Treating Autism with Raun Kaufman | EXPLORING DIFFERENT BRAINS Episode 01


In this inaugural episode, Dr. Harold “Hackie” Reitman interviews Raun Kaufman, the head of the Autism Treatment Center, and author of the book “Autism Breakthrough.” Raun tells us about growing up with autism, confronts the controversy that has developed around him, details some of his treatments, and discusses the idea that he may give people “false hope.”


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Hackie Reitman, M.D. (HR):  Alright, Hackie Reitman here and today we are talking with Raun Kaufman. Raun, thank you so much for coming on.

Raun Kaufman (RK): Thanks for having me, Hackie.

HR: Well, you are a very controversial character, you know.

RK: In some circles, sure.

HR: Well, you’ve had a remarkable history, so why don’t we start with you telling me about your history. Tell our listeners.

RK: Alright, you’ve got it. So, when I was a little boy, I was diagnosed with severe Autism. When I say severe, just so we’re clear, I’m talking about I had no language, no eye contact, a tested IQ less than 30. I would spend hours and hours every day rocking back and forth and flapping hands in f t of my face. One of the things I would also do for many hours a day is that I would take kitchen plates and I would spin them on their edge on the floor over and over and I would flap my hands over them. For hours and you couldn’t distract me from this. And my parents were told like I said I had severe Autism, I just said it was–not just that it was severe in the moment, and this is important, because it’s not just the diagnosis that’s the issue. It’s the prognosis, and the prognosis that my parents got was that this is a permanent life-long condition. This was how I was going to be for the rest of my days on earth. And they did something really amazing in the face of that, which was they developed their own home based, very much child centered program. And they call it the “Sonrise Program”–but they spelled it “S-O-N” because I was their son. And they worked with me for about 3 and a half years and at the end of that period as you can guess, I went on to recover completely without any trace of my former condition, grew up in a regular school with regular friends and graduated from Ivy league’s Brown University with a degree in Biomedical ethics, which was never supposed to be in the cards for me. And now, it’s really amazing because now with our whole team of about 80 other people at the Autism Treatment Center of America in Massachusetts, I am able to sort of work with these people and then work with parents and families from over 100 different countries to help them help their children in the same way that my parents helped me. So, it’s really an honor and its also been kind of a crazy experience because after my recovery, my Father wrote this book called; “Sonrise: The Miracle Continues”. It became a best seller. It was then made into an NBC television movie. So then, people started coming to us for help and in 1983 my parents founded a non-profit organization now known as the Autism Treatment Center of America. So, it’s a non-profit organization, really nicely nestled in kind of the Bertram Mountains in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. And that’s where I was telling you about people and parents and educators come from all over to learn the techniques of the Sonrise program

HR: Why do you think it is that you have become controversial from your point of view?

RK: You know, that’s a really good question, I think there are 2 reason if i can say. So I think the first reason is simply because there is still a bit of a battle going on. When I say battle, I am not battling, but I think there is a little bit of a controversy going on in the Autism community still around the issue of recovery itself. Can a child or adult from Autism ever not have Autism at some point. And look, I am not one of these people that thinks recovery is the only good outcome. We’ve worked with a lot of other kids after me, who have completely recovered just like me, but we’ve also worked a lot of kids after who have made extraordinary progress and changes and have absolutely not recovered. I wouldn’t call them recovered at all. So, I think it varies and I think all different kinds of outcomes can be a victory and can really be wonderful for these kids. I’m a total fan of Neurodiversity, not trying to stamp out Autism, but the thing I do feel is that when we start having a fight over recovery and start going into this–sort of going down this road of “autism must be a permanent lifelong condition”, we’re kind of cutting our kids off at the knees because we decide for a 3 year old or a five year old or a seven year old what the next fifty years of that person’s life are going to be like and what there are never going to supposedly do or accomplished. So we feel like the only ethical stance that we can take since we work with kid who have recovered and with kids who haven’t and we have no way of knowing in advance, the only ethical stance that we think that makes sense to take is to begin with the premise with each child that each and every child is capable of full recovery. So at least we’re not the ones holding them back. We are starting from they could do anything and then some of those kids go all the way, some of them make extra-ordinary changes, but are still really different and wonderful in exciting ways and I really feel like there is room for all of us. It doesn’t mean that someone has to recover or not recover, but I do think that’s one big reason for the controversy. So people have said to me–always people who have never met me by the way–“You know Raun must never have recovered.” But then when they meet me they sort of have a different stance on that. And like I said, there have been many people that have recovered after me so it’s not like I’m the one person In the world who’s done this. The other thing, let me just say Hackie, I think there is a second reason why I might, in some circles I guess, be considered controversial. And it’s not from me In particular, but I do think there is something controversial about the Sonrise Program itself. I think less and less with each passing year as in goes into more countries and it becomes more mainstream, but I do think there is still a controversy because the fundamental idea of the Sonrise Program is that:

