Category Archives: RPM

Learning to Believe

Needing time to learn, understanding concepts and refining techniques are all done on separate timelines.  Best to approach each with curiosity and patience, with a large dose of belief in the other person.

Ticking clocks of expectation become toxic.  Learning to believe is the homework for all educators.  Belief in another’s humanity, respecting different learning styles and compassion for all makes a great teacher and student.

Having a wonderful teacher is life changing.

chalkboard-copy

Becoming Change

Change is upon us.

Look around.  What do you see?  Do you see changes in your life?

Backwards movement can be labeled bad, but sometimes it is not.  Maybe like human evolution, lasting change must be slow.

Meandering along with inevitable change benefits some, whose go-with-the-flow attitude is like starlings flying in formation, but if only a few break away, everything changes.

Have you ever watched starlings?

Here.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Oh, how I should like to be one of the starlings to lead a new way.

Starlings

Starlings

Silencing

“Having a voice after years of being ignored saves me from treacherous loss.  Years of nothing, makes the smart ideas percolate.  It is a strong force within, waiting for encouragement.”  ~  Emma

There are people who would like to silence my daughter and those like her.   One person recently accused me of “exploiting” my daughter to “satisfy your own vanity and craving for attention” by publishing things Emma’s said she wants others to read.  This particular person went on to write (as though to Emma), “Autistic people are irrelevant in your mother’s world.  And parenting is more of a competitive sport to her than a domestic responsibility.  That is truly disgusting.”   And yet if I do not publish the things my daughter writes and says she wants others to read and understand, then I become the silencer.  I cannot presume her competent, but then selectively do so, by not publishing what she has asked to have published.

As with my older child, we have discussed, and continue to discuss at length the internet, the importance of realizing what one says on the internet, stays on the internet.  We have discussed issues around human rights and advocacy.  We are currently engaged in an ongoing discussion related specifically to blog writing because of the book we are reading, I am Malala in which Malala writes about being increasingly threatened and silenced by the Taliban and how her right to an education was taken from her simply because she was born female.

There are those who say that the words someone like my daughter writes are not really hers.  This is a different way of silencing, but it is as equally brutal and effective.  They say that because science has not shown RPM to be an easily replicated method it is therefore suspect.  They say, parents like me are so determined to believe in their child’s intelligence and competence, we will go to any lengths to “believe” even when it’s clear (to them) our children cannot possibly be the competent beings we know they are.  This is the opposite of presuming competence.  They go on to suggest that though (in the case of RPM, where there is no physical contact of any kind) no one touches my daughter, those nearby are able to influence, so much so that they can actually force the person to point to letters, which spell out things they do not mean to write.

People like my daughter are in a perpetual state of limbo, a kind of no man’s land, neither here nor there.  For those of us speaking out, writing about all of this, giving our children a platform from which to write, we are easy targets.  There will always be people who disagree. There will always be people who are threatened by ideas that confront what they believe and have been told.  There will always be people who viciously attack for reasons that may or may not be apparent to those they strike out at.  I’ve been fortunate and have not had many who have attacked.  In fact this recent commenter is the only one who has come after me, repeatedly, with such viciousness and undisguised hatred.

But I will not be silenced, nor will I allow my daughter to be; as long as she wants to be heard, I will do all I can to make sure she is.

*Emma chose this photograph to go along with her and my words.  Yes, I read this to her, before publishing.  And sadly, it seems, I must also state the obvious,  I do not and will not publish anything ever, that she does not want me to publish.  This blog will disappear the instant Emma tells me she wants it taken down.

Emma Riding Beau

Emma Riding Beau

 

An Essay by Emma

*Emma asked that I post this today.

Yesterday, during Emma’s RPM session (not with me, but with the person who does weekly RPM sessions with her) she was asked to talk about something where she compared and contrasted.

Emma wrote the following…

                             “Part of All Buildings”

“For thousands of years and as long as buildings have existed, walls are covered.

“Generational trends have shifted.  The idea of paint versus wallpaper is one to give attention to.  Ask yourself what has changed in trends.  Did you ever think to believe the walls around you influenced change?

“Wallpaper with precious patterns are torn apart in many current buildings.  Paint has won the walls of this generation.

