Giant Steps Prologue

stepsGiant Steps: Prologue

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine died while on an operating table. His heart and respiration stopped during a relatively minor procedure. Because of the heroics of a team of surgeons and nurses, he was revived within a short time. In the recovery room, he shared with his family and friends a very strange and wonderful occurrence which he had experienced at the time of his death. His story duplicated, with amazing consistency, other accounts recently documented by researchers and clinicians.

In great detail, he described the sensation of, somehow, being released by his physical nature, as if the essence of what he traditionally called himself floated freely outside of his body. He heard the quick, frenzied instructions exchanged by the medical personnel who participated in the bold attempt to revive him. He felt no panic, but only a quiet, protected movement … like a balloon drifting easily through gentle air currents.

The noise in the room became muffled; individual voices and the clanging of metallic instruments melted into one continuous hum. Then, he felt himself eased downward into a dark tunnel which surrounded him like warm water, soothing and comfortable. His sense of peace was overwhelming. The visual aspects of his travel appeared quite definite, though he did not think of himself as seeing through his eyes. At the end of the tunnel, he encountered an intense yellow-white light. Although he sensed an incredible power and intelligence in the light, he refused to name or label it, becoming slightly embarrassed with the implications of his words

As he bathed in the energy of its glow, he heard a question, not one asked of him verbally, but one which bubbled from within. He felt more receptive at that moment than during any other time in his life. The question was quite simple and direct: Was he happy or unhappy about the life he lived and, whatever his response, why did he feel that way?

Several people in the room became very upset with his story. “My God,” one woman exclaimed, “who would want to be asked such a question when you died? Surely there would be so many things left undone … and what about all the regrets? What a horrible question to be confronted with.”

“No, no,” he assured them in a soft, mellow voice. He had heard this question in a way he had never heard such a question before. The tone felt so loving and accepting. No implied accusation or judgment. He knew, whatever his answer, it would be for his own enrichment … to come to his own truth and understanding. Rather than running away, he found himself welcoming such an awareness. His eyes displayed a comfort defying the skepticism and fears of those in the room.

Whether he had experienced a dream, a fantasy, or, in fact, another kind of journey we all know very little about, I found myself awed and excited by his words – for his experience mirrored in tone and attitude a central aspect of The Option Process, a life-affirming perspective which has helped us dramatically modify and reorder our own lives. It begins with a very simple, loving and non-judgmental dialogue, precipitated by questions similar in content and mood to the one my friend heard.

In our own personal Option journeys, less flamboyant though no less beautiful, we have learned to dispense with most of our discomforts and fears by uncovering and discarding the beliefs which fuel them; beliefs which we have been taught, which we have adopted and which we can change.

From such an exploration, a very special attitude has evolved: “to love is to be happy with,” an accepting and non-judgmental way to embrace who we are … not as the result of any dogma or theory, but simply by viewing, understanding and accepting our feelings and behaviors rather than judging and condemning them. In such a pursuit, we can often observe that all of us, although perhaps tripping and stumbling at times, are doing the very best we can, the very best we know how based on our beliefs. That awareness, joined with the delight of experiencing ourselves as our own experts, can present us with the unique opportunity to redefine and recreate ourselves – a very open-ended and joyful activity.

Living Option and teaching it became a way of life. We witnessed people doing dramatic and wonderful things for themselves in areas they had previously considered difficult or unsolvable. We experienced our own lives as a mellow and easy movement, quite different from the stormy and troubled days before we understood how we operated and how easily we could change.

And then … the birth of our third child, Raun Kaufman, whom others would come to view as a “horrifying,” “hopeless” and “disastrous tragedy.” It was through our encounter with this very special human being that we fully realized that the accepting and loving vision, which had become the cornerstone of our existence, was not only a powerful philosophy and an effective teaching technique, but also a beautiful and special gift of living.

Although this book, basically, will portray the inspiring stories of young people (and, in some cases, their parents) who have used Option to deal with questions frequently confronting young people in such areas as sexuality, self-worth, drugs, discipline, abortion, rape, divorce, a dying parent, I would like to share our experience with our son, as well. His story is very much an Option experience and suggests the endless possibilities which might be present in any situation if we suspended our judgments and moved without fear, trusting ourselves.

Contact Us

Call Me

Or send us a message or question and we will get back to you as soon as we can.



The Option Institute and its teachers have had the honor to present programs (during the last four decades) that explore the attitudes and beliefs we have (and may want to change) and to help program participants find their own answers to questions about relationships, careers, family challenges and health issues. Our new program, Health & Healing: Navigating Life’s Health Challenges (formerly '5 Days to Live') , focuses on navigating significant health challenges and decision-making with greater ease, clarity, and clear purpose.

We are not a medical facility and we do not dispense any medical advice. We have and would always guide our program participants, to consult with their doctors, healthcare providers, and family members in making medical decisions for themselves and those they love. Neither Mass General Hospital nor any member of its medical staff endorses any program being offered by the Option Institute and its teachers.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration



PRE-REQUISITES for attending Advanced Power Dialogues are:

  • Completion of The Option Institute’s PowerDialogues program.
  • If it’s been more than 5 years since you attended PowerDialogues, please call 413-229-2100 to discuss options.

NOTE: Attendance of live sessions via Zoom are required to complete this course.

Please note, this is a per-person registration


Dear Donor,

Jeannie Reid was searching for answers to the challenges she and her family were facing. Jeannie and her husband Stuart’s son, Carson, had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a condition on the Autism spectrum. For Carson that meant being completely involved in obsessive behaviors and only using minimal words to identify objects, as well as frequently and completely melting down.

