Autism and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)

Greetings Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Leading on from a previous post about non-verbal autism, this week I’d like to discuss a popular communication method for non-verbal autists- the rapid prompting method or RPM for short.

So what exactly is RPM?

RPM, also known as ‘spelling to communicate’ is a communication technique that allows non-verbal autists to communicate through a system of writing, typing, or pointing at a letter board.

You can see a video of RPM in practice here:

But is it effective?

Now this is where things get interesting. As far as the scientific community is concerned, RPM is pseudoscience- they can’t generate evidence to prove that it really works. There are concerns that the facilitator of the method may unconsciously prompt and influence an autists answers in the way they move the communication device, and as such, many in the community discourage the practice of RPM until the efficacy and safety can be established.

That being said however, there are so many positive stories out there about how life changing RPM has been for non-verbal autists.

Here in Ireland there was a recent documentary on RTร‰ called ‘Speechless‘ about how RPM has completely changed life for non-verbal autist Fiacre Ryan. The documentary followed Fiacre and his family over an eight year period, showing his journey with RPM and how it has enabled him to communicate with his family and give them an insight into his world- as his sister described it, it was like getting to know a completely new person. After discovering RPM, Fiacre went from having only basic playschool level knowledge to a wealth of vocabulary and an aptitude for calculus. With the help of an aide to facilitate RPM, he was able to attend mainstream school. Fiacre went on to be the first non-verbal student to sit the Leaving Certificate exam using RPM (passing with flying colours!), and is currently working with a publisher to create a book of his poetry! ๐Ÿ˜€ Before RPM, Fiacre says that his mind was very cloudy and dark, but communication has given him a new lease of life.

If you’re in Ireland (or have a really good VPN blocker) you can check out the documentary here: https://www.rte.ie/player/movie/speechless/264381992324

So while RPM may officially be considered pseudoscience, the stories speak for themselves. As with most autism interventions, take it with a pinch of salt.

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

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