Number one, autism is a social relational disorder not a behavioral disorder so rather than trying to change behaviors we focus on creating a relationship because these kids behave difficulty connecting and creating relationships without the people. Now, the controversial part of that is that one the very first techniques we do in the Sonrise program is called “JOINING”. And what that means is that rather than trying to force these kids to conform to a world they don’t understand, we join them in their world first. So for instance, when I use to spin plates like that, my mom was told “you’ve got to stop him, you’ve got to take the plate away, you got to re-direct him” and even also then, they were using the versus. So they were also teaching punishments in that. And do you know what my mom did? Every time she saw me spinning a plate, she’d get a plate of her own, she’d sit down next to me and she would spin plates with me. And she was told–I still get told this sometimes–“this is the worst thing you can do, it’s going to make the child do it more.” But in real life, in the world where we have actually done this with  thousands of kids over 30 years, what we actually find is, the more we join, the more these kids look at us, become interested in us, start to let us into their world, start to engage and reciprocal play with us, and that opens the door to all the other learning and all the other things that we want to teach them that may be really challenging for them later on.

HR: Well, you know, I was lucky enough to be hanging out with you and Stephen Shore and Temple Grandin out there in Tulsan.  I had my Aspertools authors table, and we all had our tables and it was kind of surrealistic to me, being the newcomer and not really being a member of the club because after all you, Temple Grandin and Stephen Shore, like my daughter Rebecca, who has her discreet math degree from Georgia Tech, are Autistic. And I don’t know what I would have been labeled having been expelled in the first grade and the 10th grade, but probably wouldn’t be Autistic. I had an authority problem, Raun. But I remember when I watched you speak that day, while it was all so wonderful, the thing that really sticks with me– and again, this could be because I produce movies and documentaries and stuff too–was that little vignette you put on with your assistant. That resonated with me and it makes me want to collaborate with you on a bunch of similar vignettes. You want to repeat for our audience that particular one? Because it was great.

