Son Rise: The Miracle Continuesby Barry Neil Kaufman
In 1979, the classic best-seller Son-Rise was made into an award-winning NBC television special, which has been viewed by 300 million people worldwide. Now, Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues presents an expanded and updated journal of Barry and Samahria Kaufman's successful effort to reach their once "unreachable" autistic child. Part one documents Raun
In 1979, the classic best-seller Son-Rise was made into an award-winning NBC television special, which has been viewed by 300 million people worldwide. Now, Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues presents an expanded and updated journal of Barry and Samahria Kaufman's successful effort to reach their once "unreachable" autistic child. Part one documents Raun Kaufman's astonishing development from a lifeless, autistic, retarded child into a highly verbal, lovable youngster with no traces of his former condition. Part two details Raun's extraordinary progress from the age of four into young adulthood. Part three shares moving accounts of five families that successfully used the Son-Rise Program to reach their own special children. An awe-inspiring reminder that love moves mountains. A must for any parent, teacher or student of personal growth.
- Kramer, H. J., Inc.
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The Miracle Continues
By Barry Neil Kaufman
H J Kramer and New World LibraryCopyright © 1994 Barry Neil Kaufman
All rights reserved.
Birth of a Miracle
His little hands hold the plate delicately as his eyes survey its smooth perimeter. His mouth curls in delight. He is setting the stage. This is his moment, as was the last and each before. This is the beginning of his entry into the solitude that has become his world. Slowly, with a masterful hand, he places the edge of the plate on the floor, sets his body in a comfortable and balanced position, and snaps his wrist with great expertise. The plate begins to spin with dazzling perfection. It revolves on itself as if set into motion by some exacting machine. And it was.
This is not an isolated act, not a mere aspect of some childhood fantasy. It is a conscious and delicately skilled activity performed by a very little boy for a very great and expectant audience – himself.
As the plate moves swiftly, spinning hypnotically on its edge, the little boy bends over it and stares squarely into its motion. Homage to himself, to the plate. For a moment, the boy's body betrays a just perceptible motion similar to the plate's. For a moment, the little boy and his spinning creation become one. His eyes sparkle. He swoons in the playland that is himself. Alive. Alive.
Raun Kahlil – a little man occupying the edge of the universe.
Before this time, this very moment, we had always been in awe of Raun, our notably special child. We sometimes referred to him as "brain-blessed." He had always seemed to be riding the high of his own happiness. Highly evolved. Seldom did he cry or utter tones of discomfort. In almost every way, his contentment and solitude seemed to suggest a profound inner peace. He was a seventeen-month-old Buddha contemplating another dimension.
A little boy set adrift on the circulation of his own system. Encapsulated behind an invisible but seemingly impenetrable wall. Soon he would be labeled. A tragedy. Unreachable. Bizarre. Statistically, he would fall into a category reserved for all those we see as hopeless ... unapproachable ... irreversible. For us the question: Could we kiss the ground that others had cursed?
* * *
The beginning. Only a year and five months ago. It was 5:15 in the afternoon, a time when leaving New York City for home is like trying to pass through mechanized quicksand. Outside, the rush of metal monsters and the scattered hustle of fast-walking, blank-faced people pushed toward their daily release. The rush-hour climax had spilled into the streets, marking the last ejaculation of energy to be spent in the day.
I sat quietly in my office eight floors above Sixth Avenue, exploring ideas and images as I searched for the essential theme of yet another film – now one by Federico Fellini, yesterday one by Ingmar Bergman, last week a Dustin Hoffman film, last month another in the James Bond series. We viewed ourselves as members of a think tank whose mandate was to extract the heart of someone's cinematic statement and design a marketing campaign to reach a targeted audience.