“If you believe your environment can change parts of you, keep reading.

“I am wondering if those who surround themselves with precious patterns have bigger imaginations than those with simple paint.  It is easier to become friends with colorful patterns.

“They can both get dirty.  In wallpaper the wear becomes welcomed more.

“I can do the research and report back!”

Wallpaper versus Paint

Wallpaper versus Paint

Social Expectations

Yesterday there was some discussion about accepting and rejecting social rules.  Asked to talk about the rules she would reject, Emma wrote four that she would prefer were not required and expected of her.  When we returned to our hotel we discussed this further and Emma slightly amended what she’d written and added one to the list she’d made during her morning session.  I’m guessing there are additions to this list, but these sessions are exhausting and I didn’t want to push for more.

1.  “Giving eye contact when I don’t want to.”

2. “Being expected to answer verbally.”

3. “Being happy when I don’t feel up to it.”

4. “Keeping my body still”

5. “Trying to be Temple Grandin”

When Emma wrote “being happy when I don’t feel up to it” Soma asked, “do you feel social pressure to be happy?”  Emma wrote, “Don’t you?”

So here’s my question to all of you…  if you could change a societal expectation, what would it be?

Oh, and this is the eagle Emma drew after her last session…

Emma's Eagle ~ January 29th, 2014

Emma’s Eagle ~ January 29th, 2014

More Insights From Emma

My entire routine has been so thoroughly disrupted these past three weeks that this blog has suffered the consequences.  There’s simply too much going on, not in a bad way necessarily, but more than I have been able to keep up with.  But today…   Today both kids are out skiing and I have a few hours to write.

Emma has been writing a great deal.  In fact Emma wrote three stories as Christmas presents to her granma, her Uncle and Aunt and her dad.  Each one is beautiful and poignant and kind of over the top amazing in its complexity and layered meaning.  I transcribed the one for her granma ‘here‘.  In the story to her Uncle and Aunt, the final sentence was, “No words need to be used to hear love.”  Think about that for a second…  This kind of insight shows a level of sophistication and poetic understanding of the world few adults have managed to appreciate, let alone, express.   Emma is eleven years old.

In the story for her dad she wrote about a  daughter who, “Daily she tried to communicate her love for her family, but her words came out of her mouth wrong.  In day after day conversation she was misunderstood.  Finally she began to write on a stencil board and the words came out right.”  I am quoting this here because this is exactly the sort of thing so many of us get hung up on.  How many times have we seen or heard parents talk about their distress because their child is not able to say those three words, “I love you”?  How many times did I once, not so long ago, lament that my child had not ever said those words without being prompted to?  How often did I wonder and question her love?  And now…  now I wonder why and how could I have ever questioned those feelings?  How was it possible that I ever doubted her?  I say this lovingly and with tremendous compassion for all who have ever wondered this about their child.  We are being given incorrect information about autism and our children.  But I wonder if I would be so certain if my daughter were not writing and telling me the things that she is.

As I’ve stated before, writing is hard work for Emma and even though all of us, who receive her words, feel incredibly grateful to read anything she writes, it is difficult for Emma to express herself even in writing.  I say this as much as a reminder to myself as to inform those who may not fully appreciate how hard it is for her.  Often, when people hear that Emma is writing, and writing some pretty profound insights about the world, herself and autism, they will say, “but why not just give her an iPad or let her write on a computer?”  And then I must try to find the best words to explain.  It isn’t that easy or that simple, if it were, she would have begun writing a long time ago.

I’ve described before the process ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ that Emma uses to write, one letter pointed to at a time, on a stencil board, while a trusted person transcribes each letter or word one by one.  I have worked with Emma since the end of September almost daily and am now one of the people she can and does write with, to express herself.  She is incredibly generous in her willingness to allow me to quote her and almost always gives me permission to quote her on this blog, something I am doing more and more frequently!

This morning I talked to her about skiing with a ski pro, asking whether she’d like me to ski too.  She told me she preferred that I did not come too, and when I asked what, if anything, she wanted me to tell the ski instructor, she wrote about how she wanted to eat lunch early and then wrote, “Have to understand my mind talks heavy thoughts, but my mouth talks silliness.”   I asked her what she advised and she wrote, “Try to be patient and do not over rate talking to each other.”

