Every parent wants their child to be able to communicate...
Often families have spent years on therapies with minimal results. Students are stuck reading toddler level books and counting 1-10.
When a student is unable to DEMONSTRATE understanding in the way we want them to, the belief is that that the student does not understand. But this, of course, is not true.
A key belief of RPM is that the brain is too precious to be wasted – all autistic people are capable of learning. Through years of working with thousands of students, Soma and her certified RPM teachers have found that students understand far more than most people assume. The problem is that the students lack the means to show what they know.
RPM is no quick fix. It is a teaching method which requires commitment and regular practice in order to build the skills of purposeful pointing, movement and self-help/independence skills. Below is some information to help families as they start on their RPM journey.
Before You Start
It is useful to gain perspective from autistic people who have used RPM to develop their skills. Soma’s son, Tito Mukhopdhyay, has authored many books. It can be helpful to read Tito’s book “How Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move” for more information on his thoughts. Also, Ido Kedar is a student who learned with Soma and wrote a book about his experiences called “Ido in Autismland.” It is an excellent introductory book for parents and families.
It is also helpful to gain a perspective from other parents. There is a private parent-led Facebook learning group called “Unlocking Voices – Using RPM" which provides links to free learning resources, enables you to connect with other parents, and provides a forum to ask questions. This group is not part of the HALO organization, but works closely with Soma to ensure that accurate information is provided.
How To Get Started
1) Book a session
The easiest way to get started is to book to see Soma, a Soma-certified provider (highest level), or a Soma-approved practitioner. Please note that there will be no special pre-assessment session. Beginning from the very first session, the provider will use age-appropriate educational lessons to assess the student’s skills and teach the student how to respond during the lesson.
The provider should explain to you what they have worked on, as well as why they have chosen those goals and techniques. The provider should then give you information about how to continue developing these skills at home. It is good to have regular follow-ups. The frequency will depend upon individual circumstances.
2) If you are unable to see a provider
Families who are unable to book a session with a provider will need to do some self-study, Soma’s red and green books cover how to get started. Her green book has detailed write-ups on how to deliver starter sessions.
The “Unlocking Voices- Using RPM” Facebook group has links to many free learning resources to help you (short tutorial videos, transcripts from lessons, lesson plan resources ideas, links to other provider websites and link to purchase lesson plan books). You can also post questions in this group.
It would also be helpful to schedule a video consult for feedback from a provider to ensure you are doing things correctly.
3) Several things can you do right away to begin this journey
Talk to your child assuming he/she understands everything – even if they are not looking or are walking away.
Provide age-appropriate cognitive stimulation. For instance, read age-level books and magazines, and discuss what is on the radio when you are in the car.
When out and about, talk about the environment. Point to things you are talking about and begin to teach your child to point to show you things (use hand over hand). Take photos and then teach how to point to the items in the photos.
Encourage all purposeful, planned movements. Be sure it is not in a “testing” way, meaning give as much help as is needed. For instance, you might say: "Can you pass me the potato? This is how you would do it (then show hand-over-hand). Now you try."
Give lots of exposure to the written word (e.g., put subtitles on the television, read out the headlines in newspapers and magazines).