A Miracle To Believe In – Chapter 20

During the first day of our return, Suzi and I dashed over to the Soto house excited to see where, if anywhere, our small friend had traveled in our absence. But how do we take someone else into the room with us to watch this little boy and see him as we did that day? How do we tell another person the truth of what we felt without being accused of heartlessness? We did not weep for Robertito Soto as he slammed his chest unrelentingly with a stiffened hand. The little fingers that pinched his skin until welts appeared neither offended nor unnerved us. We watched him spellbound, trying to reconcile the idyllic imagery we retained through the summer and the obvious reality before us. Where were the gentle eyes which stared so studiously at our lips? Where were the soft fingers which scratched our arms in tender displays of affection? The happy, peaceful child had disappeared behind blank eyes and a straight-faced veneer. His alert and blossoming mind had closed down the circuitry; perhaps, in order to facilitate a slide inward. But why?

At the very moments he tried to return to the autistic womb, he kept part of himself available to us. He demonstrated some triumphs of the early summer such as counting, piecing three puzzles simultaneously and playing lotto games; but his actions were mechanical. Even his infrequent use of language had a programmed duality as if he had put himself on automatic pilot in order to free himself to search for the path back. The old “isms” no longer worked. He had come out too far, crossed too many bridges. He needed something more dramatic, more overwhelming. The body contact and the pounding on his chest or chin dazzled the whole constellation of his sensory apparatus more emphatically than mere hand-flapping or finger twirling. He saw it; he felt it; he listened to the thuds.

The literature would damn his actions as self-destructive, as if Robertito’s intent was to hurt or maim himself. No. Not here, not in this instance … perhaps nowhere does a child mean to hurt himself. More vulnerable than ever before, Robertito Soto had to find a more commanding self-stimulating ritual to re-establish his own equilibrium and protective shield. We also noted a dramatic resurgence of toewalking and an emphasis on balancing himself as if he had lost his sense of comfort and grounding in our environment.

Francisca cringed and Roby winced at their son’s behavior. Laura, Carol and the others talked about his sad and disturbing conduct. Somehow, those judgments kept them separate from Robertito. We wanted to bring him closer, to reaffirm our commitment to him, to communicate that all of us still wanted to accept him unconditionally.

“If this is what you want now, Tito, it’s okay with us. Just help us understand why.” He never acknowledged my words or our presence.

After observing for days, we saw that everyone had seemingly continued within the context of our method. The mechanics or techniques had survived the summer. They still imitated most of his “isms” with the exception of those they judged self-injurious. They still cheered his accomplishments, followed his cues and instructed him in a caring manner. But those were details of a skeleton rather than revelations of the heart. Francisca, obviously shaken by his so-called self-destructive behaviors, fed him when he cried and screamed, supporting the very behavior she dreaded. Chella, who exhibited excellent skills as a teacher, followed her mentors guidance and delivered food to her student at the onset of a tantrum. Lisa, though loving and sincere, hardly smiled in her sessions… neither did Robertito. He became most hyperactive with Laura, whose body language reflected her impatience with his sluggishness. Roby’s own confusion with how to extinguish the hitting resulted in his son’s constant drifting and inattentiveness. Carol put him through the paces as he used one hand to stack blocks and the other to pinch himself.

Everyone had clearly set up an invisible barrier which he or she dared not cross. No one followed the cues they assessed as self-abusive or “bad.” Their implicit judgments infiltrated their facial expressions and body movements, ultimately creating a passive resistance which Robertito pushed against. What most people would have ignored and others might have dismissed as subtle became significant points for us to note… for what we did was less consequential than how we did it. In effect, Suzi and I detected beliefs and fears which had fractured the loving and accepting attitude fundamental to our program.

As we gathered for a group session, an undercurrent surfaced. No one looked at Francisca, who dominated the discussions. The discontentment with themselves and this strong, yet frightened, lady eroded the camaraderie of our special family. It became apparent during the summer; their input in the sessions with Robertito had reflected that strain. The private, intimate tensions had seeped into the teaching room. When Robertito responded with sluggishness or crying, they became more unsettled, which, in turn, began to splinter the walls of a safe, loving, accepting and non-judgmental environment. The first emergence of hitting or pinching was met with panic, which further subverted their attitude. Those changes could have sent Robertito scurrying back across the bridges to the safety of his own internal Shangri-La. He had committed himself, in part, to exploring our world and found himself standing precariously with one foot on home plate and the other in the bleachers. Any inclination he might have to disconnect and withdraw to his secluded, autistic cocoon required more energy and perseverance than ever before.

