For more than a year, friends have encouraged me to try something for Dar called Rapid Prompting Method. It’s a technique for communication that involves intense coupling while Dar tries to talk – if he gets it wrong, you just keep at him. You might say, yeah, why not just try it? Well, I’m considerably oversimplifying it. To use it effectively, you have to study a book/manual and take classes and learn the RPM board and a few other things.
Proponents of RPM – and I’m part of the closed Facebook group – say that it succeeded where all else failed, particularly for severe cases like my son, where experts had concluded that the child would never speak. People in my position, of course, are accustomed to hearing and dismissing “miracle cure” offers, but this is supposed to be The One.
Actually, I like the idea. But until recently, I didn’t feel Dar could handle the program. There was a time when Dar pushed away his iPad. There was a time when Dar tantrumed every time he was asked to do the tiniest bit of work. Now those things are better. They could be better still, but now I can at least imagine sitting at a RPM board with Dar for 30 minutes and correcting and correcting him without him having a complete meltdown.
However, as I was saying, one does not simply walk into Mordor begin RPM. They won’t even let you take the first class unless you can prove you’ve read the book by the founder of RPM, Soma Mukhopadhyay. This book has been sitting next to my laptop on my desk for six months now. It taunts me. There’s always so much else to do, especially when you’re writing/making two books for two publishers at the same time.
But I read Soma sometimes. I am plowing through her book. And today I am putting this out here just as a public prodding to myself. This needs to happen. I need to make time for it. Dar needs it.
Dar’s vocabulary is certainly increasing without it, but assuming he wouldn’t hate me too much, this could help.
Must. Do. This.
I’ll just quote p. 83 of the required book now:
“One cannot simply wait and hope that a miracle cure or intervention may appear one day for persons with autism. Something can be done now. Other disability advocates, such as those for the blind and deaf, have focused energy and resources on educating, improving, and integrating the lives of persons affected. The autism community must also find practical solutions NOW.” (her bold and capitals)
“I am grateful to the families who have trusted me to try my solution with their children. The exposure to and experience of working with so many different types of students has been crucial to the evolution of my teaching method. These families could have waited for scientific validation of my method, yet they understood the importance of educating their children now. There may be debate over whether the chicken or the egg should come first. The truth is, no one’s biological age can be suspended while research is completed. When it comes to one’s learning and education, waiting for tomorrow may very well mean wasting a person’s life. I have seen billboards with the message: ‘A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE.'” (caps hers)
“…Soma RPM is a teaching method tailored to each student’s open learning channels. It empowers the learner with the best possible means to express his or her thoughts, understanding, learning and reasoning. This learning process uses academic teaching to develop receptive and expressive language skills, improve attention, memory, retrieval, and motor functions. Soma ROM teaches students using:
– both an empirical (through the senses) and rational (through reasoning) teaching approach.
– choices, spelling, writing and speaking to communicate.
– the senses (open learning channels) for better understanding and application of information.
“‘Best possible means’ reveals my beliefs and bias toward something that I developed from personal experience, despite criticism and skepticism. When I say ‘best possible means,’ I imagine that some eyebrows will raise. I don’t intend to insult advocates of other methods, or to suggest that Soma RPM is the only intervention that can help a person with autism. But in the long run, some approaches are more effective than others, because they are more efficient, ambitious, and successful. By pursuing the path of best success, each tomorrow looks a little different and better than today.
“Persons with autism, as discussed previously, have trouble integrating their sensory experiences, which leads to an alternative development of the working mind. As a result, typical social interaction does not take place and it may appear as if the autistic persons are incapable of forming cogent thoughts or ideas, incorporating learning, understanding and reasoning. If they can’t express their ideas in the usual way, it’s assumed that nothing is happening in their minds at all. Through Soma RPM, a person with autism is empowered with education in all fields: science, mathematics, literature, social sciences and so on, so that their fragmented environmental experience becomes more complete.
“For example, if a person experiences an electric fan, he or she can draw upon information already learned about fans and apply reasoning with appropriate encoding, which leads to correct expectancies. This allows for the integration of learning about the dangers of electricity and moving parts so that he or she can determine to stay away from it, rather than to act on the impulsive instinct to touch the fan. Or, a person might encode, from the experience of being educated about animal behaviors, what to expect from a dog and what a dog expects from a human. This may help a person with autism deal with fears or discomfort in certain environments.
“Taking it a step further, teaching a student with autism about history or current events leads to a greater understanding of what he or she hears in others’ conversations or on the television and radio. This results in a greater understanding of the course of human events, which makes the world a more interesting place and the individual a more well-rounded, interesting person. I maintain that greater understanding also leads to a diminishment of excitable behaviors, because the frustration of being underestimated and misunderstood is reduced.” (bold hers)
Let’s find out together.