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Frequently asked questions

  • What is Soma®RPM?
    Soma®RPM, also known as Rapid Prompting Method RPM, is a teaching method created 30 years ago by a parent, Soma Mukhopadhyay, to help her own autistic child. It has developed into a global, life-changing method, empowering thousands of neurodivergent learners with a means to express their: Learning Reasoning Understanding Thoughts This is done by identifying the student’s open learning channels – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile – at the instance of learning. In Soma®RPM, the teacher presumes competence and intelligence. We teach age-appropriate information and give students an output method to show their understanding of what has been taught. Through Soma®RPM, an individual is empowered with education in all fields: science, mathematics, literature, history, and more. Soma®RPM is adapted to the individual’s current ability and skill level. The ultimate goal of Soma®RPM is to develop independence in communication and Soma®RPM works on this through multiple means, including pointing, typing, handwriting, and speaking. Soma®RPM is used to continually develop the student’s skills, from manipulating the 2-D letterboard to controlling the 3-D environment, so that the movements can develop environmental skills, self-help skills, and hobbies.
  • Who is Soma®RPM for? Is it only for non-speaking autistics?
    Although Soma®RPM began with non-speaking autistic individuals, it has evolved to benefit anyone who has trouble communicating at an age-appropriate academic level. This includes individuals who have been diagnosed with: Autism (non-speaking, minimally-speaking, or unreliably-speaking individuals) Any disability that impacts communication and learning Student backgrounds include: Any age Any knowledge exposure Any challenging kinesthetic actions (impulsive behaviors, OCD and aggression)
  • Who can learn to execute Soma®RPM?
    Training in Soma®RPM is invaluable to those who are regularly in contact with individuals who can’t communicate reliably. Anyone can complete training to become a Soma®RPM teacher/provider. While hundreds of educators and therapists have taken Soma’s training, Soma®RPM is not only for professionals. We strongly recommend parents and caregivers learn Soma®RPM as they are the primary providers in an individual’s life. Moreover, Soma knows better than anyone that parents are the most important advocates for their children!
  • How will Soma®RPM benefit my child, student, or loved one?
    Soma®RPM is a method that empowers a neurodivergent student, often for the first time. A student exposed to Soma®RPM is given a way to learn, reason, understand, communicate via a letter board, progressing to a keyboard, handwriting, and possibly speech. Soma®RPM gives non-speakers a voice and frees them from the injustice of being interpreted only by their challenges. In Soma®RPM, we presume competence; non-speaking does not equal non-thinking or having nothing to say. Soma®RPM also empowers the families, teachers and professionals with a means to teach their children and students. This life-altering approach changes the student’s whole community as they see the student transformed by the power of learning and communication. Soma®RPM empowers everyone to help the individual live a more autonomous life in which their opinion and decisions about their lives matter.
  • What are prompts?
    In the early stages of teaching using Soma®RPM, the teacher will give MANY prompts to ensure success. Prompting is simply encouraging the student to respond without physical support. Without prompting, students might get stuck or might not respond at all. In Soma®RPM, a combination of prompts are used which are connected with the four open learning channels : visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. This is needed to help new students initiate responses and develop more purposeful motor skills. The goal is for prompts to be faded as more independence in a particular skill is gained.
  • Does my student need to know how to read and write to start Soma®RPM?
    No, they will be taught to read and write through the process of learning with Soma®RPM. While some students already have these skills coming into Soma®RPM, we do not presume everyone has them – we only presume that they have the ability to gain them.
  • My child/student can’t sit or attend. Can he/she/they still learn Soma®RPM?
    Yes. Many students have an aversion to sitting at a table when they start Soma®RPM. Tolerance for sitting can be slowly built up but it does not prevent learning with Soma®RPM. A Soma®RPM provider meets a student where they are at and will continue the session by adapting their lesson around the positional and postural challenges offered by the student. The provider uses techniques such as identifying a student’s open learning channels, engaging them in sensory activities, and pausing for breaks to help the student stay engaged. Above all, in a Soma®RPM session, the success of the lesson is not the responsibility of the learner, it is the responsibility of the provider.
  • Is my child/student too young or too old? Is there a learning window to learn Soma®RPM?
    Soma®RPM can make good learners out of students who were abandoned by conventional education. There is no learning window in Soma®RPM as we all continue to learn throughout our lives and neurodivergent students are no different. Soma®RPM teachers adapt their lessons so that students – at any stage in life – feel that their age, background, and learning history are being respected.
  • My child/student has some speech. Can Soma®RPM be used?
    Yes. Soma®RPM helps students who have minimal or unreliable speech to communicate more fully. Through Soma®RPM, students access language that they have not previously been able to use and gain more purposeful control over their speech. Soma's yellow book, Developing Expressive language in Verbal students with Autism, describes the ways she successfully works with speaking and minimally-speaking students
  • I know there are other spelling methods available. Why is Soma®RPM different?