As a result of mini-dialogue sessions, each person became more willing to confront the events of the summer, even in the presence of the others. Their scattered conversations created a telling portrait. I

“The attitude, the whole feeling, makes it work,” Laura said, “so without it during the summer, I just didn’t want to be there any more.”

“I could never have made it through another week,” Francisca shared nervously.

“I know it doesn’t matter what you do, but where you’re coming from,” Lisa said, “and I couldn’t have been coming from a wonderful place when I was uptight all the time about Francisca interrupting my sessions with Robertito.”

“I love that lady so much,” Laura interceded, “but sometimes I wonder if she’ll ever make it for herself, if she’ll ever be able to inspire people.”

“But it’s our fault too,” Carol admitted. “We didn’t talk to her because we wanted to protect her … but if you really want to know, that wasn’t it at all; we weren’t willing to put ourselves on the line and be honest.”

“We trusted you and Suzi more than ourselves,” Roby stated. “We listened to all your suggestions when you left, except the one you said was most important … to trust ourselves.”

“It’s the attitude,” Laura concluded. “I know that so clearly now – clearer than ever before. We had everything in the summer, including the best of intentions … but that wasn’t enough. The one missing ingredient which would have made the difference was individual Option sessions.”

“We never cleared our heads,” Carol said, “and boy, can I see it now. There’s no way we can really help another person until we help ourselves.”

After each person had at least one full session, Suzi and I assembled the group again. This time all the participants shared their discomforts completely, without camouflaging their thoughts or feelings. Carol and Laura apologized to Francisca for their silence. Their fears of giving her honest feed-back had not only perpetuated her behavior, but fueled their own anger and discomfort. Chella took responsibility for her own lack of candidness. Lisa hugged Francisca, who admitted tearfully her own panic and distrust in herself and others when she observed, saying that she wanted the best for Robertito. In exposing her vulnerability to all of us, she took another step toward dealing with her insistence on excellence in herself. Somehow, I knew her new-found strength had been bolstered by our presence. Suzi and I wanted her and Roby to feel free, to no longer need to look back at us for direction and insight. For us, the summer reaffirmed that although these caring and sensitive people understood and used all the techniques we championed, they had little chance of accepting and facilitating the rebirth of another human being without first confronting and accepting themselves.

Our first concentration had to be on re-establishing the attitude and dispelling the most diverting fears. I scheduled multiple sessions with each person, concentrating my initial efforts on Francisca. Suzi observed the teaching sessions with Robertito and gave immediate feed-back, often involving herself in discussions which extended past midnight. An evolution of attitude occurred during the first few days as certain beliefs and judgments were confronted and discarded. Others lingered: “Robertito cried because of hunger,” “tears meant unhappiness,” “only persistent intrusion kept him in contact with us” and “self-destructive was a polite metaphor for suicide. ” Although we wanted either to substantiate or dissolve such ideas directly with Robertito, Suzi and I directed our prime burst of energy toward the teachers. Without their internal harmony, we had no program.

By the middle of the week, we felt we could finally turn our focus toward our little friend. We wanted to recapture a feeling, a mood, a joy which no longer emanated from him. We wanted to do it now before he drifted outside our reach.

Everyone registered surprise when I canceled all the teaching sessions for an entire day. Suzi and I arrived as Robertito awoke. We dressed him and guided him into the playroom. He appeared somewhat irritable, but the crying which Francisca reported as occurring each morning had not yet happened. Robertito paced the room listlessly and banged his chin. As planned, Suzi and I stretched out on the floor at the side of the room and pretended to fall asleep. Occasionally, we snorted and sighed, trying to duplicate typical sounds he might have heard in his parents’ bedroom. Robertito “ismed,” sometimes hand-flapping, sometimes hitting his chest emphatically. The more I observed him, the more convinced I was that what the others identified as self-destructive was an intensified version of a self-stimulating ritual. His eyes had that drugged, almost euphoric, faraway look. When he paused, I saw glimmers of that compelling calm in the spaces between the rituals. A softness enveloped his face, an unearthly luminous quality radiated from his bright eyes. I imagined his brain flooded with alpha waves, lifting him onto a soothing energy plateau which so many masters and meditators seek to reach. I stopped myself from rolling over and hugging him. He continually reinforced the closed-circuit system in which he glided. Hey, Tito, I wanted to shout. My hands trembled as I forced myself to hold my position, denying an impulse to stroke him, to mother him, to provide him with safe quarter in the arms of another human being. Let him go, I counseled myself. Let him be where he feels most comfortable.