It always began in a darkened theater. Sometimes, at the request of a client, I would sit with four or five members of my staff in the midst of five thousand empty seats at Radio City Music Hall and preview a film in the early morning hours. At other times, we would sit in a private screening room filled with cast members, producers, the director and the writer, as well as executives from the motion picture company involved. I would try to catalog each unfolding scene. I felt like a detective, looking to freeze-frame the heart and soul of a story, hoping a compelling concept or image would emerge, which we would then re-form into concrete marketing tools for that particular movie. I loved the cinema and, oftentimes, felt honored to work on some of the projects we had been assigned.
On this particular afternoon reams of crumpled sketch-pad paper decorated the top of my desk and spilled out of a cavernous wastepaper basket onto the floor. They represented hundreds of rejected ideas that had come to life only fleetingly as a doodle on a white sheet of paper. I kept at it, pushing myself over and over again to search through the nooks and crannies of my mind. For me, the endeavor was at once challenging and totally absorbing. I felt high on the freedom to originate and create. Turning the words. Hypothesizing the pictures and graphics. And, then in the end, mothering their execution in photography, film, sculpture, or illustration. My office had become the birthplace of the favored ideas that survived as well as the graveyard for all the marketing concepts that fell before the commercial firing squads of my clients and bled to death on the floors of smoke-filled conference rooms.
As I finished contemplating the solution to yet another project, I prepared myself internally for the evening commute – my daily hustle through the crowds of humanity that I would encounter in the street. Wanting to energize myself with a more attractive scenario, I refocused my attention, now thinking of my wife, Sa-mahria (who in those days was called Suzi), whose warm embrace would be a welcome and soothing nightcap to my day. I thought of my daughter Bryn, a seven-year-old young lady who did Chap-linesque routines on the kitchen table at the drop of a hat. I envisioned my daughter Thea, whose dark probing eyes and tiny three-year-old form embodied the presence of a little mystic. And then, as always, there would be crazy Sasha and majestic Riquette, two big, bold, bearlike 130-pound Belgian herding dogs who would pounce on me as soon as I entered the front door. Friends suggested laughingly that these animals bore an uncanny resemblance to me.
Suddenly, the piercing ring of the telephone crashed through my veil of concentration. The buzzer rang – for me.
"Now ... it just started, and already the contractions are only four minutes apart. I'll get someone to watch the girls and somebody else to take me to the hospital. Are you okay? Don't get upset. Just take your time. I'll wait for you. Everything will be okay.... The nurses are trained, and they'll help me until you get there."
Samahria seemed so in control. Waves of excitement heaved through my body. At the same time, I could feel my abdominal muscles tightening. Not now, Jesus, not now during the rush hour. As I flew down the stairs, I chuckled at the irony. We had prepared for this moment with months of practice. Every week, we attended classes together. Unlike the birth of our other children, this would be a joint project, a birth for both Samahria and me. We had learned the Lamaze method. We had become a team, using patterns of breathing and other support techniques to facilitate a birth mirrored in nature. No drugs. No painkillers. No stainless steel instruments probing and prodding. We were both graduates of an elaborate training program that enabled me to assist and support Samahria from the beginning of labor through the actual delivery. This was the coaching job of my life. I was to be an essential part of this most beautiful process. But first I had to get there ... to be with her.
The panic set in quickly. I would never make it through the maze of traffic in time. I wanted desperately to support her, to love her, and to consummate this creation as we had planned. The stop-start motion of the car made me feel nauseated. Memories of all our practice sessions and Samahria's excited smiles for the birth we would do together flashed by in a slow-motion montage. Move it! Move it faster! My pulse pounded in my head as if to help the forward motion of my vehicle. Push it! Will it! Wish the traffic away. I talked to God and the universe. Clear the way! Please, clear the way. I imagined Samahria all alone in some cold and drafty tiled room ... counting and breathing to her own echoes. I knew she would try to hold on and make it through until I arrived. How could all the practice and patience be robbed from us by some arbitrary quirk of circumstances? Impossible! I would not let it be.
