning itself was justification enough for having stretched our financial waistband, as well as our comfort zone to ask for help from family and friends, in order to afford the training program. It was our first trip away as a couple together since becoming parents. We were grateful that Jennifer's family had jumped at the chance to stay with Eidan and our younger son, Devin. And though it felt like too many vacancies inside at times, our awareness was that we had hit the jackpot, as special needs parents, as parents of a neurotypical son, as people! The teachers from the Autism Treatment Center of America were helping us to create an entirely new outlook that, shockingly, included us, Eidan's caregivers, parents, and more than anything else, his environment! Who knew that our well-being mattered to our children? I certainly didn't.
Feeling nothing short of more evolved from all that we had learned, we drove home from Massachusetts to Virginia lighter of spirit. We not only bubbled, but foamed with excitement to take in both Eidan and Devin in our arms. And as we finally came through the door and embraced them, tears once again rolled down our now smiling faces.
Learn More about the Son-Rise Program!
- On YouTube
- On Facebook: Autism Treatment Center of America
- Autism Treatment Center of America Website
- The Option Institute Website
- Facebook: The Option Institute
Afterword, Footnote, or Whatever It Is
This is the first of a series of blog posts about The Son-Rise Program, a treatment option designed for children with autism by Barry Neil and Samahria Lyte Kaufman, originally for their son, Raun. The intention of these writings is to express the beauty of this program which shines its light on child and caregiver alike, both of which all too often live in darkness and isolation. Additionally, these words aim to reflect that light to you, should you choose to catch it, by illustrating how the concepts, techniques, and physical underpinnings of The Son-Rise Program can be used by anyone for personal change, inspiration, developing or re-growing meaning in relationships of all kinds, and so much more.
As a Son-Rise Program dad, I have absorbed and continue to assimilate the teachings of the Autism Treatment Center of America and The Option Institute, and the books of Barry "Bears" Neil Kaufman, and I write to deepen my understanding of these teachings. I am a student. My views may stray from what I have actually been taught, wandering into my own experiences and ideas. I hope that my words will do justice to this subject which is of profound importance to me and my family. With heartfelt gratitude to the Kaufmans for their remarkable journey, the exceptional act of dedicating their lives to sharing it with the world, and to all who prioritize love and happiness for themselves. To do so is a step we can all decide to take, again and again, and in loving ourselves, we will be spreading love and togetherness on this precious planet!