When I was in college I began working one-on-one with a severely autistic young man. The approach used was based on the work of a couple named Barry & Suzi Kaufman. In the mid 70’s they developed an acceptance-based home therapy program for their young autistic son, Raun. They were told Raun would never develop beyond a very simplistic state, that it would be better to institutionalize him and focus on parenting their other children. They also saw that therapy programs designed for autistic children were based on behavior modification, something they did not like. What would a program look like that accepted autistic children for who they were, that didn’t try to change their behavior, that guided those working with the children to move toward them in action instead of the other way around?
Trusting their parental instincts, they developed a program for Raun that answered these questions. They engaged him with constant love and enthusiasm, and without the NEED that he change any part of himself. Not that they didn’t want to see changes in him, but they recognized these are their wants, not necessarily his. He ultimately emerged from his autistic state and went on to be what is most easily communicated as “normal.” Today Raun is the director of Autism Treatment Center of America. You can read more about him at this link. His father wrote a book called “Son-Rise” that details their story.
I’m sharing this as intended “inspiration” because it was during my time in college, specifically in reflecting on the Kaufman approach to treating their son, that much of my way of looking at the world was made clear to me. The Kaufmans created a perspective that worked for them in response to what most people see as a tragedy. They simply chose not to see it that way, but as an opportunity instead. And in choosing to see it as an opportunity, they were free to embrace it with excitement and joy.
Link to Book: “My Grandfather’s Blessings”