Autism and Rapid Prompting Method (RPM)

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

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 RTÉ 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! 😀 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! 🙂

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

Autism and Language Barriers

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

This week I’d like to discuss the joys of navigating language barriers on the spectrum.

Language barriers can be hard enough to deal with at the best of times, but throw in the glorious social awkwardness and mortification that autism brings and you’re in for a real treat!

Over the years, I’ve visited many non-English speaking/non-tourist regions in Europe, and my encounters have been a right barrel of laughs (in hindsight- not so much at the time 😛 ) given that I have only a few remaining French phrases from my schooldays! There really is nothing quite like going to a pharmacist and trying to communicate the massive insect bite on your eye without words! 🙈

Granted, Google translate and similar services have made it considerably easier to communicate than it would have been 15 years ago, but even so, things can still get wildly lost in translation. I’ve found ordering food to be somewhat of an ordeal with language barriers (even with translate in hand), a task already made difficult in English by my various food aversions!

I once had an interesting experience in an Italian pizzeria while trying to order a portion of chips (as I don’t eat pizza). I looked up the translation with an accompanying picture, showed it to the server and waited for my food, delighted that I had successfully navigated the transaction without a word of Italian. When my food came out however…it was a pizza…with chips on top!? Talk about a crime against humanity! I tried to communicate that the order was wrong buuut I awkwardly got stuck with the pizza… and with every other restaurant closed for the afternoon, I had no choice but to pick what few chips I could off the top that were not contaminated by the cheese! 😛

Language barriers are a veritable nightmare- but here are a few tips for navigating this minefield:

Do your research– before heading on a trip, try to plan out the best places to eat, tourist attractions, shops etc. You can see menus ahead of time and translate them (as roaming charges can make the internet less accessible than it may be at home for Google Translate) or find English speaking restaurants to offset any awkward situations. Pro tip– go old school and download and print off maps for key sites/restaurants on your trip. If you find the Google Maps arrow as confusing as I do, this may be prove very useful!

Use Google Translate audio to text translation- this is a useful feature where you speak and the phone translates to the desired language, which can be really helpful when you’re in a flap. If it doesn’t work, you get the added bonus of a great laugh out of it’s misinterpretations! 😂

Request menus in your native tongue– a restaurant may not always have one, but there’s no harm in asking, even if you feel awkward doing so. Pro tip– just point at the menu item if you’re unsure of the translation. Don’t make a tit of yourself and risk ordering the wrong thing when you don’t have to 😉

Ask for help/don’t go anywhere without your translator– determined to be independent and not burden anyone, my pharmacy experience above would have been much easier if I had asked my translator friend to accompany me! 🙈

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 🙂

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

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