Communication and Education: RPM is for Verbal Students 2 and Other assistance for Understanding and Helping RPM Students--Part 2
In our last post we discussed literacy and it's connection to RPM. You can read about that here. In this post we will discuss an issue that many ask me: "Why can't he just spell on an iPad?" or "My child can talk. Does my child need RPM?" "Oh, he can spell and handwrite already, does he need RPM?" On the flip side, "My child can't even read or identify his letters, can he do or is he ready for RPM?" The answer to all these questions is yes. But let's look at this closer.
Here Matteo and I show you that yes, he can say some words but that doesn't mean those words express his full thoughts or are even communication. Now before I go on, there are students that are more verbal than Matteo that need RPM. They are very tricky because they are socially verbal on a regular basis. They will comment and talk to you in full sentences, but you start doing academics, you diversify topics and you will find an incorrect, concrete/literal answer, over simplistic answer or silents that meets your ears.
RPM is not for students who independently live, hold back and forth conversation including in an academic subject or any subject, hold a job, basically are just quirky but otherwise function "normally" and stuff like that. Soma discusses this in her book about Verbal Students. You can purchase that book here or here.
This video I ask him a question like "What do you think of summer?" Then I wait for a verbal response...then I have him type his response (just in case he can get more out), then handwrite (just in case he gets more out). After that I have him spell on the stencil his thoughts. (Matteo is easily able to use a laminated letter board to spell on but I use the stencil for all these activities so that you can see him pointing.)
As you can see, motor wise he is good to handwrite and type even with some correct form on the keyboard. He can give me one word responses some better than others. For "what is your favorite color and why?" he was able to give me a coherent answer "red...because it's red" verbally but to answer why he spelled on the letter board and you received a better response for why he likes red. However he stuck to red, he didn't correct his verbal response, so yahoo!--some of his verbal does match up with what he means.
He is able to spell out his thoughts on the stencil and not the others because on the stencil his aim is purposeful and intentional...it is in control. The other modalities are not...yet.
Notice I did not continue the discussion on each question. The point of this was to show you that without the letter board there is NO discussion beyond basic basic information some of which is not reliable.
Now you still may be saying, "yeah! but why do you use the stencil? Why don't you put it down on the table? Why does he need you to hold that thing?!!!!"
The next post will help you see more of the reasons when we discuss generalizing (yes there are a number of post to come..., but still working that out.) but here are some answers for now:
1-the typing or the handwriting is in selective purposeful, instinctual or rote pathways. They are not in communication pathways. I can position the board best for his eyes and for the movement of his hand...I am not talking about moving the board around so he can get letters to influence his responses--as you can see I don't do that. It is held perfectly still except for human inability to hold something without any shake. I am talking about a real fact that even individuals who don't know about RPM sometimes adhere to and instinctively know...have you ever seen teachers or speech therapist hold up the yes/no switch or pictures to choose from even when there was a desk there or a lap to place that all on? Why didn't they place it down? because instinctively they without thinking, they held it up because they could bring the student engagement and response better. Otherwise it is just an object sitting there and depending on how the student encodes it will depend on what happens to it. When you hold an object you can help get the attention of the student to encode it correctly.
Also few are scare of holding up pictures for students to select from or for basic wants. People only get scared if a child actually can self generate thoughts and something is held up.
If you want to know more about mental mapping/ encoding you can read chapter 8 of "Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method" by Soma Mukhopadhyay. You can purchase that book here or here.
2-Related are the prompts to get the focus...merely holding a board up doesn't bring this kind of communication. That will be discussed in the next post when we talk about generalizing. I am not discussing these prompts here, but they can be seen in many RPM videos. You can attend Soma's training or consult with RPM teachers outside this blog post, read and watch videos for that.
3-So why not prop the letter board or keyboard in the right position? because at first that can change very slightly or a lot when the student moves his eyes, hands etc. You also can easily remove the letter board and bring it back in front of the student in rhythm to gain the focus of the student. The rhythm is critical. Remember People with autism are autistic. While fully human they have an alternate sensory system that requires a different formula for output and learning than you and I need. We would use an iPad or handwriting at the main tool if it was the most effective formula, but we haven't found that to be the case...Soma is looking for the perfect way to help kids and RPM is a work in progress.
4-Essentially the letter board, choices, stencils, etc are training tools. It was never intended that students stay on the letter board or stencil FOREVER. The goals is that they no longer exist in the student's life eventually but that they have them for as long as it teaches them purposeful movement and communication. The use of the letter board has to do with the neurology of RPM. This can be studied throughout Soma's books.
5-For some the keyboard or iPad require such precision that it is not practical to start there for motor reasons as an additional reason. The light of a screen can also be difficult for some students.
6-My own thought is the board is the connection for communication to happen. When I am talking to someone. If that person "blanks out" or stops listening I lose my train of thought. Why? That is an interesting question isn't it. Why do you need them to look at you or show you attending behavior OR even to actually be attending if they are showing attending behavior but not attending...the flow of thought it broken. Communication takes a connection between humans beings. I don't think science can really show what is going on there but all of us can attest to this fact.
Back to the video. Notice his responses. Rapid Prompting Method is an EDUCATIONAL METHOD. That is critical to understand. We educate to bring communication. If you don't educate first the communicate is less substantial or goes in loops usually. This is the case for many of us too. If I had given him an age appropriate lesson about Summer you would have seen more thought and detail than what he expressed. If I would have talked about careers and ambitions you would have seen a more detailed response if he felt he wanted to tell me that. If I would have taught a lesson first on colors and their influence on us then his response would also have had more detail. That is why in RPM we have four goals EDUCATION, COMMUNICATION, TOLERANCE, and SKILL goals because it brings out optimal success and performance.
Notice I asked him about future events, opinions and about things he had exposure too. I didn't ask him to recount past summers or events. I merely had him use his experience to express the present and the future. You can understand more about what is appropriate discussion in RPM in chapter 8 of "Developing Communication in Autism through Rapid Prompting Method: Guide for Effective Communication" by Soma Mukhopadhyay here or here.
Now here is an interview with Matteo's mother about the progress and changes she has seen in Matteo since RPM. I hope you will find it helpful.
Stay tuned for our next post on generalizing to other people and more advanced task.
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