Although similar in a sense to Intensive Interaction, Floor Time and R.D.I. Son-Rise has several distinct features.
Parents are expected to be extremely involved with their child’s therapy, and to recruit family and friends as volunteers to take on hours of therapy each week.
Parent-therapists attend intensive programs in Sheffield, Mass., where they learn to be positive about their child’s “limitless potential;”.
Therapy for a child with autism begins with having parent-therapists imitate the actions of the child without encouraging different (more typical) behaviours: “We join, rather than stop, a child’s repetitive, exclusive and ritualistic behaviours. Doing so builds rapport and connection, the platform for all future education and development.”.
Parents are encouraged to create a special room for their child with autism, where that child stays put while others come to interact with him:
“We show you how to create an optimal learning environment so that distractions are eliminated and interactions are facilitated.”
To summarize, Son-Rise is specifically a parent-directed therapy, which requires a low-stimulus, distraction free playroom environment said to help a child feel in control of over-stimulation. Similarly to Intensive Interaction, parents model the child’s exclusive or ‘stimming’ behaviours until the child shows social cues for willing engagement. The intervention works on the premise that by encouraging eye-contact and interaction the child will teach themselves how to interact with others, claiming this ‘choice’ to learn will aid them in social interaction.
Parents are trained on their attitudes toward their child, as these attitudes are fundamental to Son-Rise, which aims to build relationships and trust by ‘joining’ children on their exclusive behaviours. Unfortunately due to the lack of reliable sources I feel unequipped to provide a breakdown of Son-Rise, its aims, results and techniques.
Son-Rise therapy receives notable criticisms regarding the lack of rigorous research, which would establish Son-Rise as evidence based practice, similar to A.B.A. (which prides itself on evidence based practice.) Critics claim Son-Rise excludes the outside world so that children only learn to cope in an artificial environment (distraction-free playroom). This is where I appreciate ABA’s emphasis on teaching skills in an artificial environment and then generalizing to more natural environment.
Although valuable for certain children, imitation as a teaching strategy may not work for every child, it may even cause distress. Critics refer to Son-Rise teaching techniques as over simplified one-size fits all, which as we all know is implausible. Similarly the 3 E’s (Energy, enthusiasm and excitement) may also be overwhelming for a child, the focus on eye contact is also disputed and seems to be an example of people imposing what eye contact means to a non-autistic person. Not only may children with autism not see any correlation between eye contact and attention but also eye contact for individuals with autism may cause unpleasant sensations.
Highlighted by the conflicting claims of autism interventions, and the spectrum of the condition it is a clear there is no ‘one size fits all’. If so we would not experience such contrasting beliefs and we would also understand why certain interventions work well for some individuals with autism and not others.
The Association for Science in Autism Treatment wrote an open letter to Son-Rise regarding their ‘hard-sell approach’. Interestingly, the ‘Options Programme (of which Son-Rise is a division) was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority, on the grounds of false advertisement. Son-Rise often refers to autism as ‘curable’ much to the dispute of medical research, which categorizes autism as a life-long disorder. This explains why Research Autism, a UK organization stated ‘Because of the lack of scientific evidence in the Son-Rise programme, we are currently unable to recommend its use”[i]. Criticisms of Son-Rise could be contemplated much further however it is not my intention for this series to discredit interventions, but instead to make accessible accurate information on a number of autism interventions and their characteristics. In doing so I hope I assist you in identifying the methods that best compliment your child. For further criticisms of Son-Rise please see this article from Research Autism. http://www.asatonline.org/media_watches/41
It is apparent Son-Rise requires large scale, high quality research to support this intervention, as currently the lack of scientific evidence does not prove nor disprove the effectiveness of Son-Rise. Longitudinal studies should be conducted, examining Son-Rise students over their development.
There are many conflicting arguments between Son-Rise and ABA, often being referred to as polar opposites. Interesting I came across ‘Growing Minds’, an alternative to the Son-Rise programme. Intended for parents interested in the positive attitudinal and social features of Son-Rise program while wanting to combine with evidence-based methods that have proven effective for helping children with autism.
In no way am I yet advocating this particular intervention, instead crediting the concept of combining strong elements from numerous interventions, which I believe to be an encouraging one. As it currently stands, one intervention is incapable of catering for every child on the autistic spectrum, instead “While others argue over what approach or philosophy is best, we take the best of what has been discovered about autism and put it to work, one child at a time” [ii]. As they are not tied to a particular philosophical perspective they are free to draw the best methods presently available to your child.
Sounds promising right?
I intend to write a separate post on ‘Growing Minds’ within this series, exploring it further.