A message we talkers would do well to appreciate and try our best to implement.

Emma’s Eyes ~ A Self Portrait

Em

Man and Woman – A Tale

This story was written by Emma and was inspired by a photograph she was shown of a small house built in the middle of a lake atop a large rock with steps carved into the rock leading into the water.  Against one side of the house was a kayak and paddle.  (To read more about how Emma is writing, please click, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.)

“Man and woman landed into marriage.  Both worked hard to make thousands of pennies.  There was trouble when they decided on what to do with the thousands.  Woman wanted to buy a boat; man did not agree.  Man and woman gave fighting a try, but it was not for them.

Welcome to their new home.”

Earlier when first shown the photograph (I’ve posted it below) and asked to make a comment about it, Emma wrote, “There is many reasons to believe it is fall.”

When asked to write one question she thought people would ask the person(s) who live in this house, she wrote, “Do you know how to swim?”

house-river-serbia_57361_600x450

Returning Home

Em and I returned home Friday night.  It was an exhilarating trip, but also an exhausting one.  These trips always are.  We went from having daily sessions with Soma (you can read more about Emma’s experience working with Soma ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘ and more about Soma and RPM by clicking ‘here‘) that were so incredibly exciting, I could barely take in all that my daughter was writing.  Personal, gut wrenchingly, painful insights, loving notes of gratitude to my husband and me that made me weep with joy, but also bittersweet because it is she who has had to put up with us and not the other way around.  Her writing displays an almost unfathomable intellect, wisdom beyond her years as well as compassion and patience for all who do not understand her, for those who doubt, for those who do not believe her and all she is capable of, for all who talk down to her, my daughter is a beacon of kindness, forgiveness and compassion.

I do not want people to come away with ideas about saintliness, holiness or angels being dropped down from the heavens and inhabiting her body.  I cannot and do not believe in any of that and it dismisses the many challenges and struggles my daughter must endure.  Above all else my daughter is a human being, just like you, just like me, very much grounded on this earth and in this life, but she is also exemplary in her ability to see the good in others.  It is something I am trying hard to emulate.  It is as though the more she writes about what she believes and thinks, the angrier I become.  The more enraged I am that we have all believed so easily, without question, the standard assumptions about Autistic people and autism and what that means.

I understand that for many they just cannot believe someone like my child is capable of knowing so much despite having had little formal education, but instead has spent all of her school years segregated in special education schools where she reads below age level literature and is taught the value of nickels, dimes and pennies because it is assumed she does not understand concepts such as money and time.  I understand.  I do.  I was one of those people not so long ago.  But now I know otherwise.  We are fortunate that her current school is open, willing and interested in learning all she is capable of.  They have expressed interest and their intent to support her and to help in any way they can.  We will be revising her IEP soon.  It will be quite a revision!

Now we are home and I know better than to expect I will be able to pick up where Soma left off.  I know better than to think I will be able to sit down with my daughter and accomplish the same level of writing I witnessed this past week.  I have to pick up from where I left off before our trip to Texas.  This can feel incredibly frustrating and even depressing, but I am learning to not delve too deeply in despair, but rather continue moving forward with the knowledge that I will and already have progressed in my ability to support my daughter better each day so that one day she will be able to converse with me on a similar level as she does with Soma.

This disparity between what Soma is able to do and what those at home then try, has caused a few to claim that therefore Soma’s method is flawed or is cause for suspicion and doubt.  What I have come to understand is that my Autistic child is intensely sensitive to her relationships.  I cannot sit down and expect to have her write to me as she does with someone who developed this system and who has fine tuned it, perfected it along the way, while working with close to a dozen people every day for over ten years now.   It is akin to expecting that I will be able to set a diamond as well as a master jeweler who has been perfecting his craft over the last twenty years or after taking a painting class be able to create something on par with Rembrandt or after taking French 101 go to France and speak fluently.  We do not expect any of these things from each other or ourselves, and yet, people decide something like RPM will be easy and simple and anyone will be able to do it instantly and when they cannot, the flaw is in RPM.  I have met too many other people who are practicing RPM to see that it is this thinking that is flawed.

Em chose toenail polish for both of us!

Matching toenails