Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

By Philip

I am excited for 2016. I want it to be the best year yet. I am making an emancipation of my nonverbal friends my goal. Making communication readily available to my friends is really important. I aim to educate people about autism and RPM (Rapid Prompting Method). I want to day to day meet people to show how I communicate. I am hoping to day to day make a difference in a person’s life. Mainly I am very interested in making a better world for my autistic friends. I very much want to help my autistic friends succeed. 

In my own life, I would like to meet new goals meaningfully. I want to speak more with my mouth and writing my thoughts with more people through RPM. I want to be more independent. I want to be less affected by anxiety. I want to learn to ice skate. I want to go to math class with my neurotypical classmates. I want to day to day be more able to make myself more adaptable in the world. 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Philip's Interview by Bella

Philip has friends all over the world who are like him and communicate in alternative methods such as RPM.  The internet has been a wonderful place for these kids to connect because they can see they are not alone and can socialize without the pressure of real-time back and forth exchanges which can be difficult when every word has to be typed out.  Philip corresponds with friends in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Australia.  One of his best friends is Bella who lives in Australia.  She also communicates with RPM and has a Facebook page called Bella’s Walk.  She is working on a project and asked Philip a few questions.  They both agreed his answers could be shared in the blog.      

Bella:  Remember when you were not communicating with RPM? How was it like for you?

Philip:  Before RPM I was made to feel like a wild animal. I was fearful all the time. I talked with God constantly.  He loves me and He has protected me from a lot of my fears. Peace was always hidden before I could communicate. I was making worst-case scenarios in my mind. I thought anyone could abuse me because I could not defend myself. I am always caring to talk to people to tell them at least realize we have feelings too. I was treated like a pet that needed to be house trained. I am no longer there. I am free.

Bella:  What kept you, my friend?

Philip:  What kept me going was God always being with me. I felt His presence everyday. I knew someday I would have a voice because an angel told me I would. I only knew it would happen but not when. I am peaceful that God kept His word. When I met Soma, I knew it was my best chance so far to leave my silent prison. Meaning for my life came about. I care to make the most of it. God knows me like no one else. I am most grateful for His grace.

Bella:  What words are really the most descriptive of your personality?

Philip: Words that describe me best are caring, meaningful, and freeman. I am caring to my friends and people who want to learn from me. I am meaningful because I am created with purpose by God. Freeman I am because I can communicate now.

Bella:  My last question is, can you tell me of your rescue?

Philip:  My rescue from silence came from God leading my mom to find out about RPM. She never gave up on me. She pushed me enough to make a way out for my words. Making a way to communicate then lead to a way to be a part of the world.  Making a difference in the world feels great.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Talking Is Hard

By Philip

Talking is very very very hard for me. Most of the time I am meaning to talk aloud to answer a question of me or make small talk. I am talking in my head all the time. People who talk have no idea how hard it is to not be able to talk. I am able to communicate now with typing my thoughts. Lavishing a lot of love to RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) I am grateful for a way to show my intelligence to the world.

Talking is hard because a lot of things make it practically impossible for me to communicate what I really want through speech. I am unable to make my mouth move accurately enough to make properly sounded out words. I cannot enunciate the ends of my words. The most difficult thing is making my thoughts loose from my mind. I am peaceful practicing my words in my mind. But for my mind to make free my good words I must make my thoughts spell words to get them out and make sense to others. Typing is easier because I can point more accurately than coordinate my mouth and tongue.

My anxiety can also affect my communication. I get nervous if I look people in the eyes. Most of the time I avoid eye contact with people who I don't know well. If I feel comfortable with you I can look you in the eyes. I feel powerless to feel or think when I am overwhelmed with anxiety. I am peaceful around familiar people I have come to trust. 

I write words in my mind so they don't disappear. Typing my thoughts makes it meaningful to the world. I am better at writing than speaking. Saying a word is like catching a fish I think. I cast my line into a sea of words. I hope to get the right one but I often retrieve the wrong one. I am making maps of words to fish for. For example I may have my go-to words for eating. I am making food words to retrieve. I can say salad and get it. Maybe I would like a banana instead but since my mouth knows how to retrieve salad better, that's the word I say in place of banana.

I am practicing talking among my classmates. I mean to relax more around them. My classmates talk so fast. I am so slow. People have to wait for me to type. I am popular but it is hard to make good friends without talking. I am hoping to be more able to talk some day.

Copyright 2015 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.

Monday, December 14, 2015

About RPM

By Lisa

It has been an exciting week having Philip's essay published in The Buffalo News and subsequently picked up by The Mighty and Yahoo News.  We have received so much love and positive feedback, a few skeptical comments (and that's ok), and lots of questions.  Today, I'd like to give you my overview of what RPM is.

