Many people have heard of the word Autism, but unless they have met a child with autism they probably have little understanding of what it really means. Some believe every individual with autism is like the character from the movie, “Rain Man”. The fact is, if you meet many children who have autism, that’s not what you’ll see. You’ll find out that they all have their own unique different challenges.
Autism is a developmental disability resulting in challenges in language, communication, emotion, cognition, behavior and social interaction. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) March, 2012, indicates autism now affects 1 in 88 children, (1 in 54 boys).
Our son Tulonga happened to be one of them. He was born a healthy and sociable baby but began to decline into social withdrawal in his second year. He stopped talking to us. Stopped looking at us and spent his time running back and forth chanting eerie sounds. He wouldn’t answer when we called his name. He appeared to be deaf and mute.
He was diagnosed with autism in 2006. We were told autism is a neurological disorder with no cure. No hope! No future! Doctors predicted that he would end up in an institution.
We refused to give up hope and searched for answers on the internet and found the Son-Rise Program. The Son-Rise program seemed different from Applied Behavior Analysis, it encouraged joining the children in their self-stimulating behaviors instead of stopping them. In joining the child you create a bond and build a loving relationship.
I decided to join him right away, before I even went to the training. Tulonga used to run back and forth holding a stick in one hand, chanting eerie sounds. I joined him in this activity, after about 5 minutes I thought to myself, “What am I doing? He doesn’t even know that I’m trying to play with him.” So, I stopped. As soon as I stopped my son came up to me, looked me right in the eye and mumbled these words to me, “M-m-mommy paaay,” (meaning mommy play). I was so shocked and excited at the same time. I immediately joined him and that was the beginning of our Son-rise journey.
He responded immediately to the Son-rise method. He developed language, going from speaking less than 20 words to over 1000 words and short sentences. His tantrums disappeared. His understanding improved, enabling him to make connections. He began to initiate play and seek my attention. And has developed and progressed from anti-social, self absorbed and self-stimulating activities to relating to other people, and he continues to expand.
Tulonga which means “teach us the ways of life,” has taught us a lot about life, more than we thought we could ever learn. He has taught us unconditional love, to be in the moment and to appreciate life. He’s taught us that we don’t need a reason to be happy or to laugh. Happiness is a choice. Our son is a gift, a miracle to believe in.
We are still on the journey and we believe that the sky is the limit. It has been encouraging to find a program that believes that my son’s potential is limitless. Tulonga continues to make progress, one step at a time.
For more information on the Son-Rise program please go http://www.autismtreatmentcenter.org. If you are interested in Tulonga’s progress you can visit or like their facebook page called “Our Journey with autism” and find out ways you can help send Anna to complete her training in the Son-Rise Program and send Tulonga to a special intensive Son-Rise program.
Image Credit: Anna Itenge