One of the most important things we all need is to be believed in and understood. Without encouragement and belief we struggle to amount to all we have the capacity to become.
When it comes to RPM, many doubt. There are many reasons for doubt, but it isn’t helpful because it involves the entire future of a child-whether you believe or not, so here I seek to help alleviate those doubts, and bring good reason as to why you can and should believe in your child or student. I seek to go over skills necessary for literacy and help you understand the mind of a “professional” which I hope helps you see that we are just humans and belief in your child is not far fetched even if all professionals say otherwise.
To give background on me. I taught at a school for the “lowest” functioning and “behavior problems”– often the kids that no one knew what to do with. I received new students, when they “plateaued” or had major behavior problems. Their IQ’s typically fell in the severe/profound range. In my university education I was taught to believe in kids and that all kids could read. I had passionate professors who cared about disabled people. (My students prefer autistic over “person with autism” so I am resulting to this form of writing, although my training was to say “person with a disability.”)
Special education teachers, early childhood education, psychologist and other teaching/testing professionals are taught about the order of development and how to know if a child is ready to read and so forth. There are test like the Brigance that professionals use to know what skills should be mastered before a child can do this or that or what level of development that child is said to be, etc ,etc. These test are tested on MANY individuals. From there they figure out the “norm” /what the majority of kids can do at a certain age. One of the draw backs of these test is that if an individuals is either gifted (way above the norm) or “severe” (way below the norm) they aren’t really valid. This means that most the information given to you about your child/student is not accurate about what your child’s levels really are. What they say your child can do is right. What they say your child can’t do is going to be wrong. What you usually learn is what you already know, if your child as a “severe” disability–your child or student doesn’t function “typically.” The professional really can’t say where your child is at. It is well known that Autistic are frequently not testable. Many professionals see the problem with the test and can see intelligence, but don’t know the solutions.
Having said that, the test aren’t completely worthless, if you can test the child while making accommodations for their alternate sensory system and kine on what you are really observing. (The test are correct on what things need to be in place cognitively, it is just that the students struggle to show what is going on cognitively. I would say a better way to interpret the “score” is the level at which your child is able to SHOW intelligence in the setting and circumstances. It shows how severe the output issue is, NOT intelligence or ability to grow and progress.) Test do not accommodate for this although by law they are suppose to and results on test are supposed to take in account alternate sensory systems. They don’t because very few people know how to. There is no one to blame but ignorance.
Teachers are taught that students need these skills to begin learning how to read or math:
Cause and effect
Knowledge of same and different
match objects to object (color, shape, size)
match pictures and objects to picture
This is true, except because testing and data is off, this is hard to say if it is there through typical methods that are employed. Here are examples of how a teacher might test or teach for each, possible problems with testing/teaching it this way, and other clues that the skills is there (the clues I came up with from observing my students, thinking, (people who doubted me causing me to think a lot) and studying (like Soma’s books) in my determination to teach them how to read. I mention this because they are not taught to teachers-at least not to me and it seems based off the actions of teachers, they aren’t taught to them either):
Cause and effect: Teacher might put a switch out for the child to touch to activate a toy. Teacher might say “touch switch.” Child sits there or flaps arms. Teacher marks the data negative. Teacher hand over hand shows how, “touch switch” again no response or similar. Again marked negative. Each child is different and some might hit the switch randomly, or over time master it–this ability to master it or not is not an indicator of cognitive understanding most likely. Based off data the child doesn’t understand cause and effect. Even with suspicions that it might be there, data often rules out over brains, since who knows what to do next or how to actually teach it (Hint: RPM )
Problem— We know that autistics and others with related conditions struggle with mental mapping, motor planning, and equilibrium (struggle with connections between the cognition (intelligence/thinking), motor planning, and emotions). This all means that a child, while fully aware of instructions and cause and effect, may struggle to respond when asked to (Please read “Understanding Autism through Rapid Prompting Method” chapters 3 and 4. It is critical you understand and apply this. You will make much better choices for your child or student if you do). An alternate sensory system will often respond in an alternate way. It would be very strange if a child with connectivity problems as described, never acted “abnormal” and yet we expect them too. Our doubt is a sign we have a very hard time accepting that a person with an alternate sensory system would act in an alternate way. No matter how high the pitch of the voice or short the phrase one uses to invoke the powers of movement and cognition, you won’t get an accurate response unless the body is taught and some equilibrium is in place. Over time, with repeated trials,the child likely doesn’t want to. Would you if you had heard that years in a row?