RK: Sure! You know I am so glad that resonated with you because I often find that when I’m talking to parents, that’s the moment where the light bulb goes on, so, yeah I’ll be happy to explain that. So, this is an analogy and it explains why joining these children in the very behaviors that everyone else is trying to stop, why is that so powerful? Why does that work so well? Why does that yield such incredible results.  So let’s talk about that. So lets imagine that you’ve had a really tough week, you are exhausted, you are just completely wiped out, you are stressed out, you are really overloaded and you just need a moment to decompress. You just need a moment to yourself. But, luckily someone agrees, maybe your spouse or a friend, to totally take care of the kids for the day. They are going to take care of everything at the house. You have the day to yourself. You can go off and do whatever you need to do and relax. So, you go to a nice park, it’s a beautiful day, there is a gentle breeze, the sun’s out and you get your favorite book by your favorite author, because that’s what you love to read and you have a favorite author you especially love to read. So you take this book and you start reading. And time goes on and as you start reading, you finally start to relax a bit and you stop thinking about all the other stuff and stop feeling overwhelmed by everything. You just get into what you are doing, you are reading your book, you are enjoying yourself and then some guy comes over to you. Maybe some loud bald guy, or something, comes up to you and he’s like, “Hey, what’s up man? How are you doing? Hey listen, look at me for a second, I know you are like busy reading but it look like anti-social, you are like by yourself all day. I’ll tell you what, let’s put the book down, we’ll go see a movie, there is a movie playing just a few blocks away, my treat. Movies are great. I picked out a really good one for us, so let’s put the book away, let’s go see a movie.” And you turn to me and you are like overwhelmed by me getting in your face and you say, “Sir, thank you, I appreciate the offer, I’ve had a really tough week. I don’t really like movies, I just want to read this book, I’m really into this book. So, thanks but no thanks.” And I’m wondering why you’re not listening to me. You know what, maybe I just didn’t just get your attention enough. So, I step in front of you, I pushed the book aside and say, “Hi! How you doing? Look at me, right here, right here. Okay, come on, stand up. Come on, let’s do it, let’s do it.” And now you are getting a little peeved with me and you say, “Sir, seriously, I need you to back off right now. You are totally in my face, I just explained to you, I do not want to go the movies with you. I just want to read my book, okay?” And then it dawns on me and am so embarrassed, I guessed should have seen this before, “You know what the problem is? The problem is your book. I mean it’s very distracting and you are kind of obsessed with it, you are looking at it, nut you know what? If I can get that book out of your hands, then I know you are going to pay attention to me and go to the movies with me.” So I walk up to you and I grabbed the book away, you jumped up to try and stop me and I go, “You will get the book back after we go see a movie.” Now, this probably sounds familiar to a lot of your viewers. Because it’s how a lot of us deal with our kids and we are coming from the best place, we are trying to help our kids, we are not trying to make their kid’s lives miserable. But let’s really look at this through the eyes of our kids. What is this experience like for our kids who basically have this interaction with adults every single day? So, let’s talk about this for a second. There’s two issues that are especially important and pertinent here. Now autism, of course, is a myriad of many different challenges, but I just want to highlight two for a second. One is our children are–the part of their brain that organizes and processes sensory information is not functioning the way ours do, so this is often called the “Sensory Processing Disorder” or “Sensory Integration Disorder”. And what happens is, is that it means all the sites and all the sounds, and even all the things that are touching your child’s skin are coming in, in this very helter-skelter way, in a very overwhelming way, much more intense than for us. You know, for us if you are talking to someone there’s a little background noise. No biggy, you just tune it out. Our brains are actually really good at that. But for most of our kids, that background noise and a million other background noises, and the clothes against their skin, and the smells in the air, and all the lights in the room, that’s all coming in at the same loud volume. So, when you tell your child to pay attention, which of the 25 things are they supposed to pay attention to? So that’s one issue going on. The second issue though, is that partly because of the first issue, our children’s brains have difficulty recognizing patterns in the same way that we do, so things that seem really understandable to us and normal, seem very random and haphazard to our children. You know I go up to you and say: “Hi, how you doing? My name is Raun.” You know, that means you shake my hand. But for many of our kids, I’m just a guy with his hand out. Because that’s a pattern they haven’t maybe yet recognized. Now, the reason I’m telling you this is because given these two challenges, our children could–I mean this is very overwhelming to any human being–when a regular adult has something like this, people will have a nervous breakdowns. I mean this is a big deal. But our children are so brilliant and so clever and so capable, and so aware actually of their own needs, that they have actually come up with the perfect coping and self-regulation sort of solution for this. And it is what many people call the “Stim”. We have a different word for it, but just to use that word for a moment. This repetitive behavior that our children do that everyone’s trying to stop. So, this is a fascinating development here, because what our kids do is–let’s say a child is stacking blocks. So, actually, when a child stacks blocks over and over again in a repetitive way, now to us it’s like why are they doing that? But to our children, they can finally start to focus intensely on this that they can begin to tune out the sensory bombardment that comes in. And fortunately, one of those things that they are turning out is us, but this is the best they can do to take care of themselves, and by stacking it in a very repetitive way that they can control, they actually can create this little island of predictability in a sea of unpredictability. So, they actually create exactly the right solution for themselves, and you know what? We watched kids and there has been increasing number of studies on this. As kids do these stims, they start to relax, they start to feel better, they start to self-regulate, but as soon as they feel better, what do we do? “Put that down. Put that down. Quiet hands. Come over here. Now, look at me.” Right? We come in like an airplane to break this up. We are giving them this message over and over again. This message is “stop doing what you want and do what I want. Stop doing what you want, do what I want.” And then we say, “Why don’t these kids want to be part of our world?” But look at what our world looks like to them. And again, I’ve watched so many parents, who love their kids, do this. Whenever I see a parent do it–I can watch them– they are always coming from love. They are trying to help their child, that’s the only thing they are trying to do. They don’t understand maybe, what this looks like from their child’s point of view. From their point of view, they are trying to help. They are trying to love their child, but their child doesn’t see it that way, that’s not the child’s experience. So let me say one more thing about this. Now imagine–let’s just return to the analogy for a second. So, now, you are reading your book, you are enjoying your book and I come by again. I’m a different guy now, I’ve got plenty of hair and am not so loud. I come by with my own book. I don’t even say anything to you. I come by with my won book, I sit down next to you, I open my book and I start reading. So, you are reading, and I am reading. Eventually, you see a guy reading next to you and you glance over. “Oh my Gosh,” you cannot believe what you see here, this is crazy. I don’t know what the odds are, but this is just insane because this guy sitting next to you he’s not just reading, he is reading the same book that you are reading. And this is your favorite book and he’s reading it. I mean what are the odds? This is crazy. So, you try to ignore him but after a while you got to say something. So eventually you tap me on the shoulder and you are like, “Oh, hey, sir. I am so sorry to bother you, I just noticed you are reading the same book as me and this is like my favorite book.” And am like, “It’s your favorite book? Shut up, it’s my favorite book!” And you are like, “Oh my God, really? Did you read this author’s last book,” and I’m like, “Yeah, could you believe that ending?” and you are like “No, I couldn’t believe it” and you have this whole conversation about the book and how much you like the whole trilogy, and the whole thing. And then it’s time for me to leave, so I leave. But the next, say four Saturday in a row, I come back again with my book, we are reading together, we are talking together. We build this relationship around the common interest and build a sense of trust and connection and community. And then, maybe after four weeks to this, it’s about time for me to leave and I go, “Oh hey, just wanted to let you know, next weekend, the movie version of this book is coming out, so if you want, instead of meeting here next Saturday, we can meet at the movie theater and maybe see that. What do you think?” So now, if you see that the end place where I went was actually the same in both analogies. But the way that I got there was diametrically opposed, it was totally different. One instance I’m stamping what you love and trying to drag you in my direction. In the other, I am bonding with you around what you love and then connecting what you love to the thing that I want to invite you to. This is the corner stone of the entire Sonrise program. This is why it works in the way that it works. And it’s not that we get really amazing progress with a lot of this kids, it’s the type of progress we get. It’s a very socially based progress and it comes from the child actually wanting to participate with us versus doing what they are told and learning compliance which what a lot of more traditional therapies tend to focus on.

