A Miracle To Believe In – Chapter 11

As we entered the fifth week in our program, Robertito not only permitted more physical contact but initiated play with blocks and puzzles as well as indicated, in a primitive fashion, a desire for tumbling with his father. He still viewed the world from the corners of his eyes. He still hand-flapped, finger-twirled, babbled and paced the room. While I plotted his growth, I knew he felt no rush to learn, no temporal deadline to meet. This child moved through a time zone few of us ever experienced. Even his face displayed an ageless quality. He had all the time in the world, but we didn’t.

“Here, Robertito,” Francisca said, putting the block in his hand, during a late afternoon session with her son. “Put it on top of this one here,” she said, pointing. He watched her hand, then turned away. He rubbed his fingers against the side of his face, bent his head downward and smiled to himself.

“You can do it. Here, Robertito. Put it here.” Slowly, he moved his hand and placed the block on top of the other. Francisca burst into applause and shouts, then lavished him with stroking. She trusted herself more now, giving him another block. Robertito looked at the wood cube and flapped it only for a few seconds. Since the intensive daily massages, his hand “isms” had decreased noticeably. Moving at a snail’s pace, the little boy put the third block on top of the small pile. Francisca dared the procedure again. They continued working together until the tower had grown to the height of eighteen blocks.

After this massive concentration, Robertito jumped in place, flapped his hand and laughed. Francisca mimicked him and also laughed. Later, he ambled over to the radiator, grabbed a drumstick, hit one of the keys on the xylophone. Laura and Suzi had worked weeks with him without results. Now, somewhere in the privacy of his own mind, he plugged a circuit together and made a connection in an act self-motivated and self-directed.

When she finished feeding him dinner, Francisca placed the remaining food behind her. Robertito darted for it. She grabbed for the glass but missed it as her son squeezed a handful of lettuce and tomatoes between his fingers. She removed the food from his tight grip. He threw himself toward the glass again. This time, anticipating his action, she swooped it off the floor and put it outside the room. Robertito Soto began to cry. His face cringed, his larynx wailed a noisy protest … yet his eyes remained oddly passive.

Francisca bit her lip and ground her teeth. Although she had realized that her actions often supported and encouraged his crying, she found it difficult to be loving and neutral at the same time. “If you want to cry, that’s okay,” she said. “When you’re finished, we can play again. I’ll be here.”

She contemplated imitating his cry, but short-circuited the impulse. She repeated a scenario in her head. “He’s trying to get what he wants. If he decides to cry, that’s his choice.” When she touched him, he pulled away, “If you want food, say ‘co.’ Or point your finger like this.” She demonstrated, but her son seemed oblivious to her commentary. “Okay, my love. I’ll be here.”

The screeching bellowed in her ears. She wished for some of her son’s skills, envying his ability to shut off his sensory intake at will. She tapped her fingers together and tried to concentrate on the movement. Then Francisca looked up at her son and gasped. A single tear dripped down Robertito’s cheek, then a second one and a third one until a small river ran along the bridge of his nose and down the sides of his chin. In all the tantrums in Mexico, he always cried a dry cry. She watched her son cry real tears for the very first time. A battle ensued within her. He had to be unhappy. The other times didn’t count. How could she just sit by? He was unhappy, genuinely unhappy and she wanted to comfort him. When she embraced her son, he pulled away and screamed angrily. Disoriented, Francisca propped herself against the wall. “Okay, Mama will wait.” Robertito continued crying real tears for the next forty-five minutes. Finally Francisca scrambled out the door and returned with the food. Robertito stopped immediately upon seeing the glass in his mother’s hand. His smooth, wet face seemed curiously devoid of any expression of sadness.

Before putting him to bed, Francisca decided to give her son a bath. Once completely nude, Robertito pulled away from his mother and ran through the halls. He laughed, giggled and cooed. He touched himself freely, exploring with his fingers. Francisca watched her son, awed and slightly embarrassed by his apparent pleasure. For his entire life, major portions of his body had been unavailable to him, wrapped in the seclusion of diapers and pins. As he became more willing to pause from his “isms” and explore, he found himself in a way that he had never done before. Even as she lowered him into the warm bath, he still smiled enthusiastically, kicking his feet in the water and exploring his hidden parts.

He climbed out of the tub very relaxed. Francisca wiped him as he collapsed into a heap on the floor. She dried his arms and legs carefully, having made an art of the few motherly duties he permitted her to perform. Then, quite suddenly, Robertito sat up, looked at his mother and, in a gesture so natural yet unfamiliar, he rested his head on her lap. Although Francisca was filled with emotion, she didn’t let herself cry as she gently stroked her son’s back.

She had had more concrete opportunities to love her child during the past five weeks than during the previous five years of his life.

Each moment brought a special pleasure to Suzi, nurturing Robertito as she had once nurtured her own son. After she guided him to his chair, he waited impatiently, alert to her movements. He had seen the cereal. A moment before, even as his stomach gurgled, the idea of eating never occurred to him. Most of his pursuits resulted only after something concrete stimulated his eyes or ears.

