The following was written by Em, who is the mother of 7 year old Filbert. She especially wanted to share her story to illustrate how RPM has helped her son intentionally communicate what he is really thinking, despite having the ability to speak. As you will read, this is a case where speech does not reliably convey the real meaning of what Filbert wants to say. This illustrates why communication must be prioritized before speech.
My 7 year old son is such a trooper. Day in and day out he does his best to function in a body that betrays his mind. Despite autism intensely impacting his life, from the outside he seems to be happy, kind and caring. I have done many things to help his body be as healthy as possible and numerous therapies to also aid in his other challenges. For the last 3 years, my main focus has been speech. He has moved from a few sentences, to plenty of sentences which include lots of adjectives. However, he is not conversational. I decided to change directions after a chat with a friend. I began researching Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) developed by Soma Mukhopadhyay. She developed RPM believing she could educate her son, Tito, regardless of professional opinions. The more I read and researched, the more excited I became. Initially, I thought that RPM was strictly for what some consider "preverbal" children (I strongly dislike all the labeling). Then I stumbled on a YouTube video of a child like my son. Watching him spell on the letterboard raised many questions. Could Filbert do that? Was what Filbert saying always functional? My paradigm began to crack.
Up until my first experience with Filbert doing RPM, I assumed all his speech was functional (unless he said the same thing over and over which was a verbal stim). Among his first few RPM lessons was when it struck me; his mouth was less than 10% accurate, but his pointing to the answers was 100% accurate.
Once I began to let that crack become a crater, my heart sank and I cried for joy. I felt foolish I had missed this and, on the other hand, relieved that now with RPM he could spell his thoughts. I could finally have the opportunity to know my son -- his favorite color, food, etc. Things that many parents take for granted.
We had Lenae Crandall from www.heedrpm.com come to our home and teach us in our environment to work with Filbert. He bonded so well with her and was able to at times spell several sentences.
He spelled the following with Lenae:
NO MOM IS AS GOOD AS MINE. LOVE MOM SO MUCH. NO MOM IS LIKE HER. ONE HAS NO MORE MOMS THAT IS SO COOL. NO ONE IS OLD IN THE VERY HEALING WAY. THE MOM IS NOT MEAN, THIS IS TRYING TO DO JESUS. MY ONE MOM, LOUD TODAY IS MY VOICE. THANK YOU.
There are no words to describe the compliment and joy of watching him and reading his words. Of all the things he could have spelled in that moment he selflessly chose to express his love for me. It's overwhelming to know his mind is perfectly fine; he is just in a dysfunctional body.
This has lead to our team learning RPM. Now we can daily teach him academics and over time he can master the letterboard with each of us and share his life with our family and all those he loves.
Since working with Lenae we have been full steam ahead teaching him Science, Social Studies, English and Math. He is at or above grade level in all areas. His fluency on the letter board improves daily.
Here are some other things he has shared with us:
What would you find exhilarating? CHURCH
What does Easter mean? JESUS SITS WITH FATHER
What does autism mean to you? SAME BARE. WE WEAK. EYE SEE NUN FEEL DEEP (he sees himself as deep but others don't see it)
When asked to share with other parents about RPM for their children he spelled: WE NEED A FUN EDUCATION. FEEL ME PLAN. MEET JESUS. TEEM VOICE.
What bothers you? WAVY HAIR (lol, time for a haircut, I had no idea)
If you have a child with any kind of limited speech, I beg you to explore RPM and get to know your child. " MY ONE MOM, LOUD TODAY IS MY VOICE. THANK YOU.”
Filbert was diagnosed with severe autism around age 3. He is verbal in relation to his wants and needs, but his personality and intelligence are now evident through RPM. He loves math (especially challenging algebra) and poetry. He is interested in animals and loves visiting the zoo. He is passionate about loving others and learning. He is excited for other children who are verbal to learn RPM and share their deep feelings also.
Em is Filbert’s mom. She heads up Team Filbert and blogs about their journey at www.takesatown.com. She is forever grateful to a good friend for sharing RPM with them.