‘Competent’ means “having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully."
‘Intelligence’ means “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills."
In RPM we presume intelligence. We have also stated that we presume competence, but in reality, presuming intelligence is more accurate.
Do RPM Providers believe students know things they haven’t been exposed to?
No. If a student has never seen letters, then we wouldn’t believe they can read or write or even know what a letter is. However, we do believe that if we expose the student to and teach the student about letters and numbers, that the student can understand and learn how to read, communicate, do math, etc.
RPM providers also believe students have been listening and picking up knowledge through his or her life.
Additionally, students can reason or learn to reason. Let’s say a student was never directly taught to read, yet videos were played around the student with words showing as it went, or they were around when their brother was being taught to read, or they were read to by their parent. Some students will pick up on those things and know how to read before RPM. Others will still need more instruction.
Parents and teachers are often so shocked their student picks up on things so fast. This is understandable, but I will say a few things to help dispel beliefs about ‘magic knowledge’ or doubt because it just seemed too good to be true.
1-RPM providers teach students. We show a student how to add or subtract and then have them continue to use the rational method to do more problems. Sometimes the demonstration is brief, still we taught them. A student who is very ready to learn the concept will not struggle with it cognitively and will pick up on it fast. The student is able to perform and demonstrate when the appropriate interventions are in place for the student and instruction has been delivered…regardless of if the student wasn’t able to perform in the past.
2-Scaffolding—at first there are prompts and structural supports that are faded significantly and altogether with time. This is good teaching. But it also means in the beginning there is ‘influence,’ hence why we ask only certain types of questions in the beginning. We are teaching and not testing.
3-Listening and Reasoning—students have been learning their whole life. You don’t remember all the conversations that your child or student has been exposed to. You don’t know which ones they dwelt on and what they gleaned or figured out.
Should I teach my student or child age appropriate content?
In the beginning, sometimes. Once exposed to necessary content—always.
Should I teach my student or child in an age appropriate way?
Some topics that are age appropriate can be talked about immediately because the student doesn’t need more than life experience to be able to understand them. However, a 15-year-old starting RPM doesn’t know Algebra. You can’t start at Algebra. Instead you might start with Addition and Subtraction. You will NOT teach the 15-year-old adding and subtracting like they are 6. Instead you will teach the student like they are 15. You can move at a faster pace because they are “passed due” for the concept.
My child’s teacher says my child doesn’t know their letters or numbers or (fill in the blank). How can my child learn how to read and do math that quickly? Do I still presume intelligence?
Yes, still presume intelligence. This is the story of pretty much every RPM student. The child’s teacher is doing the best he or she knows how. If teaching and technique is not done in a way that allows that student to be successful, the students will not be able to show their knowledge. If students are not taught something, then the student won’t be able to demonstrate he or she knows it either.
WHY SHOULD I PRESUME INTELLIGENCE?
Pretty much all of us do best when people believe in us. Some of us do very poorly if we are doubted and discouraged. The same happens for these students—but sometimes it is more extreme because of the amount of past failures and being so misunderstood from an early age. Many can hardly perform if you don’t believe in them.
This can be a challenging mindset to switch to if you have been told your child is cognitively disabled all your life. However, rarely will you go wrong if you believe in your child.
Many students can’t perform and progress (or progress very slowly) if you don’t believe they understand you.
Be patient with yourself, but this is an essential element of RPM.
IS THEIR EVIDENCE THAT MY CHILD IS INTELLIGENCE?
I certainly think so. For example, if your child has behaviors, that is a pretty good sign he/she is reasoning. If a student runs out the door when know one is looking then he/she is clearly picking up on some social cues and thinking about things. And if he/she is reasoning, then why should reading, or understanding something like “Egypt is a country” be difficult for a student to grasp?
Also, as a school teacher, I observed students demonstrating understanding of symbols. I was told the student had an IQ of a 10. The student licked her hands like a cat. Being able to match hands and paws (which look much different) and copy the cat activity was what indicated to me that being taught to read wasn’t out of her reach since the student could do symbols.
Another student who was sent to me with a cause/effect goal and also considered to be profoundly intellectually disabled would go behind students and “sniff” them. When the student reacted, he’d back up and sometimes smile. Clearly the student understood cause and effect if as a nine year old having wasn't able (or wanting) to press the button to work the cause and effect toy.
Students that still had sorting goals, were able to distinguish on their food tray which foods he/she wanted and which foods he/she didn’t want. So, it was clear the student had the concept of sorting and telling the difference to me. He also only did certain activities with specific green food (stroke a green bean), but not other green food (peas).
IF MY STUDENT DOESN’T SIT QUIETLY, DO YOU THINK HE/SHE IS ACTUALLY LISTENING?
Most likely the student is. Outward manifestations of attending skills are social skills. They take intentional control over the body to master. And as Soma says, "obedience is a complex motor skill." Many students need to move or do something with their hands to attend well. Students don’t have to act like they are attending to be attending. Safest assumption is to assume the student is listening whenever the student is in the room. See this video:
There is confusion about presuming intelligence and what it means. We should believe in a student’s ability to learn, think, improve, and reason. We should always teach students in an age appropriate way regardless of how the student acts, but we need to fill in the gaps. We should not confuse the social skill of attending with actual listening. Believing in another human and treating the individual with respect is best practice.