The essays Philip has written in this blog were typed letter by letter on a keyboard and saved onto a tablet computer.  Earlier essays were spelled on a letterboard and transcribed by me, his mom, into a notebook.  Philip was unable to express his thoughts until our family learned Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) from Soma Mukhopadhyay.  Prior to RPM, Philip had many therapies and interventions standard to autism:  Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech therapy, occupational therapy, alternative medicine, Relationship Development Intervention, and special education.  Although he gained something from each thing he tried, it wasn’t until we used RPM that Philip could express what he was really thinking and feeling in ways most others could understand.  It finally bridged the communication gap between Philip and us. 

RPM was developed by Soma Mukhopadhyay, (affectionately called “Soma” by people who have come to know her) to teach her own autistic son Tito in India.  In India there were not the many therapy options I have had in the United States. According to Soma, when she asked the doctor what she should do for her son after receiving the autism diagnosis, the doctor replied, “Keep him busy.”  So Soma took him at his word and made the most of her time figuring out her son and coming up with a way to teach and reach her son.  After spending some time with Soma through organizing workshops in my area and then training with her in Austin, I have come to the conclusion that she is one of the smartest people I have ever known.  Her observations about how Tito interacted with his environment through the different senses, as well as her understanding of his movement differences, helped her come up with the practice of what is now known as RPM.  When Tito was 12, he wrote his first book.  From then on, mother and son were to be recognized and sought out for understanding autism and how to harness the hidden potential from autistic people who could not communicate in a conventional manner.

So what is RPM?   RPM is a teaching method that addresses the difficulties in sensory processing and executive functioning that often accompany autism and other disabilities.  An RPM session consists of an age appropriate lesson such as a lesson in science or social studies that a typical developing child might take at school.  The lesson is given in a way that stimulates the senses to focus on what is being taught.  Interesting lessons are told in engaging ways, like a story, rather than in a monotonous droning way.  Key words or illustrations are written on paper in front of the student to stimulate visual learning.  The student is asked to respond in a back and forth manner to demonstrate understanding of the material.  The student responds first by making choices between two written answers.  Eventually the student learns to spell on a letter stencil, flat letterboard, or keyboard.  Prompting is often necessary to keep the student focused, initiate movement toward the letterboard, and encourage the completion of the task.  Contrary to what might be thought, physical prompts are not used to help lead a child to an answer.  You won’t see hand-over-hand contact in RPM.  The teacher treats the student respectfully by believing he is capable of learning at an age appropriate level and using regular conversation that is not reduced to commands and praise for compliance.  The combination of knowledge through a broad education, reasoning skills from interactive learning, and respectful treatment through presuming intelligence and competence in the learner, provides a springboard to meaningful communication of original thoughts and feelings. 

What is RPM not?  RPM is not a cure for autism.  Its goal is not to make a person lose his autistic qualities.  Rather, the goal is to work in cooperation with the autistic neurology with its stims, alternate sensory patterns, and movement differences to accommodate regular learning and communication.  Ironically, the results of RPM have helped Philip alleviate the most distressing aspects of his autism.  Over the 3 years of doing RPM, Philip’s self-injury diminished to where he has not banged his head in over a year.  Philip finally completed toilet training.  The boy who could not tolerate going to loud places like an auditorium or trying new activities is now fully immersed in going to concerts, sports events, and theater, and getting involved in biking, ice skating, and soccer.  He is also able to be included in mainstream learning and activities.  RPM is not an easy miracle.  Because the child cannot help himself in the beginning, success is really dependent on the child’s primary caregiver, often a parent, being committed to spending time learning how to implement RPM, making good lessons, and practicing regularly with the child.  Gains come only with consistency and hard work.

We will be forever grateful to Soma and Tito for sharing RPM with the world.  We would not be where we are today without them.

To find out more about RPM, visit HALO's website.  You can also view videos showing Philip's progress so far using RPM.

Meeting Soma for the first time- October 2012


Monday, December 7, 2015


I am more at peace lately. Peace in my life is letting go of my worries and making God center of my life. Making autism center is not helpful. Man should never be the center. Perfect wisdom comes from God alone. Peace comes from really teaching me about God. My mom reads me the Bible everyday. I learn that God is at work teaching people about His great love. He loves us without ceasing. I am peaceful knowing God accepts me no matter what. Mom accepts me like God does. She loves me as I am right now. This is why I can start to feel my anxiety fade away.

I make more daring decisions now. I used to be afraid of almost everything. I feared a beach with its crashing waves and many people. Now I love playing in the sand and sea. I used to have meltdowns in a noisy auditorium. I feared I would make a terrible scene. Making a scene was a bigger fear than the actual noise.

I have developed some calming strategies. One is to pray. Handing over my worries to God really helps. Wanting to please my teachers has made me not behave as badly as in the past. Naturally I am unable to control my movements and stims well. But now I am able to be in control a little more. I am more able to be calmer in new situations. I am not so fearful of making mistakes. I know I will still be loved by God and by those who see me not as a bad boy but as the real me and still accepts me. I am more courageous. I am facing fears of failure by day to day understanding I will be ok even if I fail. God always loves me.

Philip learning to skate at SABAH

Copyright 2015 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.