Perhaps, in their desperation to maintain contact and a learning process during the summer, Francisca, Roby, Carol and the others had pushed him beyond his tolerable limits. When he turned away, they increased their attempts to foster participation. But was that the only alternative? If we left him alone, here and now, would he, could he come to us? Perhaps he believed he had no choice. Perhaps he had felt the tension of his teachers and perceived himself as being forced.

Suzi recognized Robertito’s frantic attempt to secure his universe. She had seen this happen before in other children we had helped and in her own son. But something was different here. The awesome intensity of this child’s statement seemed to suggest he broke connections in deciding to return to that safe place within. Suzi didn’t want to take that from him or block his path, yet she did not want to lose him. We love you wherever you are, sweet boy, she said silently, trying to cross the expanse of the room to nurture him from a distance. Take your time. You decide. With those words, she confirmed the ultimate acceptance for this child she loved, an acceptance she had learned to lavish on her own son, a willingness to let go and to allow him his choice.

We maintained our bogus sleeping positions for over two hours. He neither cried nor indicated for food. The intensity of his “isms” subsided as if he had become bored with his own rituals. He wandered over to the toys, flapped a puzzle piece, hit the xylophone and turned pages in a large picture book without looking at the content. Then Robertito paced the room over a hundred times before dropping to the floor exhausted. He began to hum. I looked over at Suzi. We smiled at each other, recognizing the tune at the same moment. Despite his withdrawal, his hitting himself and his emotional neutrality, he had taken pieces of our world with him. As he rocked in the sheltered cradle of rhythms and rituals, he hummed “London Bridge’s falling down.”

Another two hours passed. If his stomach didn’t register hunger, mine certainly did. Yet, we still did not see any indication for food. From time to time, he stole a glance at us from the corner of his eyes. I wanted to shout, but squelched my excitement. If, indeed, this tiny gesture represented a connection with us, I did not want to destroy it by bombarding him with any input which might overload his circuits. Despite a leg cramp and growing fatigue, we continued our pretense to be sleeping hulks, as safe, stable and inert as the walls of the room. At one point, Suzi actually dozed, then jerked herself awake.

The morning faded into afternoon, then late afternoon. Perhaps I had overestimated our bond with Robertito. I knew if we had left the room at that moment and stopped the program, it would be as if we had never worked with him. Eyes at half-mast. Rituals abounding. No demonstrative human contact. No real statement of intellect. I felt drained, exhausted, as I lay there immobile, bombarded by one thought after another. I did a breathing exercise to quiet my mind.

In the middle of exhaling noisily, I heard footsteps pass by my head. Through tiny slits, I watched our little friend circle Suzi and me as he twirled his fingers. His eyes fixed on his own hands. Each time he passed, he lowered his head slightly, finally allowing himself to see us through the blur of his moving fingers. “Hola!” almost bubbled from my throat, but I aborted the impulse: He closed the gap between his path and our bodies. Robertito dropped on his knees by my head. Rather than allow him to see through the charade, I closed my eyes completely. Only his breathing kept me in touch with his presence. I heard his hand tap his chin several times, then stop. Suddenly, I couldn’t hear anything. I strained, but nothing penetrated. Was he holding his breath? Had he moved away? Then I felt something so distinct that I held my breath. Little fingers began to pull on my beard. A thumb touched my lips, then withdrew. Seconds later, he pushed his fingers into my mouth and played with my tongue. Welcome home, Robertito Soto. Welcome home.

I remained very still, allowing him to explore my mouth and beard. Then a little boy voice began to sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Suzi’s soft voice joined in. I opened my eyes slowly and encountered those huge, dark brown eyes staring directly at me. My face couldn’t contain my smile. I, too, joined the chorus. “And on his farm he had some ducks, eee-i, eee-i, o.”