    Soma®RPM is not just a spelling method or communication method. It is a holistic teaching method that adapts to each student's motor readiness and sensory profile. Spelling and communication is a byproduct of this teaching. It is important to understand that there are many kinds of education: Cognitive education: academics Sensory education: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic Procedural education: developing skills to navigate the environment. In Soma®RPM, cognitive learning needs to have a balanced approach with sensory learning and procedural learning. Therefore, Soma®RPM progresses to handwriting, drawing, speech, hobbies, life skills, etc. There is no skill ceiling or end goal in Soma®RPM. Soma®RPM also is a whole-life method. Families learn to address almost any issue their child is having through techniques like working from a 2-D to 3-D environment or approaching behaviors with diluting, delaying and scrambling. Soma®RPM provides unique and successful approaches to the breadth of issues families deal with on a daily basis. In conclusion, Soma®RPM does not stop at the letterboard or keyboard. It is a well-rounded and individualized approach.
  • What are the objectives worked on in a Soma®RPM session and how are they worked on?
    The four objectives in a Soma®RPM session are: cognitive skills, motor skills, tolerance and communication. The teacher works to achieve these objectives with the preparation of a lesson. This is the teacher's tool. The lesson is written with a back-and-forth rhythm, visuals to stimulate the visual learning channel, and a good amount of other sensory activities. Soma®RPM uses a teach/ask loop, meaning the teacher will state a fact and will ask the student about it. The student will respond either with choices, spelling, typing or speech depending on what is being practiced and the student’s readiness. A Soma®RPM session also encourages students to share their opinions; even before a student can openly communicate, they can share their opinions by picking from choices.
  • What physical tools do you use in Soma®RPM and is there a heirarchy for using them?
    In Soma®RPM, the tools we use include: paper choices three stencil boards with the alphabet broken down into thirds a stencil board with all 26 letters a rolled up letter board or a folded one a laminated letter board The use of a particular tool depends on the student’s visual tolerance and stamina. If skill development is ready, Soma®RPM also teaches handwriting, independent keyboard, and speech. There is no heirarchy for using these tools. In Soma®RPM, the approach is that the “tool fits the student,” not “the student fits the tool.” Every student is different and a Soma®RPM provider can help you figure out not only the methodology to work with your student, but what tool to use at any moment, as well as why to use it. Students do not necessarily move through a set order of tools. This is another way that Soma®RPM differs from other methods.
  • My child/student has many behaviors and some can be aggressive. Can they still be taught Soma®RPM?
    Yes, no student will be turned away. Soma®RPM has many strategies to work with students with challenging kinesthetic actions. Soma’s book, Harnessing Stims and Behaviors in Autism Using Rapid Prompting Method, discusses these strategies in depth.
  • How long will it take my child/student to demonstrate their knowledge and/or openly communicate their thoughts with Soma®RPM?
    Your child/student will be learning and demonstrating knowledge right away, from the very first lesson with a Soma®RPM practitioner. However, every student has a unique sensory profile and unique challenges. Therefore, the speed of their progress to open communication cannot be predicted. With consistent practice, every student makes progress and learns to communicate in their own time. The skill of the teacher is as important as the skill of the student so parents should also get training to best teach and support their child.
  • Will Soma®RPM stop my child from developing actual speech?
    Absolutely not. Soma®RPM gives students a means to express themselves more fully – through methods like the letterboard and handwriting – when speech has not developed functionally. However, developing purposeful speech is also an important goal in Soma®RPM, often at later stages.
  • We are a bilingual home. Can we practice Soma®RPM in two languages?
    Absolutely! Soma®RPM can be practiced in any language. There are families all over the world using Soma®RPM in their native languages.
  • Can Soma®RPM be done with other therapies like ABA, speech therapy, or OT?
    Soma®RPM does not interfere with other therapies your child may be doing. You may want to be aware that some therapeutic approaches run counter to the Soma®RPM philosophy of presuming competence.
  • Is Soma®RPM picture-based?
    No, it is text/spelling-based. This means we use the 26 letters of the alphabet to construct a word, then a sentence, and then paragraphs. However, Soma®RPM goes “beyond the [letter]board” to teach hobbies and life skills. Pictures are part of Soma®RPM in that they are used to teach a student visual tolerance. For example, a practitioner would work with the student on looking at a painting or a picture and then discussing it.
  • My child/student uses an iPad to communicate. Is it okay to teach Soma®RPM along with having a communication device?
    Many students use other AAC devices to get their needs met outside of Soma®RPM lessons. While it is not a part of Soma®RPM, it does not interfere with teaching Soma®RPM. It is just an additional tool for students to use in their everyday lives.
  • Why does Soma®RPM not start with a keyboard?
    Many students do not have the visual, tactile, and kinesthetic tolerance to use the keyboard right away. For some student who already type, they can only create rote or memorized responses. They cannot share reliable communication or demonstrate their ability to reason via a keyboard. Soma®RPM starts with simpler options so students can be successful until their motor skills and sensory tolerance improve enough to be able to type purposefully. A letterboard allows us to engage a student with more visual simplicity while we are teaching them to use all their senses at once. Once the student grows proficient with a letterboard, students can move to the keyboard.
  • What is apraxia and is it addressed by Soma®RPM?
    Apraxia (also known as dyspraxia depending on the severity) is a neurological motor planning and programming disorder in which an individual experiences difficulty performing learned, skilled movement despite having the language capacity for and desire to perform these movements. Some types of apraxia include: oral, verbal, limb, gait, and oculomotor apraxia. Apraxia is not due to muscle weakness. Soma®RPM can help families target praxis (“motor planning”) issues.
  • Are there any studies done on Soma®RPM?
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