Today I had an amazing talk with Philip about his own impressions of the RPM-Autism Workshop this past week. His perceptions fill me with awe and wonder.
Lisa (Me): I think it is really important to stop and reflect on things that have made a big impact on our lives like this past week when Soma came. It was amazing that she got to help a lot of kids and their families. What were your impressions of the autism workshop?
Philip: I AM THANKFUL TO SOMA FOR ALL SHE HAS DONE. IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME. SHE IS SAYING WE CAN DO TONS OF UNDERSTANDING AND TONS OF SEEING THINGS OPEN MINDED.
L: Do you have anything else you want to say?
P: ENTER OUR MINDS NOW. EXAMINE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND YOU WILL REST.
L: What do you mean by “enter our minds now”?
P: DO NOT LISTEN TO EXPERTS.
L: You mean we should learn about autism from autistic people?
P: Y (for yes)
L: What do you mean by saying “examine your expectations and you will rest?”
P: I MEAN TO EXAMINE HIS MAIN LENT.
L: What’s a main lent?
P: A TIME TO WAIT ON GOD.
L: Anything else you want to say?
P: TO UNDERSTAND A LOT YOU HAVE TO DEVELOP THE QUIET NATURE OF KIDS.
L: All kids?
P: AUTISTIC KIDS
L: How so?
P: EDUCATE YOURSELVES. ENTER IN SILENCE.
Philip has given me a lot to think about. In his silence he has obviously pondered a great deal about God, his life, and the world. Even Philip’s use of words shows a very careful selection and play on words such as his riddle a few weeks back about Lot being “an entertainer” in the Bible. The riddle stumped everyone until he explained that Lot entertained angels. Philip’s use of the word Lent now conjures up the season of waiting and fasting before Easter when life is resurrected new. For all of the kids who came to the workshop this past week, their lives were resurrected. During one of Soma’s tea breaks where she would field questions, one woman asked at what age should kids start RPM. Soma answered that she did not typically take students in her clinic until they were at least 7, though you could start RPM anytime. She explained that most parents are not serious until kids are older because they prioritize other traditional therapies before RPM when kids are younger. The students she gets often come to her as a “last resort.” They are the ones who do not respond to traditional ABA, speech, and biomedical treatments. They are often the lowest functioning children who cannot communicate by speech. Soma takes all students no matter how aggressive or old they are. In fact her heart is most drawn to the forgotten adults who often are institutionalized. She has started a program for adult autistics in the New York City area.
This week the 7 kids who came to Soma’s workshop were essentially all non-verbal and were previously seen by most people as having the intellect of someone at a preschool level. Their ages ranged from 9-27. Some had other issues on top of autism, such as Down’s Syndrome. All would have been considered “low-functioning” on the spectrum. They were in effect seeing Soma because nothing else worked.
During the 3 days, the lives of these kids, as well as their families, were resurrected after many long years of waiting and fleeting hope. We found out these kids could be spoken to like regular kids. They could learn and respond to a lesson fit for their age. They are funny, creative, smart, and have real concerns and emotions. We found out Kaylie could tell funny stories because she “WANTS TO MAKE YOU SMILE.” Sawyer, a teenager, wants to wear white stripes for Christmas. He is also scared of growing up. Elijah wants to get his mother a watch for Christmas. Jeffrey could spell anything and even speak the letters clearly as he points. He wants to travel to Argentina someday.
Their parents, often with tears in their eyes, would say they never knew what was in their child. They saw their children in a whole new light for the first time. One said it was like giving birth to her child all over again.
Later in the day I had this conversation with Philip.
L: Philip, what is your impression of Soma?
P: SHE IS REALLY SMART- TIED WITH ME. ( I’m thinking this kid has some confidence or swagger)
SHE IS A NICE PERSON. SHE IS REALLY MADE OF STEEL.
L: What do you mean by ‘she is made of steel?’
L: Anything else?
P: SHE SEES ME AS INTERESTING. SEES ME AS SEEING THE THINGS THAT MATTER ABOUT AUTISM.
L: What do you mean by that?
P: I AM TOTALLY EDUCATED ABOUT AUTISM AND ENT (ENT stands for Ears, Nose, Throat which is his Dad’s profession. When I questioned ‘ENT?” he added “I AM JOKING.”). I AM INTERESTED IN WRITING ABOUT MY LIFE STORY.
After dinner at Linguini's- wish Philip would have been smiling!