Clues— it is impossible to learn to walk without some understanding of cause and effect. (Therefore, if your child/student walks, the skills is mastered.) Deaf-Blind children may be developmentally delayed because they didn’t see or hear something fall or something swinging in front of them so they don’t learn to crawl or walk to go after it (don’t understand cause and effect). This is not an intelligence issue, but if not worked on it causes what is called “environmental retardation.”
Other clues include behaviors, some stims, and humor. Reaching out and grabbing food to eat is also a sign it is there (responding to hunger or a sensory need). A child would not reach for food if they didn’t know that it would help with a need. (A child that is in a wheel chair and can’t feed himself is not showing signs of lack of cause and effect. They are exhibiting signs that are usually very visible to the eye– that their is a muscle, motor or equilibrium issue- it should not be surprising when a child with muscle control issues is not able to perform. Look for other clues. Make sure there is vision for the future and not just developmental stages to check off, as it is clear that while motor skills must be worked on, if high cognitive skills are not taught, hardly any education will take place.)
……before I go on. There will be many who might bring up what babies can do. Babies don’t walk and babies don’t feed themselves (although what babies do also show signs of intelligence. All humans can enlarge and expand in capacity). A child learns walking and feeding self by experience…yes development is involved, but learning cause and effect is too.
Same and Different: This might be taught with a matching activity or be touching a switch to show if two items are the same or different.
Problem: The same difficulties as discussed are in place as with ’cause and effect’ problems. The other problem is difficulties in aim. Ideally the child masters a 2D environment first (but teachers are not taught to do this. Reading “developing motor skills using RPM” for more information on this.) Then work on aim in a 3D environment. Also a child in global or selective visual or auditory, kinesthetic or tactile mode will struggle with these task.
Clues: The child picks to eat certain foods but not others. A child might like certain textures or people over others. A child might like certain items over others. The ability to select (even if impulsively) shows preferences and preferences require ability to distinguish between things.
Matching/Sorting/classifying: Items are displayed and teacher instructs to match. These are either, not matched, matched incorrectly, randomly matched correctly and some students are able to complete the task well, particularly with generalized vision and kinesthetic skills.
Problem: Same issues as explained in ’cause and effect’ and ‘same and different’ plus just the horror of doing this day after day, year after year, without someone understanding that you really do get it and please teach something new and useful (matching items is a useful skill, but not so if communication and education–hope for a fulfilling future don’t exist).
Clues: lining up objects, eating candy colors in a certain order, creating or building anything, making a choice, planning escapes at the right moment when the teacher isn’t looking or people aren’t aware/not able to catch you, etc. One of my students would lick her hands like a cat. Because she did this I could see that she was mimicking an animal. In order to do this it required classification skills. Some student interrupt conversation and “push buttons.” this requires some social understanding, all of which requires noticing some same and different in facial expressions, mood, pitch in voice, etc.
I have only mentioned a few clues. Every child has many clues that show intelligence. Look for reasons to believe in your child and student. There are many, many signs. We have to pull ourselves out of the test and data, think deeply, and generalize knowledge we already have about alternate sensory systems and people (in general) to our student/child if we want to improve the quality of their lives and instruction.
We have to overcome our ignorance. This requires study and practice. I highly recommend that all read Soma’s Mukhopadhyay’s books. Don’t just read the implementations sections. The sections on neuroscience are extremely important to understand and learn. Soma knows the thoughts and abilities of more non-speaking, low-speaking individuals than pretty much any human, having taught and listened to thousands. If you want to understand an individual you would do well to learn from her and others who themselves can’t talk. You will make much better choices for your child/student, be able to advocate, and give your child/student a real chance at life if you take the time to ensure you are not ignorant and put RPM to practice.
You have nothing to lose by believing!