The racing of my mind seemed to outpace the speed of the car. For Samahria, this was not just the birth of our third child. It was the culmination of a dream – to share this experience with me and to have me as an integral part of our family's unfolding. Also, this opened the possibility of having a son. She had conspired with her doctor, and both apparently agreed that certain physiological signs indicated this baby would most likely be a boy – our first son. The girls had filled our lives with a new loving and softness. For me, a boy would be an unexpected gift. But for Samahria, the emotional investment was different. She loved the girls with an abiding intensity, but she had always wanted at least one male child. And now she felt sure such specialness was about to enter her life.
My hands began to stick to the steering wheel. One hour had elapsed, snapped from us in what felt like an instant. I turned my car to the right, jumped the curb beside the highway, and catapulted the vehicle onto the grass. Then I pressed down on the accelerator. The car bounced over the curbs by the entrance and exit ramps. Endless patterns of stilled automobiles whizzed by in my peripheral vision. I felt like a twilight phantom moving through the spaces between molecules, pushing down on the accelerator and then pushing down on it even more.
I had to be there. I knew that I was more than just a significant member of the cast: I was the only one left to her. Samahria's father was consumed by a second marriage, a new family of young children, and a growing business. Four years ago her mother had died at the age of forty-six while developing the fruits of her second marriage. Her sister remained on the other side of a wall. Like Samahria, she, too, had had to endure the lonely years of a childhood immersed in confusion and divorce. The pain of that separation had splashed up against both of them.
But Samahria had also reached for the love and the joy, vowing that she would create a relationship and family far different from the one she had known. However, the disharmony and anger surrounding her left her scared and unsure of herself. At night, alone and lonely in her room, she would talk to God. Her prayers became elaborate conversations with what she described later as a dear and ever-present friend. That relationship enabled her to endure those troubling years. As a teenager, she tried to rebuild her confidence, challenging herself to be more daring and more comfortable. A personal stretch of gigantic proportions occurred when she auditioned and was accepted into the famed High School of Performing Arts in New York City. But even as she traveled alone on the subways for hours to attend classes at this school and was asked to demonstrate her abilities in classrooms and on the stage each day, she could never quite shake the shadow of self-doubt.
Samahria spent years trying to repair what felt like damage within. Her goal had been to reconstruct herself and find new alternatives. But it had been a difficult and inconsistent journey for her in her time as it had been for me in mine. Now most of these events were just memories, clouded in the frosted lens of another era. With each other, we had found new reasons to be.
Finally the wheels of the car slammed over a six-inch cement abutment and landed squarely on the driveway entering the hospital grounds. I stopped haphazardly in the parking lot, getting as close to the entrance of the building as I could, then literally bolted from my vehicle. My legs could not carry me as fast as I wanted to go. I sprinted up the lawn, jumped up the steps three at a time, and burst through the entranceway, making a mad dash for an opened elevator. Once the doors reopened on the maternity ward, I jumped off at a full run down the hallway. People scattered out of my way, not so much because they sensed my urgency, but for their own survival. This was a tight-quartered version of a football scrimmage. My six-foot-two frame carried its 220 pounds easily as I charged forcefully through the interior of this public building.
The entire experience began to feel like sliding through a time warp. I felt like a metaphysical quarterback reincarnated as a grizzly bear with my thick, wild hair flying behind me as my bearded face bounded up and down to the rhythm of the loping movement. Samahria and my daughters had blessed me with the nickname of The Big Bear, their lyrical and affectionate interpretation of my appearance and size. But eventually this I.D. gave way to the name Bear. Then, deciding the singular was not enough, Samahria started calling me Bears, a name that stuck and became the way family and friends addressed me. So there I was, big, a bit furry, and probably a bit foolish while still on my mad, comic-book surge, dodging doctors, nurses, and visitors as I glided over the polished floor.
Then I heard someone calling my name. The sounds bounced off the floor and walls. In the distance, a nurse frantically waved me on as if she were cheering a long shot in the race at Aqueduct. And for me, it was the last couple of yards, the finish line for the long-distance runner.
No time now. Undress in the hallway. Our child was about to be born. I had just made it.
"Is she okay?"
"She's doing just fine."
