by Claudine Kurp
In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to share a book that I discovered last year. Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over The World, was first brought to my attention quite randomly. My husband's college magazine profiled Raun K. Kaufman. The sweet photo of his mother working with Raun as a child immediately grabbed my attention. As I poured over the article I was intrigued by the methods that Raun's parents used to help him overcome autism.
The concept seemed so foreign to me. Was there a possible cure for autism for some people? I finished the article and bought the book. It was fascinating to not only read about Raun Kaufman's journey, but to hear about his work at the Autism Treatment Center of America. The methods that are used and chronicled throughout the book seem to fly in the face of traditional therapy. While reading the book, one can't help but stand in awe of Raun's parents, Barry and Samahria Kaufman. Their little boy was diagnosed with autism in the early 70s. At that time, the prognosis was bleak for children with autism. Raun's parents were given little, if any, hope of creating a thriving world for Raun and were instead told to expect that he would ultimately be institutionalized.
Instead of falling prey to despair these amazing parents charted a new path for their son, one that included embracing Raun's unique mind. They let his behavior guide their therapy. They dismissed the so-called experts advice that mandated that an autistic child fit into our "normal" world, instead they spent months trying to enter his world. They followed his example and mirrored his actions. After month of therapy, Raun slowly let his family into his world. Without knowing it, Barry and Samahria were creating groundbreaking methods to help children with autism. What they achieved was extraordinary.
Some do question Raun's original diagnosis. Based on all of the medical history that is presented in the book, Raun did indeed appear to have profound autism. Within a few years of working with his parents for hours everyday, slowly Raun joined their world and opened to the door to speech and socialization. The book outlines his recovery and transition into a normal childhood. Raun went on to graduate from Brown University with a degree in Biomedical Ethics. To hear his lectures and interviews on YouTube you can clearly see that this man no longer suffers from autism. By his own account, there are many naysayers that dispute his original diagnosis. Raun and his parents remain steadfast that he overcame autism. Barry Kaufman went on to write the book Son Rise, now updated to Son Rise: The Miracle Continues which also chronicles Raun's story.
The Kaufman's did not abandon their work after Raun overcame his autism, instead they made it their mission to help other families deal with the effects of autism. Their work continues today and Raun, after years of working in the private sector, ultimately came back to the nonprofit organization his parents founded, the Autism Treatment Center of America. Raun returned to help aid in the treatment of of his niece Jade, who at the age of two showed signs of autism.
When I watched the "recovery" that Jade made (YouTube), it was astonishing to see the way her therapists were able to work with her complex mind that initially shut everyone out. It was a much slower and painstaking recovering for Jade versus Raun, but she is thriving today as a social little girl. It was a wonderful transformation to witness (YouTube). After Jade's treatment concluded, Raun stayed at the Autism Treatment Center of America where he works today as the Director of Global Education.
Raun has an inspirational story. Raun weaves a story of hope throughout his book. He offers alternative therapy and methods and reports true and profound results in young children and even in adults with autism.
This book does not pretend to offer all of the answers or even promise a cure, but it does provide HOPE and it gives real world options and therapies for any person of any age that is living with an autism diagnosis. The book also reminded me of the intense respect that parents of autistic children deserve.
I have watched my nephew, who has Asperger's Syndrome, come of age. My nephew was born in the early 90s, sadly my sister-in-law shared that even then there was little to no support for children and families impacted by autism. While researching the limited treatment options that existed, she found a new program at Rutgers University. The program provided intense therapy in a school setting for children with autism. When my sister-in-law was first told that the program was closed, she drove miles to the school and begged to be heard. She brought a baby book of her little boy and painstakingly took an administrator through her child's life to up to that moment, she then pleaded with the school administrator to allow her 4 year old boy to have a place in the program, to have a shot at a better future. The plea did not fall on deaf ears. My nephew was admitted into the program. He has been able to do great things with the right therapy and support. His parents did an incredible job of broadening his world through various therapies and schools. They took every possible measure they could to assist in my nephew's development, even setting up an at-home occupational therapy room in their home. My brother-in-law would come home after a 10+ hour day at work, loosen his tie and start OT with his little boy. It still strikes me what a parent's love can for a child. My nephew recently graduated from college and is now working and is just an awesome young man! You can read more about Joe's story at: http://www.gokidtrips.com/kid-trips-blog/autism-awareness-month-one-mothers-story.
Reading the book gave me a deeper appreciation for my in-laws struggles. Parents of autistic children often spend countless hours working with their kids even after an exhausting day. They worry about the long term future of their kids and too often are forced to fight for every service from local school systems and every cent from insurance companies. These folks are the unsung heroes of this battle!
Even if you haven't been impacted by autism, I would still highly recommend the book. Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over The World shines a beautiful light on the efforts of those who want to help and give options to children and parents impacted by the autism spectrum. I found it to be an amazing and thought-provoking read.
For more information about Autism Awareness Month, I would encourage you to visit, Autism Speaks.
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