What is S()MA®RPM?
It is an academic-based method in which the teacher creates a "teacher-student response loop."
The teacher learns how to access the open learning channels (auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic) of the student and adapts the way the lessons are presented accordingly.
The teacher states information, then asks a question, and then the student responds. This loop is intended to create an alertness and improved focus in the student. The student begins to expect their role (e.g., "I will respond immediately after the teacher finishes a statement and then asks a question"). The rhythm created by this loop is aimed to overpower the student’s other engagements, such as stims, OCD, and impulses.
This type of method requires the teacher to be ready with a well-prepared lesson. The lessons are the teacher's tool through which they presents information and questions designed to work on the four RPM objectives:
The teacher will teach an academic topic depending on the student’s age, exposure to learning, interest, or preoccupation. The teacher uses this topic to work on the student's ability to express reasoning and understanding. To help the student to develop their own thinking and reasoning skills, the teacher will provide information/perspectives from different sources.
Every student has different levels of visual, auditory, tactile, performance and time tolerance. Initially, the teacher adapts to the student’s sensory and performance tolerances. Over time, the teacher slowly works on helping the student increase their level of tolerance in all of these fields.
Based on the motor, sensory and emotional readiness of the student, the teacher will ask the student to respond by selecting between correct and incorrect choices, or spelling on either the large letter stencils, full letter stencil, full letter board, keyboard/device, handwriting, or speech. All of the aforementioned are different skill goals that can be developed through RPM.
Communication is the output of learning. Learning/communication is an integral part of RPM. Communication goals involve – single words, sentences, paragraphs, essays, short stories, composition of poetry.
S()MA®RPM uses prompts to engage the student. Examples include:
such as answer choices, letterboards, stencils, paper models, or photographs and diagrams.
such as phonetic or directional cueing and saying letters as the student spells.
such as handing the student the pencil to initiate a response.
Why choose S()MA®RPM?
There are other programs that are letterboard or typing-based. You may even have seen copies of S()MA®RPM's stencils and letterboards, as well as some of its language and techniques. Parents often ask, "Why should I use the original S()MA®RPM?"
Dynamic and Evolutionary
RPM is constantly evolving; in just the past few years, Soma has published several new guidebooks with techniques on how to further a student's skills (e.g., self-care, reading).
RPM is not just centered on using a letterboard. It is a full program that works on everything a student needs to progress in life, whether it be participating in hobbies or being able to developing purposeful speech.
Individualized Strategies for Engagement
RPM's focus on a student's open learning channels is paramount to a student's success. For instance, a visual learner needs to see the keywords of a lesson while the tactile learner may react to something drawn on his/her hand. Other programs teach only to the student's auditory learning channel, reading them long paragraphs of information without student engagement.
RPM lessons also include sensory activities. Teachers might engage the student through interesting voices, paper models, or looking at a drawing together. A lesson in RPM is so much more than reading text and asking questions. Sensory activities build the student's interest, prevent fatigue, and help grow tolerance.
The rhythm between the student and teacher is very important in RPM. Lessons in other programs may involve reading large amounts of complex material followed by testing the child on the information through multiple, often overly-challenging questions. RPM sessions are structured to be a friendly back-and-forth exchange between the teacher and student. Questions and activities in the lesson are formatted to work on the goals of the session. The teacher will at a moment's notice modify any question or activity based upon the student's open learning channel, tolerance, etc. This rhythmic exchange is vital to the success of the lesson.
For Every Need and Ability
RPM commits to working with any student, regardless of "behaviors" or challenges. RPM training of teachers involves Soma's techniques (such as scrambling and diluting) to deal with a wide range of issues like stimming, OCD, etc.
Ready to get started?
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 all minds are too precious to waste. 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.
Book a Session
The easiest way to get started is to book to see Soma or a Soma-certified provider.
Please note that in S()MA®RPM, there is never a special pre-assessment session or evaluation fees. 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.
Read a Student's Perspective
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 had his breakthrough with Soma and wrote a book about his experiences called Ido in Autismland. It is an excellent introductory book for parents and families.
Connect via social media
Connect with Soma and RPM through her different social media pages (FB, IG, and YouTube) where you can view Soma's student videos, read her words of wisdom, and find the latest learning opportunities for families. You can also join the private parent-led Facebook group called “Unlocking Voices – Using RPM" which has links to many free learning resources to help you, such as short tutorial videos, transcripts from lessons, lesson plan resources ideas, links to other provider websites and link to purchase lesson plan books. (While not part of the HALO organization, Unlocking Voices works closely with Soma to ensure that accurate information is provided.)
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.
Give lots of exposure to the written word (e.g., put subtitles on the television, read out the headlines in newspapers and magazines).