Now another nurse was assisting, helping me remove my jacket and slip into the sanitized white garb. The first nurse pulled a face mask out of its plastic wrapping and tied it around my head.
Samahria had in some way decided to wait for me and not to abandon natural childbirth by taking the needle and drifting away. If need be, I knew she would have done it alone. I felt enormously grateful to be there.
There were screams from the other labor rooms I passed – the symphony of emotions seemingly out of control. I walked, almost on tiptoe, into a quiet cubicle, finally arriving at Samahria's side. The nurse put my wife's hand into mine. She was in the midst of a contraction. Her stomach arched upward into a tall mound while her lips puckered. She rapidly pushed air in and out of her lungs in short, shallow beats. Intense. Quiet. A beautiful pantomime.
At first she didn't look at me, but I knew that she knew I was there. She pressed her hand tightly into mine as I kissed her lightly; then both of us started counting out loud. The corners of her mouth wrinkled in a slight smile.
The doctor came by, measured the dilation of her cervix, and nodded. The time had come to move down the corridor to the delivery room. I kept my focus always on Samahria, counting, pacing, and encouraging her through each contraction – even as they wheeled her through the hallway. We arrived at our final destination quickly. The white tiled walls glistening under the bright lights. A table, filled with surgical instruments, waited nearby, just in case.
Between each contraction, I wiped the sweat from Samahria's face with a damp, cool washcloth. Her smiles came easily now, but she seemed tired.
"You are doing super," I whispered. "And you look enormously attractive in the process."
We both laughed.
"I am so, so glad you're here. I kept holding back. But, Bears, if you didn't make it, I was going to deliver as we planned. No medication. Everything natural for this baby. Really, I had decided." Samahria stopped talking abruptly as the next contraction began. I counted and modeled the appropriate pattern of inhaling and exhaling for her. She winked at me, then pushed her head back and became completely absorbed in the breathing that would help her through the pain. The upward thrust of her abdominal area became more intense than either of us had imagined, but we both stayed with it. Even the doctor seemed to be riding the high of the moment, humming some vaguely familiar romantic Italian tune that he might have heard in his childhood.
We all watched with awe as the top of the baby's head began to appear. It seemed much larger than the opening through which it would exit.
The nurses now moved quickly into different positions. Everyone prepared for the next unfolding event, very contemporary and very theatrical.
Episiotomy. The teacher in the natural childbirth class had never clearly mentioned that – the cutting. As I watched the physician cut the skin with a quick, professional movement and as the blood began to seep out of both sides of the open wound, the room danced before my eyes. Everything around me started to swirl. My focus blurred. The image of myself became fractured and began to crumble. Someone grabbed me as I fell forward and led me from the room. The nurse smiled and told me that "it happens all the time." But it didn't matter. I could not miss it now. I tucked some smelling salts under my face mask and sneaked back in. Everyone smiled, welcoming my return. Samahria seemed so intense, so very much in control. She giggled as I moved to her side and then was quickly lost in the next contraction.
Excerpted from Son-Rise by Barry Neil Kaufman. Copyright © 1994 Barry Neil Kaufman. Excerpted by permission of H J Kramer and New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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This book is life-changing - simple philosophies, but important and transformative. Actually, I think it would be helpful to anyone who wants to be a better person to any child in their life. It's a story about acceptance, unconditional love and most importantly - attitude. For anyone not typically sentimental, it may be sappy at times; however, stay with it and be open to the power of the message. For anyone not sure, take a chance and read it. A must read, especially for anyone with an autistic or special needs child in their life. Pure Heaven.
I bought this book recently from Barnes & Noble for a relative of mine in India whose son suffers from mild autism. I ordered for the book online just 2 days prior to my India-visit. Although I did not opt for 24-hr delivery (by paying extra), I did call the customer-service of B&N and merely requested them to try to send it asap. And I must say that I was mighty pleased when the book actually arrived in my mail-box by next evening, 12 hrs before I boarded the flight to India. The smile on my relative's face was really worth all the effort! I thank B&N for their extremely efficient -service.