Rapid Prompting Method is an educational method. Because it is an educational method, students can come to RPM at any age and any level. The teacher's job is to teach so that the student can learn and perform.
In RPM we presume intelligence or competence. Some have mistakenly understood this to mean things such as: we believe all students come to us already reading or that students know things that they have never heard about or been exposed to. This is simply not the case. Some students begin RPM knowing their letters. Some students do not. Some students begin RPM knowing how to spell. Some students do not. Some students begin RPM knowing how to read and some do not. Some are geniuses and some are not.
What is believed in RPM, is that students can learn if we teach them, students understand us, what appears on the 'outer shell' doesn't necessarily accurately reflect the intelligence, thoughts, feelings and reasoning capacity the student has within. Students can show they are understanding, display or develop critical thinking abilities if we deliver instruction and present materials in away that is accessible to the unique learning style and sensory needs of our students. I have found this to be the case.
How does a student answer if he or she can't read?
Literacy is embedded in RPM. We start by stating a fact. This is accompanied by writing down and spelling out key words. We present choices by saying and spelling out each option. Once the student picks, he or she is immediately or soon asked to and taught how to spell. At first, letters sounds are said and the student learns phonics and word patterns. Those who are ready to read will sometimes learn quite quickly how to spell or read.
But what about a 1.5 year old or 2 year old or 3 year old, etc?
This is also a good question. A student doesn't need to be able to see in order to respond accurately to questions. A student doesn't need to read to respond accurately to questions. Why? In RPM choices are delivered left to right in the order that they were stated. While the placement of the correct answer will vary, the teacher should always place the choices down in the order she gave the answers verbally/written wise.
For example, if the teacher states. "The plant needs water to grow. What do plants need to grow? Would you say W-I-N-D, 'wind' or W-A-T-E-R, 'water.'?" The word 'wind' would be placed on the left and 'water' would be placed on the right side of the choosing hand. The teacher would NOT place 'water' on the left and 'wind' on the right of the choosing hand, because she said 'wind' first and 'water' second.
For students not looking or not scanning, choices are sometimes tapped or we motor model with the student (take the student's hand and show physically show the placement, then have the student choose--this is different than physical support. Students do not receive physical support in RPM) where the choices are at. This way a students knows where the choices are at via the auditory channel and/or motor memory. They don't need to be able to read, they just need to know the location of the choices.
To demonstrate, I have my 1 year, 11 month old nephew doing a lesson below (Excuse my horse voice, but this video was the best angle I had for you to see :) ). Is he learning to read? Yes, but at this age we are focused on print awareness. I am not concerned about if he is learning to read or ready for it. He may or may not be picking up on the letter name/print connections. Does he understand? Yes. He demonstrates this by choosing.
Not all little children will sit like this. In fact, many will run around. Many will not have the accuracy and control of the eyes that he has. I don't suggest you compare, just realize that even if the very young child is restless, he or she can and is learning. As you implement consistent RPM you'll start to see results.
On another note: Little children need 'hands on' with their environment. For many, getting them to point, point at objects, etc are critical skills that need building. (Please see chapter 1 of "Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method" By Soma Mukhopadhyay)