This program was developed by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman for their autistic son, Raun, who is claimed to have fully recovered from his condition. That was back in 1974. They published a book on their alleged success in 1976. As you can imagine, parents that hear of a “cure” for autism immediately want to know more, and for the last few decades the Kaufman’s have made a lot of money by providing Son-Rise Program training, which stresses communication and interaction. Over the years, it was unclear if the method was really helpful or little more than a hoax. It was difficult to accumulate a lot of empirical data on the effectiveness of the program, mostly due to inconsistencies in the actual practices and methods used and uncertainty as to whether positive results were actually attributable to the technique. In fact, a study done by Williams and Wishart in 2003 found that the SRP negatively impacted the participants. However, according to a press release from the Son-Rise Program Newsletter in 2013, there is empirical evidence that their program is effective:
"This is the first scientific study evaluating and demonstrating the effectiveness of The Son-Rise Program treatment. The peer-reviewed study, conducted by Northwestern University, and Lancaster University in the UK, showed significant improvements in the social skills of children who received Son-Rise Program treatment compared to a control group who didn’t receive any Son-Rise Program treatment. The study was conducted over a five-day period. The Kaufmans reported that the results of the studies clearly indicated that “the children in the experiment showed quantifiable results in only a week of The Son-Rise Program”.
So, is the Son-Rise Program effective in the treatment of autism? The jury is still out on that one. In fact, one of the controversies surrounding the SRP treatment involves the actual initial diagnosis of Raun Kaufman. According to experts, it is unclear if he really had severe autism, or if it was another condition, which then improved greatly due to the actions of his parents. Based on that issue alone, it is probably a good idea to proceed with caution if this method is something that parents want to try with their children. One concept of the program is that parents should accept their children without judgment, and with that we can certainly agree. For more information about children on the spectrum of autism, parents and teachers agree that our Needs of Students with Autism course is a great first step in learning how autism is not only diagnosed but also treated, including details on performing the different therapies.