Soon after, Jeannie found the book, “Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues” and when she read it, she KNEW she had found what she was looking for. She began using some of the Son-Rise techniques described in the book on her own until she was able to come to The Autism Treatment Center of America for the Son-Rise Program Start-Up. As she put into practice what she learned there, Carson’s world was opening up. Today Carson is attending a Montessori school as a 'typical' student and functioning at or above typical grade level, being fully verbal and conversational, and very interested in learning about the world and interacting as much as possible with other people. He is even taking swim lessons at the local YMCA and doing great!

“It has been wonderful to get, and stay connected with other people and Son-Rise parents from all over the world. My son’s progress had already come very far, but now I truly believe we can go all the way!”

Jeannie wrote.

Stuart Reid then attended the Empower Yourself course and brought home a new sense of clarity, balance and personal power. He shared his new empowerment with Jeannie and she in turn gained in confidence, strength and enthusiasm. Their own relationship began to flourish anew, as well. Life-altering changes were happening for Jeannie and her family.

Jeannie journeyed again to Sheffield, this time for the Fearless course at The Option Institute to help her recognize and overcome her personal obstacles. Jeannie wanted to continue her amazing journey as she had found using the techniques she learned in The Son-Rise Program and in Fearless had absolutely changed the lives of everyone in her family.

But, because the Reids’ finances had been seriously stretched by then, their next steps were put on hold. Then an amazing event changed everything. Jeannie’s college roommate and lifelong friend decided to start a Son-Rise Program scholarship fund for people from the Cleveland area. Since then Jeannie has been able to move ahead with her courses, taking Radical Authenticity, Son-Rise Maximum Impact and Son-Rise Wide Awake ... and eventually she became a Certified Group Facilitator.

Jeannie Reid’s story is about wanting BIG and making it happen. She is about to embark on her renewed private practice as an art therapist, and plans to be a super advocate for The Son-Rise Program in her area. Her wonderful new life is a product of her persistence and belief, and of the wheels she helped set in motion for others when her friends learned of how she and her family had been impacted by The Son-Rise Program.

“I know I will be able to give back by helping others, and that will be the top of my personal mountain! Thank you to everyone who donates! You are making a big difference in the world!

Jeannie Reid


Dear Donor

Two years ago, Antonio's kindergarten teacher told us something was not quite right with our little boy. He was not socializing, he somersaulted all the time and hardly spoke at all. At the time I was working for a municipality close to Florence, Italy and basically I had nothing left after seeing to basic necessities.

In the meantime, I looked up Autism with Google and as I was also looking for happiness and personal growth, I was guided to The Option Institute, thence the Autism Treatment Center of America. I read up as much as I could and started trying to apply the “Happiness is a Choice” suggestions. I'm not quite good at it but it has helped me with attitude, and everything else that seemed trying is really different after all this.

When I decided to come for The Son-Rise Program Start-Up, I really had little or no money to pay for it. I spoke to my friends, old and new. My mother helped me, friends I thought couldn't [help] tried their very best and the scholarship did the rest.

What the scholarship did was give a HUGE boost to my fundraising. About six friends contributed the rest, at the travel agency a very kind lady who I may now call a friend helped me some more. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Here I am, happy to have attended the Start-Up program and looking forward to learning more and praying to God for guidance.

So the gist of the matter is, I am a happy mum who hopes to implement a wonderful relationship with her child and is riding a not so easy moment with lots of hope in her heart and THANK YOU is not enough for what I feel. I still remember William's words, “If you do what you've always done, you will get what you've always got.” Now I'm trying to do different, bit by bit, day by day. I feel the difference already.

About Antonio ... we are going on with the Italian program and I play with Antonio after school in a quiet room in the house. Knowing what the little guy is exposed to (he's always putting his fingers in his ears and he seems to have problems with too much light in his eyes), I find him very brave as he bears it tolerably. Drums a lot to digest it all.

When we went to the doctor, just weeks after starting the program at home, she told me that she found him more attentive. His attention span has increased. He is also tagging or pulling at one's arm when looking for attention. The child psychologist last Saturday reported the same thing and what's more, my son has always required that I enter the room, hence assisting in every session. Well, this time he went in along with the doctor and told me, “See you later.”

At school, his teacher who speaks English as well, read up and watched my DVD (Kyle’s Journey, Jade and “I want my little boy back”). Now she's changing, bit by bit and I do appreciate that very much. He seems to be OK with her and actually sent me away from class this morning, again telling me, “See you later.”

He is now ONE HUGE GREENLIGHT and I'm hoping to be able to really have volunteers (still looking), raise funds and settle down to business.

God bless,



Dear Donor,

I am the mother of three children, all on the Autism Spectrum. Before I heard of the Son-Rise Program and the Option Institute, I was a desperate, angry and depressed person…. I was on Anti-depressants, sleeping multiple hours of the day, and for a period of time, using alcohol to run away from my pain.

Then I heard of the Son-Rise Program. I called to find out more about it and thought “this if for me!” But I could not afford it. You see raising one child with Autism is very expensive but raising three is just outrageously expensive with all the therapies and dietary interventions that we were doing.

But I was offered a full scholarship to the SRSU program. I have since attended all of the Son-Rise Programs and many of the Personal Growth programs offered by the Option Institute.  Each time I have been given a scholarship and each time I go I learn more about who I am and I change for the better each and every time.  Because of your most generous support, my children are recovering from Autism, I have found happiness in my life!  I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have so much more energy.

YOU are the reason that my family is in recovery. It is because of YOU that my oldest son now is enjoying school.  YOU are the reason my second son is speaking. YOU are the reason my daughter is no longer as rigid and controlling as she once was.  Thank you does not even begin to cover how much gratitude I have for you.  I thank God every day for you and I do not even know you.

Please know that you are changing lives with your donation to ATCA and the OI.  It is because of you that every day people are getting the help that they need. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

With so much love,

Kerry Rihtar