While being a parent is always challenging, having children with behavioral disorders can make it even more difficult. Autism is especially trying because it creates a huge gulf in communication between parents and their children. When the kids act out, the parents are seemingly unable to get them under control again. They’re unable to understand what they’re going through and, even worse, they sometimes wonder if their children actually feel love for them at all.
This was the case for the Montague family living in Kent in the United Kingdom. Parents Mark and Annie were told many times that their twins Samuel and Jacob were beyond help and would benefit from being institutionalized. Fortunately, Mark and Annie’s love and determined led to an incredible turnaround.
Samuel and Jacob were diagnosed with autism when they were only two-and-a-quarter years old. They showed very little emotion or natural expressions of affection towards their parents from a very young age. As they got older, their behavior got worse and worse. They would often throw their food, break things and sometimes try to run away from home. To protect their children, Annie and Mark built tall fences around their house to keep the twins safe inside. Still, the parents were understandably finding it very difficult to find ways to cope.
After some time, the parents decided to try out an experimental treatment method called the Son-Rise program, itself developed by parents who had a child with severe autism. The method tries to understand autism primarily as a social disorder and recognizes the difficulty that people with autism have in connecting with other people. Unlike other programs that try to change problematic behaviors, the Son-Rise program has therapists join in on the behaviors as a way to normalize them.
After working with the therapists for a little while, Mark and Annie say they’ve seen incredible results. As Jacob and Samuel became more comfortable, the therapists were gradually able to touch and interact with the kids more and more. Eventually, they were able to build up to direct eye contact.
For the parents, these results were nothing short of life-changing. After employing some of these techniques themselves, Mark and Annie say they boys began changing their behavior. By copying their children, the children started copying them in return which built a deeper connection between them. All of this led to more interaction, verbal communication, cuddling, hugs, and kisses. The family says they’ve never been happier.
Stories like these are incredible because they challenge what we think we know about the world around us. Autism is a widely misunderstood disorder, one that often leads to those struggling with it being unfairly dismissed or disregarded. By believing in their boys, Marc and Annie were able to make a change that resulted in all of them being happier and better connected, all while setting example for other parents around the world. As it turns out, a little love can go a long way.
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