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 Stateside 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 creation 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'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."

The unquestioning love of the Kaufmans prompted three years 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 is the cornerstone of the Son-Rise Program, which evolved from Kaufman's own care and is now offered by the Autism Treatment Center of America.

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."

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.

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. 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 is his up coming conference at Oxford's Kassam Stadium just a hard sell to draw parents on to an expensive training course? He says no.

"My lecture is free and people can go home and use the tools I've taught them straight away."

The work of the Autism Treatment Center of America is currently under the scrutiny of researchers at Lancaster University and 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.

For more information about Raun Kaufman's lecture at the Kassam Stadium on Monday see www.autismhelp.com/uk