He had come to us, crossed the bridge by himself, by his own choice … without coaxing, without coercion. He sat back on Suzi’s legs and smiled at her. She put her hands up and nodded. Robertito tapped her palms. Suzi tapped him back as they began to play “patty-cake” together. When he hit his chin, Suzi hit hers. When he slammed his chest, I slammed mine. My thoughts jumped back to the lecture I gave just before the Sotos came to New York. I remembered his criticism of the psychology chairman and his beliefs about established plans to deal with a child’s behavior, especially those labeled self-destructive. We could not have known what we would see or do until this very moment. We mimicked him with an intensity and fury beyond his own. He stopped and started several times as if testing our willingness to follow. Those behaviors increased, until, after an hour, they, too, subsided markedly. Later, he joined us in verbal imitation games and played with the lotto cards.

When Francisca arrived with his meal, he cried immediately. I asked her to leave, wait outside until he finished, then return without the food. Robertito stared at her hands as she made her second entrance. He screamed and banged his head with his fist, yet his eyes remained curiously peaceful. Again, Francisca left. When the crying decreased, I brought the food into the room again and placed it on a high shelf. Robertito watched me and whined, finally resorting to kicking his feet and crying. An expression of hunger? Signs of unhappiness?

“If you want to cry, that’s okay with us,” Suzi told him. “When you’re finished, let us know,” she said softly in Spanish.

We sat together, faced away from Robertito and waited. He kept his tantrum going for almost half an hour. I heard a cough from the other side of the door, knowing that Francisca remained in the hall listening, wanting to help but also torn by an impulse to charge into the room and feed her son. All she knew was that her son sounded unhappy. His wanting triggered every motherly instinct in her. I wanted to see him through her eyes, but then he fractured my concentration when he stopped crying completely and looked quizzically and peacefully out the window for several minutes. He started sobbing again and, just as abruptly as before, stopped a second time. He rolled on the floor until he came face to face with Angelina, a small, delicate doll Francisca had brought for him. A smile creased his tearstained face. Suzi giggled with delight. Robertito also laughed. Several seconds later, he stood in front of my wife, played with her lapel and very softly said “comida.” I watched her beam while she fed him his meal. He often peered past the spoon held in front of her face and watched her eyes.

We worked with him for the remainder of the day. At times, the contact was intense and concentrated. In other instances, he drifted, withdrawing into himself, gliding on the high of his “isms.” Rather than directly approach him, we stayed passive, letting him initiate moves in our direction. We wanted him to realize his choice and his own power. More hours were spent waiting and yet, in some profound way, that held more of a promise than simply trying to feed him information and teach him skills. We couldn’t heal the damage, connect the circuits; only he could do that.

I had set aside half the day for Francisca. Chella, acting as interpreter, walked between us as we circled the duck pond near the Soto house. Her dark eyes searched our faces as we talked. She enjoyed her responsibility as translator.

“I let everyone down, Bears, didn’t I?” Francisca asked.

“Francisca, you did the best you could,” I said. “Nobody could ask for more. I love you even when you’re crazy.”

She smiled and grabbed my hand. “Perhaps, I am crazy too much of the time.”

“Maybe you got scared, Francisca,” Chella said supportively, sidestepping her role as interpreter.

“I just can’t do it. I can’t!” she shouted, attracting the glances of other people in the park. Embarrassed, she focused her eyes on the ground as she walked. “I can’t,” Francisca whispered. She cradled the front of her body with her long arms as if physically chilled in spite of the hot summer sun.

“You can’t do what?”

“Imitate him when, when he hits … or pinches.”

“Why not?” I asked softly.

“Oh, Bears, you know.”

“Maybe not. Why don’t you try to explain it?”

“My son,” she began, her voice barely audible, “has grown and learned so much in New York. But have I? Maybe I’m still in the same place.” She laughed uncomfortably. “Bears, maybe I’m the hopeless one,” she said, attempting to hide the seriousness she felt by sounding casual.

“Why do you believe that, Francisca?”

“I should have imitated him when he hit himself I watched you and Suzi do it and all the things I was scared about never happened. It didn’t get worse. You see, I knew what to do, but couldn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“The most terrible thing for a child is to be self-destructive. I saw how they treated them in the hospitals … like, like animals. I couldn’t stand that for Robertito.”

“Are you believing that’s going to happen?”