HR: Let me ask you this, Raun. My feeling is that adults have been unintentionally discriminated against because we are always talking about the child, the child, the child. Well, the children grow in to adults, My daughter is 33 years old, with Asperger’s. Tell us about your feelings about the child versus the Autistic adult?

RK: You know, Hackie, I’m really glad you brought that up because I feel like it doesn’t really gets talked about enough. You are absolutely right, there is an intense focus on children often at the expense of either teenagers or adults, absolutely. And I think these goes to something a little deeper than just people paying more attention to the kids. I think it’s deeper than that. I think it has a lot to do with how Autism is viewed by a lot of professionals and even a lot of families in the Autism communities, which is; it gets viewed as there is this little window early in life where you can really maybe make a difference. You catch it early enough, you are zeroing on it early enough. Wow, maybe you can really make a difference for some of these kids. But, once a child’s 7 or 12 or 15 or certainly 33, their brain sort of, like cement that’s hardened into concrete, it sort of formed tits bonds and the person sort of is what they are. And the thing about this, I think this is a real mistake we make because just like a neurotypical person who is 33 or 23 or 53, a person on the spectrum’s brain is plastic and changeable throughout their whole life. A person with Autism, or Asperger’s syndrome, is capable of all sorts of growth and change and learning new things and becoming interested in new things and connecting with people in new ways. This is a big reason why we–do we work with some little kids? Sure, but we also work with teenagers, we also work with people in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s, because what we’ve seen is it’s never too late. There’s not some magic age at which the brain stops changing and the person cannot be any different than the way they were. And by the way, I just want to say, because you know, in terms of your focus on people with  Asperger’s Syndrome. When I say someone can grow and be different, if someone has Asperger Syndrome–I’ve worked with adults and teenagers with Asperger Syndrome. And I feel really strongly that it really has to come from the person, I am not a person who is in favor of taking someone who is stage 23 or 18 with Asperger Syndrome, who can have a conversation but have lots of challenges, taking them and trying to make them be more neurotypical in a way that they don’t want to be. I am completely against that. But, when a child or adult or someone in their 40’s is open to connecting with us–and we often are really good at connecting with people on the spectrum in a way that they really honored and respected–then, if they are open to that, then we are able to if they want to really help them to maybe overcome some challenges that may be holding them back in some ways that they would like some help with. And that includes especially the social areas, like interacting with people and connecting with people and making friends, having conversations. But again, not in a way where we teach some person with Asperger’s Syndrome the rules. “Now listen, when someone gives you something you say ‘thank you.’ When you meet someone, ask them how their day was.” We are never getting to that, we will never do this rule bound way of doing it. We teach a love of communication, and when we start to teach them to actually be interested in the other person. Because if you are interested in the other person, you don’t need to be taught to ask someone how their day is, because you are interested in them. So you are actually curious really how their day was and you might actually ask that because you want to know, so that’s where we are coming from with this.