Food no longer came to Robertito as a disconnected item amid a jungle of noise and activity surrounding him. Food no longer suddenly appeared in a cup or bowl sitting solo on a table. People gave him food. Suzi gave him food. She circled her student like a matador. He turned in his chair, not wanting to lose visual contact with the item she carried. Suzi positioned herself on the floor in front of him so their eyes met on the same level. She dug deep into the cup, filled the spoon, brought it up to a point right between her eyes and said “co” three times. Then, she lowered the spoon into his opened mouth. “The best,” she said each time those big brown eyes met hers. “Yes. It’s me, Suzi. Here you go again. Co. Co. This is co.” He did not flap once. Although he made infant sounds as he chewed, Robertito appeared almost normal to her. She noted sixteen different incidents of eye contact.

For the remainder of the session, his interest waned. He began to rock. She joined him, but he did not appear attentive to her parallel motion. He slid within himself. She had lost him in a matter of minutes. As she followed Robertito across the room, flapping and babbling with him, she couldn’t help but wonder what she had done. Did she miss a cue? Was she pushing too much? Had she been insensitive to his fatigue?

The session lingered with her. She kept thinking about Robertito all through the rest of the day. In the evening, we talked about her questions. But even as she settled back into bed, our little Mexican friend haunted her.

Exhaustion enveloped her quickly as she fell asleep. Within seconds, she experienced herself airborne. The buoyancy allowed her to float to the ceiling. A warm sensation enshrouded her body. When she looked down, she was no longer in our bedroom. She watched Francisca work with Robertito in his room. The little boy followed directions quite well, surprisingly more efficient than her memory of him that afternoon. She loved to watch Francisca teach him, tickle him, caress him. Though she loved to work with Robertito, she knew, from her own past, the special exhilaration for a mother helping her own child. In the midst of completing an unusually complex puzzle, Robertito tapped Francisca’s shoulder and asked for food. He didn’t say “co.” He didn’t say comida. He spoke clearly, using a very simple, short sentence. Suzi gasped. Francisca gave her son a spoonful of shrimp and rice without any particular expression of surprise. Robertito then asked her to massage big hand. “He’s talking,” Suzi screamed, “He’s talking, Francisca. Don’t you know how fantastic this is? Robertito is talking.” She heard her own voice as she jumped up in the bed. Her face felt flushed. “It was real,” she whispered in the darkness as she grabbed my arm and related the dream. She exhaled deeply, then fell back against the pillow.

Suzi remembered Nancy’s dreams about Raun… all of which, ultimately, came true. If it could only be, she murmured to herself as her eyelids closed. If it could only be. Sleep grabbed her and another door opened.

Robertito stood in the kitchen by the sink. Suzi greeted him with surprise.

“Why aren’t you in your room?” she said, then chuckled to herself. Very gently, she took his hand and led him back to the staircase. At the first step, he bolted and ran back into the kitchen. Suzi called to Francisca and Roby. No one answered. She called to Charlotte, then Laura. Still no reply. How could it be possible? Who’s working with him? Then she realized it had been her turn.

“Let’s go, Robertito,” she said in Spanish.

The little boy looked directly at her and said: “I want some food, please.”

Suzi gasped. “Did you talk, Robertito?”

He smiled at her and repeated his sentence. She swung the door open and let him take whatever he wanted. Rather than charge for the food, he removed some bread and butter. Using a knife expertly, he spread the soft creamy substance. “Can I please have some juice?” he said casually. She started to cheer and woke herself up. Suzi stared at the ceiling, confused by the bombardment of dreams. “Wow,” she said to herself as she performed a circular breathing exercise. The darkness enveloped her again.

The noise in the room created a strange cacophony of sound. A group of well-dressed men and women conversed in Spanish. Two guitarists played subdued flamenco music. Five animated teenagers talked together near the couch. One voice sounded familiar. As Suzi side-stepped closer to the cluster of children, she recognized the back of Robertito’s head. She pushed a small table aside in order to improve her view. She gasped when she positively identified him. Words tumbled from his mouth. Although she listened carefully, the sophistication of his language exceeded her knowledge. “He talks better than me,” she mumbled. “Robertito,” she called. He turned toward her, but did not seem to recognize her. “Wait, don’t look away. It’s me. Suzi. You remember. You must remember.” Her eyes burst open. The voices had disappeared. Her pulse thumped in her throat. She rolled out of bed and reviewed each dream. She loved them, but she wanted to stop them. Again, the thought of Nancy. But Raun was different, she argued to herself. Raun had been one and a half. Robertito was almost six. She placed an image of Robertito pacing and flapping before her mind’s eye and then smiled. Suzi did not want to create fantasies which might never be fulfilled. “One day at a time,” she whispered to the night.