She covered her face with her hands. “Yes, maybe, I guess so.”

“Are you going to put him in an institution?”

“No. Never!” she shouted, angry at my question.

“Why are you angry?” I asked.

She straightened her blouse nervously. “How could you think I would ever do that?”

“I didn’t say that’s what I thought, Francisca. I just asked the question. And now that you’ve reaffirmed the answer, why do you see Robertito being treated like the children in the hospitals?”

“I’m sorry, Bears,” she said, looking surprisingly young and vulnerable. We exchanged smiles. “Nobody would treat him that way. Now I know that, but two minutes ago I didn’t! Do you see? It’s so hard for me to face things when I don’t have the answers. What’s going to happen when we go back to Mexico?”

“Why do you believe you don’t have the answers?”

“Look what happened this summer. I drove everyone crazy. Worst of all, I panicked.” She stopped and stared at the sky.

“And why does that mean you don’t have the answers?” I asked.

“When it counted, Bears, I didn’t,” she declared. “That’s what the summer proved.”

“Is that what it proved?”

She shook her head as if trying to free herself. “No, she said tentatively. “I guess not.” She stared off in silence. “I learned that when I get scared, I don’t know what to do.”

“Okay. And if you got scared this summer, why does that mean you’ll get scared when you return to Mexico?”

“It doesn’t mean that,” she asserted. “Bears, I really missed these sessions.”

“Still feel hopeless?” I asked.

“It really makes a difference when we talk.”

We strolled across a wooden bridge together and continued our dialogue, exploring her feelings of rigidity and stiffness in the face of change. She realized her discomfort germinated from the belief that others knew better than she did. Why did she believe that? That was the premise of her indoctrination and schooling as a child. Did she still believe it now? No, not really. She had watched Suzi and me do everything in the past few days that she had thought to do with her son during the summer, but hadn’t. Francisca always relied on what she considered to be an expert; first the doctors, then us. She had yet to learn that, in some real way, we all share the same knowledge. But now, more than ever before, she recognized she had to focus more on herself to be effective in helping her son.

As we climbed the steps to her house, we hugged each other. Chella looked away politely.

“Hey, get over here,” I said pulling her into our huddle. “Thanks for helping us talk.” She nodded.

“I understand much more after today,” Chella said. “Francisca and the others have been wonderful teachers, even with the confusions, but I wanted to know more about the philosophy behind what we did. Now I’m learning that, too.”

“Chella, have you ever told Francisca you thought she was a wonderful teacher?”

“No,” she replied.

“Maybe that would be a nice thing to share with her,” I said.

She turned to Francisca, smiled and translated the essence of our conversation, telling her that she thought she had been an amazing teacher, that watching her work with her son was one of the most beautiful things she had ever witnessed in her life.

“If I can only give half of what you give to your son to my sister when I go home, I will feel fulfilled,” Chella concluded.

Francisca hid her eyes with her hands as her face flushed. She turned away from us. Being a loving and effective teacher with her son meant everything to her. To hear Chella’s compliment dared her to contemplate what she had always considered beyond her grasp. She wanted desperately to be more open and loving. In an abrupt move, she faced us again, exposing her blood-shot eyes and quivering mouth. She messed her hair purposely and began to laugh, then locked her face into a serious, almost tormented expression.

“I will keep trying,” she said as she clutched my shirt. “Please keep helping me.”

The old exuberance returned as all of the members of our special family confronted their demons and discarded their discomforts. By the end of the second week after our return, our little friend was moving again. The crying had almost totally subsided. The hitting and pinching had completely disappeared. Smiles, hugs of affection, laughter and giggling bubbled from Robertito once again. We reintegrated Raun, Bryn and Thea into the program. They loved to watch Lisa work since she mirrored their childlike relationship with Robertito. Her special gift enriched our perspective on just how different and just how useful each persons unique input could be. She smiled brightly on that last day before she left for college, saying she felt more open now to hold and touch those she loved. She said she had survived the passing difficulties of the summer because she remembered something Raun had once told her when he saw her crying. “Everything happens for a reason.”