HR: So, in this theory of neuroplasticity– which I believe in too–that all of our brains are wired differently but they can all kind of re-wire themselves how they want, and that I think you and I agree that we are not talking about making everybody wired the same way. That’s not the goal. The goal is to enhance your wiring so that you, according to yourself and your desires, can lead a happy, healthy, safe, productive life.

RK: Yes, yes, for sure.

HR: Now, do you have a way at the Autism Treatment Center of America with the Sonrise program to measure outcomes?

RK: Actually yes, we do. We have something called the “Sonrise Program Social Developmental Model”, and it’s really great. Here is what’s amazing, right! It’s not the only developmental model in the world, Lord knows, right? What we are really exciting about as we were originally creating it years back, was it was this way to focus on…yes, measuring and tracking each child and adult exactly where they are as well as setting whatever the next goal is really key for that as well. But it’s a way of doing that isn’t about the way we track it; it’s not tracking their math skills, it’s not tracking their reading skills, it’s not tracking how compliant they are. It’s tracking these four main– what we called “the Four Fundamentals of Socialization” which are: eye contact and non-verbal communication, verbal communication, and then these two gets overlooked a lot which is interactive attention span–our kids have terrific attention span for stuff they love. Interactive attention span is about how long they can stay engaged in something with another person. That’s key. And then the last one, which is also hugely overlooked: “flexibility”. How flexible is a child or adult with a changing schedule or with going someone else’s way when someone else wants to do a different activity. This is an area a lot of our kids and adults struggle with for sure. So we track up according to 5 stages of development in each of those 4 areas and we show parents and educators, but especially parents, how to track their own kids or adults along this same spectrum. So we help them with this, but they can also do this on an ongoing basis so they can see exactly where their child or adult is month to month and what the next step is that they can focus on. So I think this is important because I think what happens is, is with a lot of people on the spectrum, people decide in advance what they are not capable of like we talked about before. But what we often don’t often see is because we have already made these subtle decisions about what they are not capable of, like they are not good at the social stuff. So then, you know what, lets help them with the stuff they can do like academics, like math and reading and doing all that. And look, nothing wrong with academics. I’m a fan of academics. But what ends up happening is we focus on that at the expense of the social stuff, so we help people, especially with Asperger Syndrome actually, be terrific at all of that stuff which they can do because we are working that part of their brain that already works great. Right? But I am a real big proponent, and we focus on this a lot in the Sonrise program and this model tracks this, of working the weak muscle. Working the weak muscle. Which for someone on the spectrum is not the math and the reading muscle, it’s not the memorization muscle, it’s not the academic muscle, it’s not the naming colors muscle. It’s the making friends muscle, it’s the social relational muscle, it’s the engaging with other people or taking turns or being flexible. All of that, so we are not saying, “lets never do academics,” but we always say “let’s focus on social goals,” before academic goals. So that we can help a child or adult on the spectrum to at least as far as they want to go, to be able to connect and relate to other people. Which by the way, even if they want to be a mathematician, which is great, that social pieces is still going to help them in a hundred thousand different ways.

HR: I love it. I love the way you think, Raun. Now, before we get to your book “The Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That’s Helped Families all Over the World”, you just turned on in my brain the way my brain works an analogy to what you just said about helping the things that need helping. And you know, I was not going to go into the whole long story now, but I had 23 professional heavyweights boxing matches. I had a record of 13 wins, 7 losses and 6 draws, and my manager and trainer and mentor, Tommy Torino, along with my friend Angelo Dundee who am doing a documentary on him and Mohammed Ali–I was a product of the fifth street Gym. But Tommy Torino used to say “Look, for some reason, you have a great right hand. You can hit as hard as anybody in the world with your right hand but, you got two left feet, your jab isn’t that good, your defense is horrendous. We are going to work on those things.” And the whole time I was with him, from my first pro-fight was when I was 38, my last one was when I was 52, we never spent a minute on my right hand. We worked on everything else all the time. So, I could become I decent journey man, 10 round main event, pro-heavyweight, not that I was going to be champion of the world. And I think too much what you and I see is the parent, the well-meaning loving parent, if you ask, “Hey, how is your kid doing?” “Oh, he’s getting all A’s” or “He’s getting A’s in Mathematics.” “I didn’t ask you about his academic records. I said how is he or she doing?” Okay, and you are right. In the same way as adults, a lot of where you measure how you are doing in the race with monetary, when you are a kid, you measure it with grades.

