Autism acceptance begins by listening to autistic people. This is especially true with non-verbal autistic kids, since, for too long, it's been assumed that non-verbal kids aren't taking in what they hear, not learning, don't want to communicate, and don't have much to say. That assumption is utterly wrong— as non-verbal autistic bloggers Philip and Emma have shown and as I've seen in my own son, a non-verbal 7-year-old who, like Philip and Emma, uses the Rapid Prompting method (RPM) to tell us his thoughts, wants, and feelings. Today, I'd like to introduce you to Rhema, another amazing non-verbal autistic child who's using RPM to express herself.
Rhema's mom, Jeneil, has been writing about her for many years on the blog Rhema's Hope, and I caught up with her via email after I saw this beautiful video of Rhema using RPM to tell her mom what she prays for. Watch it—it will change the way you see autism forever.
Jamie Pacton: How long have you been doing RPM?
How often do you do RPM?
Rhema and I do RPM every day if possible. It was a struggle at first to even get through 10 minutes. Now she looks forward to it and we work for 35-45 minutes a session.
We are currently working with Rhema's school to find ways for her to use this new way of communicating. Rhema has learned to answer open-ended questions by pointing to letters on her stencil board. Recently we've been transitioning to the keyboard, and I anticipate she will be able to use her keyboard at school.
How did Rhema communicate before RPM?
Before RPM, Rhema could make basic requests (for food items mainly) on her iPad using Proloquo2Go. While we were thrilled for this ability, we quickly found it very limited (she could not truly express herself through a small number of pictures on a screen) and she proved to be inconsistent with it.
How has RPM changed your lives?
RPM has proven to be the most effective, transformative way to teach Rhema and help her communicate. In a very short time it has changed our lives forever. Teaching her age-appropriate lessons has been so instrumental in our RPM sessions; it's made her excited about learning and helped me see she's capable of so much more than I imagined. We went from wondering if Rhema even understood what was said around her to discovering that she indeed was understanding everything. She is deeply thoughtful, mature, funny, and so clever. It's been amazing to get to know her in new ways and hear her heart and her voice.