For Roby, his growing awareness of the subordinate role he assumed during the summer motivated him to question his own trust in himself. In day-to-day situations with his son, he relied on his wife as if her motherly instinct far exceeded the understanding of his fatherly instinct. He laughed when he finally articulated his belief. “Maybe, Bears, I am prejudiced against myself,” he said with a mock-serious expression. We laughed together. Then I asked him whether a mother was more capable than a father at parenting because of her sex. He grappled with old myths. “If I believe I am not as good, then I won’t be,” he admitted. He delivered his final authoritative statement on male-female roles by making cheese tacos and enchiladas for Suzi and me.

Laura had suppressed her anger toward Francisca and hated herself for it. She faced her inability to take risks and explored her chronic need to be liked by others… almost at any cost. Did she want their affection for what she was or for what they wanted her to be? After several dialogue sessions, she concluded that she had remained silent in order not to risk her relationship with Francisca and yet it had deteriorated as a direct result of that silence. Laura came to understand the harvest of fear. With that revelation, she faced another impulse which she had refused to entertain previously. Her commitment to our program had no fixed termination date. But as we entered the sixth month, Laura wanted to refocus all her attention back to music and concentrate more on her developing career. “How could I leave,” she asked herself, “especially now since you guys returned and it’s fun again?” As she attempted to answer her question, she recognized that she had made herself unhappy and hardened herself emotionally during the summer, all to ensure her exit from the program. Did she have to make the experience unpleasant in order to leave? “No,” she said, “of course not, but why would I leave something that’s good for me?” With that question, she realized she could just “know” to move on, that she now wanted something different or more for herself. Her broad smile confirmed a new decision. She would allow herself to enjoy and love her work fully with Robertito, knowing the time neared for her departure and knowing she could make that decision without using unhappiness to propel her.

Our impending return altered Carol’s entire gestalt for the remaining summer weeks. Nothing had changed but her own sense of relief. Slowly, she acknowledged her control over her feelings by recognizing the judgments she made. He’s getting better … she’s feeling better. He’s getting worse … she’s feeling worse. What did she mean and fear when she labeled him “worse”? Carol uncovered her expectations about progress for Robertito and for herself. As she gave up some of those beliefs, she doubled her participation and volunteered her opinions more easily in group sessions and conferences. She wanted to talk more about her seizures, but hesitated until what she called the more pertinent concerns about the program had been explored. She knew she had to search further but tried, for the moment, to take care of Robertito as a way of taking care of her own superstitions. Each person had to find his own time.

We had not witnessed the initial evolution of Chella, but, within these few weeks, since our return, she became considerably more daring. She expressed her thoughts more authoritatively and became less secretive about her feelings. In her sessions, she dealt with her awe and discomforts with Francisca. Her concerns about her sister, Martha, preyed heavily on her mind. Why? She wanted to help her more now than ever before, especially since she had acquired a vision and technique which she believed held the answer. But Chella wanted to learn more. “I want to be as clear as you and Suzi,” she quipped. I suggested she might want to be as clear as Chella. She smiled. “I’ll remember that.”

Suzi entered the room quietly and watched Carol and Raun work with Robertito. Playing a verbal “Simon Says,” Carol called instructions to her two young friends. Robertito responded accurately, touching his feet, his nose, his hair. Raun struggled with the requests, his knowledge of Spanish still embryonic. When Raun took charge of the session, he pantomimed a “Simon Says” game based on imitation. Both Carol and Robertito became his students.

“Okay, Raunchy,” Suzi said softly, “it’s time to go.” She turned to Robertito and held out her hand. He looked at her for several seconds, then touched her hand.

“By-by, Robertito,” she said. He stared at her, a slight smile curling his lips. Suzi pumped his hand briskly and repeated herself.

“By-by,” he answered finally.

Carol tapped Suzi’s arm. “Who is this, Robertito?’ she asked.

He glanced at Carol, who was sitting on the floor, and leaned his head on her shoulder.

“Sushi,” he mumbled. Everyone applauded. When Suzi put her hand out a second time, Robertito grasped it and said loudly, “By-by, Sushi.”

“He’s so smart, Mommy,” Raun gushed as they exited the room. “You know, autistic doesn’t mean you’re dumb.”

“Nobody’s really dumb,” Suzi explained. “It’s just that some people allow themselves to know more than others.”

“I think that’s what Robertito is doing,” he said. Suzi nodded. “Mommy, can you teach him in English from now on?”

“Why, Raunch?” she asked.

“I don’t like playing ‘Simon Says’ in Spanish … that’s why I always lose.”


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“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