This past Saturday we took Em to meet and have a session with Soma Mukhopadhyay, who developed RPM ~ Rapid Prompting Method for Autism. I’ve written about Soma before, ‘here‘ and briefly on a number of other posts. If you want to read those old posts you can put “Soma” into the search box and everything I’ve written mentioning her will come up. A word of warning, however, those early posts show a very different mind-set regarding autism and my daughter than the one I now hold. I find it difficult to read them because I had so completely bought into the Autism = tragedy mode of thinking. As anyone who follows this blog knows, this is not the view I hold now. It is good to see that my daughter is not the only one who is making progress!
One of the first things Soma did, (who has never met nor worked with Emma before) was comment to us that Em needs help to slow down. This is identical to Pascal’s observations. Em’s default is to script or point to the first thing she sees, whether that is a piece of paper or a key on a computer. So despite the name of Soma’s program, for Emma this is less a literal “rapid” method and more a sustained level of interaction. During the entire session Em remained focused and answered each of Soma’s questions appropriately. There was no physical contact of any kind. Rather Emma was asked to point to letters on a stencil board or to scraps of paper with different options on them.
Soma began with “I am thinking of a month when the leaves start to fall.”
Em then dutifully spelled “October” on the stencil board and my tears began to flow. ”I’m thinking of the season when the leaves grow,” Soma said. To which Em pointed to the letters to spell “spring.” For forty-five minutes Soma covered math, the seasons, an Aesop’s fable, reasoning, science and for forty-five minutes I watched with tears in my eyes as my daughter attended with focus while holding on to her string. Every now and again Em would verbally respond to Soma’s question and then glanced up at her with a little smile. By the end of the forty-five minutes Soma asked, “do you have any questions?”
“Will you come live with us?” Was the only question I could think to ask. I was kidding of course, but it was the only way I knew to sum up how I felt. For years now we have been trying to find a curriculum that will help Em learn in an academic setting. For years we’ve tried, her various schools have tried many different methods, none of which have worked. Yet here we were watching a program that not only worked, but that I could see the potential and the potential is limitless.
Yesterday I decided to try to combine some of what I saw Soma doing with what Pascal has been helping us learn with supporting her typing by creating resistance to her. I sat on Em’s right side and brought out our iPad. I also had Nic’s old globe and we talked about how we live on a planet called Earth. I showed Emma where we live and then where one of her favorite people lives in London, England and how to get to London we would need to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Em typed, with me providing resistance, “We live on a planet called Earth. To visit England we have to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.”
This was the first time I have supported Em’s typing and given her the proper resistance. I could feel it. I could feel her reaching for the keys. I could tell when I needed to provide more resistance, I could feel when her body was tensing and when she was trying to perseverate or trying to script. This was the first time I have worked with Em that I knew without any doubt that I was not directing her at all. She went on to type that if she could visit any other planet she would like to visit Mars. We then ended with her typing her full name, her age and where she lived. She knows all of this and so much more.
And finally, just finally I know she knows. I know, she knows, without any doubt.
Tears and love.