RK: It’s so true, so true. I like could not possibly agree with you more and you are absolutely right. That boxing analogy is just terrific, because no matter how good your right hand is, you’re still going to get pummeled if you can’t do the other stuff. And you know, if I have really weak leg muscles and I can’t walk, you can make my arms really strong and that probably helpful, but I am going to walk if you walk my leg muscles. So, I totally agree with you.

RK: Now, you know, you recently came out with your book “The Autism Breakthrough.” Why don’t you tell us about that?

RK: Sure! Yeah, I am glad you bring that up. Autism Breakthrough was really like a labor of love for me. It wasn’t like an academic “Oh, I’m going to write a book.” It was this thing of “it has completely helped and transformed my life but it’s also helped so many kids and families that I really love and care about.” Even it helped my niece by the way, who was on the spectrum when she was a little girl. You might think that’s genetically related, but she was actually adopted at 3 weeks old. So it was just complete coincidence. And my older sister, who is a senior teacher at the center, and her husband, who is also a senior teacher at the center, so knew exactly what to do. They started a Sonrise program, I was actually one of the volunteer s in that program. She just turned 20, you would

never guess her past. She’s like the coolest, sweetest, awesomest person, outgoing, wonderful, caring, deeply she’s super cool. This has helped a lot of people I really love and care about. So I wrote this book for this reason. I wanted to sort of–so many parents get sorta’ shuttled down one path when they get a diagnosis, whether it’s Autism, Asperger, whatever. They can shuttle down this one path, often times a very behavioral based focus and they don’t get all their options given to them and a lot of them are looking for a new way forward, something that’s going to help their child in a new and better way. So I wrote this book, so that anyone–It’s not a book about my story. I talk about my story in the first chapter. But after that, it’s a “how to” book. It’s actually a book about, here’s how you do each step, here’s how to do every little thing. And it walks them through each of the steps of doing at least the fundamentals of the Sonrise program. A educator or parent can implement right at home or right in their school, or classroom. It’s very hands on, so it’s a lot like the way I talk. It’s very conversational. It’s got almost a worksheet to do at the end of each chapter to help you implement it. Each chapter has a corresponding web page that has video and other things to help you implement this, so it’s a very interactive book experience. And, I gotta’ tell you. I wrote it. I thought that there would be some parents that love the Sonrise program, that might buy it, but it’s gone a lot bigger than that, and we’ve had people from Wayne Guyer to the President of the National Autism Association, the founder of the United States Autism and Asperger Association–that was the conference we were at– who’ve not only read it but written really extraordinary things about what the information in that book really helped them do.  So, Autism Breakthrough is just for any parent that wants some actual techniques to help take their child in a new direction

RK: What do you say to people who say “You know, Raun, you are giving parents false hope.” What do you say to them?

RK: I do have people say that to me sometimes actually, so I am glad you brought it up. It’s funny. First of all, let me just start by saying I am always a little befuddled by how many people in this world like to put those two words together: the words “false” and “hope”. Because it’s based on this idea that there are times, I guess in some people’s minds, where hope can be bad or wrong or at least detrimental in some way. Hope is not a promise. Hope isn’t saying, “Listen, if you do the steps in Autism Breakthrough, or you take a Sonrise program start up with the Autism Treatment Center of America, I promise your child will get here.” It’s not a promise. Of course I would never make a promise, because our whole philosophy is about not trying to predict the child’s future years in advance. So, I do thinks it’s interesting this idea that people are afraid of hope, because here’s all hope is. Hope is simply saying “I believe it’s possible. I am open to the possibility, so since I’m open to the possibility, I am going to take action and do what it takes to help my child reach that possibility. Do I know for a fact exactly where my child will end up? Of course I don’t. But here’s what’s interesting. The same people that end up criticizing and worrying supposedly about me promoting false hope are the same people that like to predict in advance all of the things these kids are not going to do. They fell comfortable saying to parents, “I know your child is five, but he’s never going to be able to do this or that. I know your daughter is seventeen, but she’s never going to be able to do this or that.” So, all we are saying is let’s not decide in advance what our children are not going to be able to do. Let’s give our children a chance, then they’ll go as far as they can go. So I always say I am not afraid of hope. The only thing I’ve ever seen hope do is lead to action, and action is what our kids actually need.