Robertito sat by himself against the wall. Though he flapped, he watched Raun out of the corner of his eye. His immediate awareness of Raun’s presence had been enhanced by Raun’s performance. Suzi observed from the side of the room. Under her direction, our son jumped on the mattress, did somersaults and played flamboyantly with the blocks and pegboard.

“Okay, sweet boy, I want you to be with him,” she said. “Do what he does like we showed you.”

Raun grinned from ear to ear. He squatted in front of Robertito enthusiastically and flapped his hands. After several seconds, he laughed. Each time he tried to stop himself, he giggled more. “This is funny,” he whispered, not wanting to insult his companion. The two children moved as one for several minutes. Then Robertito paced the room. Raun followed. Robertito grunted sounds. Raun imitated him.

“Mommy, can I squeeze his cheeks? You think he’d like that?”

“I don’t know, Raunchy,” she answered. “Why don’t we wait till later. Right now, concentrate on being with him.”

As they walked beside one another, Robertito watched Raun’s feet carefully, though he did not look directly at him. From time to time, Raun giggled, excited to participate a second time and thoroughly amused by his friend’s antics.

When the boys sat together in the center of the room, Suzi supplied them with cardboard blocks decorated with cartoons. Raun began building a bridge. Robertito babbled. With a natural ease, Raun repeated the exact sound and cadence. He turned to Suzi. “I’m talking to him in autistic talk.” He thought a moment. “It’s different than Spanish.”

Suzi was amazed at the frequency of Robertito’s smiles during Raun’s sessions with him.

Robertito put his hand over his mouth. Each time Raun mimicked him, he pulled it off. Then he peered at Raun’s hands assembling the blocks. Robertito picked up one cube and turned it around in front of his eyes. Although he had been presented with them many times, for the first time, he noticed the cartoons.

“You see them, don’t you?” Suzi bubbled in Spanish. “That’s Daffy Duck. And Pluto.” She squished her nose, chuckling several oink-oink sounds. “Of course, that’s my friend Porky Pig.” She laughed at the facial contortions on Robertito’s face. “You’re a wonderful boy.”

Then Suzi turned and smiled at our son. She spoke in English. “You’re a wonderful boy, too.” She stared at Raun and remembered vividly when he, too, lived in a world dominated by self-stimulating behaviors … when he, too, was mute and unresponsive. The eyes of both children had a strikingly similar intensity. Although Robertito was large and slightly plump while Raun was petite and delicate, the two shared a certain brotherhood.

As they faced each other, Raun touched Robertito’s cheeks. Suzi guided Robertito’s limp hands along Raun’s face. He allowed the contact, giving Raun several quick glances. Then, on his own initiative, the little boy stroked our son’s face. Raun’s eyes enlarged. “Look. He’s doing it by himself. Isn’t that great?” He also pushed his fingers into Raun’s mouth and played with his tongue.

Later, Suzi invited Francisca to participate. She put the tape recorder on and had Francisca dance with Raun. Robertito watched intently, still relying on his peripheral vision. He began to rock to the rhythm on his own. Suzi took his hands and followed his lead. When the music stopped, Robertito continued his surveillance of Raun and his mother. Suzi asked Francisca to solo. She moved across the room using the loose two-step she had taught her son. He watched her for five minutes and then broke away from the wall in order to approach her. Suzi felt her pulse rate jump. Very slowly, Robertito began the two-step and extended his hands until they touched his mother’s waist. I cheered from the sidelines. Francisca poked her chin out, her every movement oozing with pride. She straightened her hair.

After Francisca left, Suzi continued following the cues of her student as well as trying to stimulate his interest in stringing beads. When Robertito began scratching his pants near his genitals, Suzi whisked him toward the bathroom. We had noticed that he touched himself either just after or when he was about to urinate. After Suzi removed his diapers, she stood him at the toilet bowl.

“Raun. Show Robertito how you go to the bathroom,” she suggested.

Our son giggled, “Hey, look at me, Robertito.”

“Mira, Robertito, mira,” Suzi said, pointing to the stream of liquid. Robertito focused on the point where the stream hit the water rather than at the point of origin. Suzi modeled him in the same position as her son. Robertito looked, down at the water, then made a repetitious sucking sound with his mouth. Suzi waited several minutes before seating him on the toilet. He jumped up several times, but then returned to the seat. Ten more minutes passed. Robertito never utilized the bowl for its intended function. She diapered him again. Before she left the room, she placed his right hand on the faucet. He turned the knob slowly, demonstrating growing strength in his limbs, especially on his right side. The week before, he could not turn it.

Back in the room, Raun leaned over and kissed his young friend. Suzi felt the unstated communion. The energy between them devastated her.

As they left the Soto house, she questioned Raun. “Did you have fun?”

“It was great,” Raun declared, rubbing his stomach as if that had been where he felt it. “He was so good that I thought he was about to talk … you know, in English.” He smiled to himself. “I like rocking with him and dancing. I like everything else, but I like that part the best.”

“Raunchy, were you happy when you were autistic?” Suzi asked.

He thought for a moment. “Yes,” he answered, “but I like it better now.”


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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