I promise that we will be back to blogging soon (hopefully Ryan and I will have a post up before the end of the week) but I wanted to share with you an article that I wrote (and Ryan approved) for the quarterly newsletter for the National Autism Association of North Texas. I am very honored to have been published in it.
You can find the newsletter in its entirety here. The article starts on page 8. I have copied the text below. I hope that any parents who are looking into RPM for their child find it helpful.
Eleven Things to Do When Starting Your RPM Journey With Your Child
These days, my absolute favorite thing to talk about is Rapid Prompting Method (RPM).
“The Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) Definition is
• A method used to teach academics, and communication is also learned in the process
• Designed to activate reasoning part of the brain
• Elicits maximum output from a student by giving rapid verbal, auditory, visual, and/or tactile prompts to access the open learning channel
Presumes competence and comprehension at or near age/grade level in most cases.”
An Overview of Rapid Prompting Method
My son Ryan and I began our Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) journey in January of 2014. This has singlehandedly been the best thing that we have done for him and for our family since his autism diagnosis 7 years ago. For this reason, I wanted to share with all of you 11 tips for what you can do to prepare to embark on an RPM journey for your child.
1. Find a Provider.
There are several providers across the country. Your provider does not need to be in your area. You can travel to see Soma in Austin, Texas or there are several certified providers that offer camps in their home location or they can come to you. We have done both and it has been very helpful. I would strongly suggest connecting with a provider before starting RPM on your own with your child. Here are the certified RPM providers and their websites and contact information.
Soma Mukhopadhyay https://www.halo-soma.org
Erika Anderson http://www.acetc.info
Jackie Dorhorst http://rpmplus.sharepoint.com/Pages/default.aspx
Alexandra Hopwood www.unlockingvoices.com
Lenae Crandall http://heedrpm.com
Katie Anawalt email: email@example.com
Joanne Bello email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adriana Barriga email: email@example.com
2. Read the Books.
Read Soma’s red book, Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method and green book Developing Communication for Autism Using Rapid Prompting Method-Guide For Effective Language. Read Ido in Autismland. It will change your perspective and I can guarantee that you will speak to your child differently after reading it.
3. Get Connected.
Become a member of HALO at https://www.halo-soma.org. You can order the books and other materials there. There are many sample lesson plans and other great resources that you will have access to as a member. Join the “Unlocking Voices” group on Facebook. Check out the files section in this group to help you get started and watch the videos in the files section. There is a wealth of knowledge there too.
4. Read and Follow Blogs by Nonspeaking Autistics.
One of the blogs that I love, http://faithhopeloveautism.blogspot.com has an extensive list of blog written by nonspeaking autistics in their resources section. Some of our favorites are http://foxtalkswithletters.blogspot.ca, http://lifewithaboynamedbrayden.blogspot.ca, and of course our blog, http://iaminmyhead.com.
5. Prepare yourself and your child for the amazing change that is going to be taking place.
There is so much that you can do before getting in with a provider or starting on your own. Read to your child. Read age appropriate books, not baby ones. Follow him/her around the house if you have to. Even if he/she closes the book, open it again and continue. Start with 5 minutes a day if it is hard. Put closed captioning on television shows. Put on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and the news (if it is appropriate content). Expose your child to real life events and outings, even if it is hard on both of you. Take him/her to the zoo, museums, parks, restaurants, etc. Explain and talk to your child as much as you can and as normally and age appropriately as you can. While walking outside, talk about what you both see, and while in the car, talk or sing. Play audiobooks on long drives. Do not talk about your child in front of your child. Ryan has spelled on multiple occasions I AM ALWAYS LISTENING. This is especially important when you are speaking to doctors, teachers, and therapists.
6. Prepare an age appropriate academic lesson to do with your child.
As I mentioned previously, the Unlocking Voices group on Facebook has a files section with sample lessons in and Halo-soma.org has lessons available for members. Soma also has an orange book called Curriculum Guide for Autism Using RPM which has many sample lessons in it. In addition to these, I bought grade level curriculum books and then hand wrote all of the lessons to deliver them in a format suitable for RPM. This was more time consuming than the actual lesson itself but I knew that a key component was for me to be prepared as the teacher and to feel confident. Of course it was a learning curve for me too as I had never done this before. I spent a lot of time on the lessons, which early RPM lessons consisted of a general formula of two columns, teaching content on the right and questions on the left side of the paper. I practiced them myself so that I was comfortable with the material and the delivery. I did lessons on phonics (Ryan was in first grade and I had no clue if he knew how to spell or if he knew blends or vowels), science, social studies, math, and I incorporated personal/social stories into the lessons. Whenever we had an event or trip like a vacation, wedding, doctor’s appointment, etc. I created a lesson about it. I still spend time on lessons, but since we have been doing this for almost two years now, I am much more comfortable, and lesson planning is not nearly as intimidating or time consuming as it was in the beginning.
7. Do this everyday, even it it is hard.
When we first started, Ryan and I sat for about 10 minutes every day. It was not a long time, but in those 10 minutes, he learned more than he did all day in school or ABA or speech therapy.
After Ryan’s first local camp with Erika Anderson of ACE RPM, the first two weeks were rough. Ryan would not sit at the table with me for more than 5 minutes. He was only picking the right side for answers. He did not seem to be listening. I had to carry him to the table most days. Because of this, I scheduled a phone consult with Erika where I sent her a video of Ryan and me working together. She gave me some helpful tips and we got back to it. Ryan then started picking only left side answers. I was frustrated. I was not going to give up, but this was not easy at all.
8. Progress is slow but you will get there.
We got better, and we moved from selecting paper answers to selecting paper answers and then mirroring those answers on the set of 3 stencils, A-I, J-R, S-Z. After doing that for a while, I was able to give Ryan verbal choices and he could use the stencils to spell out the answer by poking each letter with a pencil. We then moved to 2 stencils, A-O and P-Z. During this time, I periodically had phone consults with Erika and sent her videos for feedback. While in these stages, it was important for me to give Ryan verbal prompts and air prompts, which are hand motions to get the child to move their arm up or down—no physical touching though— to get to the correct letters as this was a new skill for him. With known answers, we are teaching the children how to get to the right letter to spell it out.
9. Stay in contact with your provider and continue to go to workshops and camps. Find a local community or online community of RPM parents.
I touched on this in #7 and #8, but doing regular Skype sessions and attending camps on a regular basis are vital. I would also note that it was very important to me to have a support system of like-minded parents who could understand our frustrations and struggles and who also understands the small victories. We are in the process of setting up an RPM support group in the DFW area called RPM of North Texas. It is in the beginning stages, but I believe that it will become a very strong one.
10. Remember that RPM is a learning method first and that open communication will come.
I knew that I was setting a foundation for Ryan with our academic lessons. Ryan was only 7 at the time and I really had no clue what he knew and didn’t know. He was being taught and drilled on matching colors, shapes, and letters—not identifying these things—matching them. I was told by the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapists that they were not sure if he knew where his body parts were. He could not follow simple one and two step directions. We did academic lessons for 10 months before I got one open ended, original response from Ryan during a lesson. Patience is key with RPM.
11. Believe in your child and believe in yourself. Presume competence.
I still am in awe that this is our reality. Ryan has been so good about spelling in public now, but many people think that he is an anomaly. Many children around the world are succeeding with RPM. Ryan is extremely smart, but he and I believe that all autistics can do this. The journey won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but it will be worth it. Every child and person deserves a voice, and RPM is the way to give them one.