HR: You just gave the same speech that I give down at the Hackie Reitman Boys and Girls Club at in Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, and the worst zip code in the world, 33311. And I tell the kids–look, my folks had a gas station in Jersey City. Everything I ever did, I was told, “You really can’t do that.” I wanted to be become a doctor, I was writing to the AMA when I was 12 years old for my folks guest station. My high school adviser told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to a 6 year medical program. I somehow got into it. I was told I was that I was too small to be a heavy weight fighter when I won the golden gloves in my first year in medical school. And I tell this kids that everyone is going to tell you you can’t do it. And it’s up to you to determine that, because if you work hard and you get some breaks and you hear, “Listen, we got computers here, you got staff that cares about you here.” And we have–I am so proud of our kids, because in the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County where we serve about 12,000 kids, in the public schools system, African American males have a 36% high school graduation rate. At the Boys and Girls Club we take the same demographic, we have a 90% high school graduation rate. Now, this has nothing to do with Autism, Neurodiversity. It has to do with, to me, one of the most important part of today’s whole wonderful, wonderful presentation by you, is the positivity of hope. And I agree that it’s an oxymoron to say “false hope.” If somebody wants to hope, okay, and there’s no guarantees with anything in life–those are the rules God gave us, it’s not the rules Raun Kaufman makes. How would someone get in touch with the Autism Treatment Center Of America and learn about the Sonrise Program?

RK: Okay, well there’s a few things I would recommend that they do. Humber one, they can go to our website at, it’s a great website. It has lots of resources, they can even watch free web seminars, they don’t cost anything. They can read testimonials. They can see interviews, not only with parents, but sometimes with their kids, which is just terrific. They can also find out about all of our programs and how to set up a phone call with one of our Sonrise Program advisers. Go to that website, but also, give us a call at +413-229-2100. If they call 413-229-2100, what they want to do is, is not just call, but actually ask for an appointment with the Sonrise Program adviser. It doesn’t cost anything by the way. We’ll call you. We’ll have the appointment, we’ll call you. And we can really talk you through, see if this is a good fit for you and see about financial aid. We gave away a million dollars last year alone, and if you are in financial challenge, let us help you. So you can ask that person about it. But the main thing you want to talk to them about is this possibility of something called the Sonrise Program Startup. The Start-Up Course, it’s called the start-up, is a one week course. It takes place on our campus. It’s actually about five days and here is the cool thing. Because we have like a college campus with tons of buildings, we provide all food and all lodgings for free, so we don’t even charge for that. And people can come to our center. Like I said, the normal, let’s say price, if you get zero financial aid is $2,200 including all food and lodging. You come to that program without your child actually, that’s an important thing to realize. You come to that program without your child, you learn all the techniques, and then you can go home or into your school and use it. We do have a program where you do take your child that has about a one year waiting list, but you can put yourself on the waiting list for that too. But the main thing is to think about if you wanted to come to the Sonrise Program Startup. So do that. The last thing I will say too is go to our Facebook page. I post on that page, we have a very active page and they would look up Autism Treatment Center of America on Facebook and connect there.

HR: Okay, that’s great. And what’s the best way for people to buy your book, the Autism Breakthrough.

RK: Okay, Several options. Number one, easiest option. Just go on Amazon. Amazon will have it, it’s doing really well on Amazon. Go on Amazon, type in Autism Breakthrough, it’s going to be the first thing that pops right up. It is sold by Barnes and Nobles. It’s published by major publishers, it’s by St. Martin’s Press. So you’ll probably find it in book stores. You can order directly from us if you want as well.

HR: I want you to keep up the good work Raun, and thank you very much for being on our program today.

RK: Thank you for having me, Hackie, I appreciate it.

HR: We’ve been talking with Raun Kaufman, the author of the book “Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over The World” and the Autism Treatment Center of America and the Sonrise Program.



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