• Autism affects 535,000
    people in Britain and it is
    estimated that one in 86
    schoolchildren is a
  • Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them
  • The degree of disability caused by autism varies across a spectrum. Some with classic autism have learning and speech problems, while others with Asperger's syndrome (which is on the autism
    spectrum) can have above-average intelligence and work independently
  • The exact cause of autism Is unknown but research suggests genetic factors are important
  • There is no known cure for autism and some medical experts have expressed concerns about Son-Rise owing to the lack of rigorous scientific evaluation it has undergone. The National Autistic Society stresses that the outcome of any approach will vary greatly from individual to individual
    will depend on a variety of factors

    For information on autism, visit The National Autistic Society at or Tel 0845 070 4004.

Best behaviour: The Cuthberts (clockwise from left): Dave, Gill, Mark and Laura can look forward to a bright future In November 2002, Gill Cuthbert, 39, and her husband, Dave, 35, were devastated when their daughter Laura, then three, was diagnosed as autistic. They were given hope the following January after learning about the Son-Rise programme- a treatment system that claims to have 'cured' thousands of autistic children. They decided to put Laura through it and the results have been astounding. However, the cost, both financially and emotionally, has been high. Here, Gill tells her story.

When Laura started on the programme, not long after her third birthday, she could speak only four words and didn't understand what they meant. She would throw awful tantrums that lasted hours. She'd hit me, pull her hair out and even throw furniture. We couldn't get her to put clothes on. And she wouldn't use the toilet. Now, 18 months later, she doesn't throw tantrums. She knows thousands of words, can structure sentences, knows basic maths, dresses herself and is toilet-trained. It's amazing - her behaviour and social skills are at the same level, if not beyond, other children her age. You can no longer tell she's autistic. And it's all down to the Son-Rise programme. When we first heard about it, we'd almost lost hope. The medical professionals said nothing could be done and gave us a vision of Laura's future involving special schools and care homes.

A vision of the future

But the people from Son-Rise offered something else. They showed us examples of once autistic people who have become fully functional adults and said if we followed their programme, Laura could do the same. So we decided to do it, despite the cost and the dramatic change in lifestyle it demanded. We had to do a number of courses - both here and in the US - that taught us how to implement the programme and altogether cost nearly £10,000. I had to give up a well-paid job as a salesperson and we had to build a special room in the house for Laura. This room is the key to the programme - it is where the treatment takes place and where Laura still spends around seven hours a day. She loves it there now but, in the early months, she would do anything to get out. For the first 12 weeks she had to be locked in against her will. She would scream and shout for hours on end and even try to crawl out under the door. It seemed cruel and we found it really hard at first. Others did, too, and we lost half our friends and family as a result. My brother-in- law said we were bad parents, and Laura's godmother wouldn't, and still doesn't, answer my calls. Laura was never locked up on her own, though; Son-Rise is all about one-to-one contact and either myself, Dave, one of my other children (Matthew, nine, and Mark, eight) or a volunteer were, and still are, always in the room with her. But it can seem like a form of isolation. The room was bare. You put in a mirror at the start and eventually build it up with toys and books but, initially, you must remove potential distractions. If the room has a window, a blind must be drawn - an autistic child can be engrossed for hours watching a branch blowing in the breeze. We were trying to get Laura excited by people, not things, and took every opportunity to interact on her level. Once she'd stopped throwing a tantrum and started doing something, regardless of how repetitive or ritualistic it was, we'd join in. If she was licking the mirror, we'd lick the mirror. If she was drawing zigzags on paper, we'd draw zigzags on paper. Obviously, we wouldn't join in if she started doing something completely anti-social but we wouldn't shout at her for doing it, either. We'd just say: 'We don't do that,' and wait for her to do something else.

One-to-one contact is integral
Making a connection

After three months, we started to get eye contact from Laura. We'd made a connection, opened a doorway into her world from where we were able to draw her into ours and teach her all the behavioural and social skills she now has.
We'll soon be sending Laura to a mainstream school and are full of hope for her future. The past 18 months have been incredible. It hasn't been easy and there has been a cost but for us it has been more than worth it.

A series of lectures are taking place across Britain from Sep 16 to Oct 2 offering further information and advice on the Son-Rise programme and other new autism treatments. To find your nearest lecture and to book seats, Visit


Media and Arts

Picture:MMP Cambridge [Metro Sep17,2006]
It's an elementary case of vandalism
BRITAIN'S smartest graffiti vandal has got academics - if no one else - admiring his handiwork. The vandal has spray-painted a perfect diagram of a chemical compound found in DNA outside a Cambridge laboratory, where the mysteries of its composition were unravelled half-a-century ago. Over the top, the artist has written the name of an enzyme, 'phospholipase'. It is thought to be the work of a chemistry student, perhaps staggering home after a night celebrating exam success. Cambridge University chemistry lecturer Dr Jonathan Goodman said: 'The graffiti is of a molecule called guanine. There is a picture of the molecule on the chemistry department web page. It is one of the structures, or bases, which make up DNA - one of the four which Watson and Crick realised could fit together to form DNA in 1953.' Prof Alan Dawson, from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, added: 'It is a really nice bit of standard first or second-year biochemistry - but what it is doing on a Cambridge road is a bit of a mystery. However, officially at least, Cambridge University was less impressed. A spokeswoman said: 'We certainly don't want students spraying graffiti on roads. It is not something we condone