Rapid Prompting Method, or RPM, was created by Soma Mukhopadhyay, a Indian mother and chemist who wanted to teach her non-verbal son, Tito, who has autism, to express himself and expand his mind.
According to koodakpress، Over the last fifteen years, Soma’s refined RPM and taught Tito to read, write, and type, and she’s also given him a robust academic education. In fact, Tito’s written several books! Now, Soma lives in Austin, Texas, where she trains other teachers and parents in RPM and helps many other kids express themselves.
I first heard about RPM from a friend whose non-verbal 10-year-old son (we’ll call him John) had been using it for seven years. Although John has signs of classic autism (no speech, motor impairments, lots of issues with focus), he’s smart. While John and my son, Liam (who is also non-verbal), messily ate cereal, my friend ran me through a condensed version of John’s struggles with therapists, communication, and school. Suddenly, John started sobbing. My friend grabbed a letter board, hugged John, and asked him what was wrong. Slowly, he spelled out: “I HATE IT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT ME LIKE I AM NOT HERE.”
I burst into tears, too. The reality of that moment hit me like a lightning bolt: John — who wore diapers and ate like a toddler — was thinking, listening, and expressing his thoughts. From that moment forward, I knew Liam had to try RPM.
For Ido Kedar, a non-verbal teenager with autism, RPM helped him “break out of autism’s silent prison.” When I read this, I knew that I wanted the same thing for Liam, so we started RPM almost immediately. Luckily, we found a provider in a nearby suburb who had been trained by Soma.
A lot of questions still surround RPM, and I wanted to answer a few of the most common ones here.
What is RPM?
RPM is an academic method first, but as Soma says on her website, “verbal and written expression is the ultimate goal for all students.” One of the most cherished beliefs of the method is that students with autism can learn BUT we have to teach them appropriate academics. After all, to quote Soma again, “without academic exposure, students lack motivation and conversational skills.” So, RPM not only gives students a method to communicate, it also gives them things to talk about beyond basic needs.
What does it involve?
The process of RPM is quite simple: a teacher gives a short lesson, asks a question, and then elicts a response using verbal, auditory, or visual prompts. My son’s teacher might start by reading him a sentence and then asking, “What did I say?” She’ll often give him two choices written out on a piece of paper. From just picking answers, students of RPM then begin to spell out answers using a stencil board (see below) or a paper letter board (like the one Liam’s using in the picture above). Eventually, students will advance to typing or handwriting answers to complex questions. In the picture above, Liam is “writing” his first sentence ever! He and his teacher had just done a lesson on the human body, and they were talking about feet. She asked him, “What do we use our feet for?” Using his finger to point to one letter at a time, and through her prompting him to keep him on task, he spelled out: “WE USE OUR FEET TO WALK.”