WHEN you speak to Raun Kaufman he comes across as a slick-talking American: Immediately personable and trustworthy.

His obvious sharp intellect masks a past, that, in true State-side style, was transformed into a television movie - a fact of which he is cringingly embarrassed.

Kaufman was a toddler trapped in a world of his own. He had no interaction with others, no language skills and an IQ of less than 30. He had autism.

His early life led to the eventual conception of the controversial Autism Treatment Center of America, set up by his parents, Barry and Samahria, in 1983.

He explains: "When I was two I was diagnosed as quite severely autistic. I had no language skills and an IQ of below 30. I'd spend my day doing repetitive activities like rocking back and forth, and spinning a plate over and over again for eight hours straight.

"My parents were told by doctors: We're really sorry, but focus on your daughters and start considering putting your son in an institution where he can be cared for.' "It's amazing to think about it, because my future could have been so different. My parents really believed in me when no-one else did."

The unquestioning love of the Kaufman's prompted three year's of intense work with their son, leading to the eradication of his autism.

By the age of five, Raun had been transformed into a normal little boy, who later became an Ivy League graduate.

This parental dedication to a child is the cornerstone of the Son-Rise Program, the treatment which evolved from Kaufman's own care and is now offered by the Autism Treatment Center of America.

Here, it is mothers and fathers who are given the skills needed to help their children.

Kaufman explains: "It's viewed that parents are emotional and over protective and need to step aside for the professionals. But parents have love and dedication for their child that no-one else has, and a bond with their child that no-one else can match.

"We want to empower the people who have the most impact with their children. We focus on giving them the tools to work with their children and we focus on their attitude."

The next step is for parents to learn to love autism, and work with the condition to help their youngster.

This is where many experts have criticised the Son-Rise Program, as parents are expected to join in with their children's repetitive behaviour - something common to most children with autism, and commonly beaten out of them by mainstream treatment.

Kaufman said: "Everyone teaches parents and teachers to stop an autistic child from doing repetitive behaviour. Our treatment is about creating a relationship with the child and we want parents to join in the repetitive behaviour.

"I always get told that's the worse thing we could do, and my parents hear that too. But we've been doing this for 25 years and we've never seen it become a negative thing.

"By joining their repetition, that's when they start to look you in the eyes and interact with you."

Sounds wonderful. But has Kaufman considered the built-in British sense of cynicism? Is his up and coming conference at Oxford's Kassam Stadium just a hard sell to draw desperate parents onto an expensive training course?

He says no.

"I'm totally aware that the British culture is different to the American one. Americans are afraid of government taxes, but the British fear people selling them something. My lecture is free and people can go home and use the tools I've taught them straight away.

"I know children have recovered or made dramatic progress on our course, so I make no apology for believing in it. I've never seen a child that doesn't respond, but there are those who respond more and those that respond less."

To validate his statement of faith, he explains that the work of the Autism Treatment Center of America is currently under the scrutiny of researchers at Lancaster University, who are undertaking a three-year study of their work.

The £1,250 five-day training courses on offer are also being 80 per cent subsidised by Caudwell Children, a UK charity which funds specialist medical help for youngsters.

Kaufman adds: "Two things happen when a parent gets an autism diagnosis. They're told their child is very limited and they should expect a difficult life - their outlook on life is stamped on immediately - and they're not given all the options available to them.

"I really want to give parents other options. If the point was for us to make money, this would not be the way to do it."

For more information about Raun Kaufman's lecture at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday, September 25, and to book a place log-on to www.autismhelp.com/uk.