Have you ever had a friend who goes “underground” for awhile? You don’t hear much from them for a long stretch of time, only to have them reappear in your life full of energy and having made lots of changes? Well, that is what has happened with me and this blog! I am happy to announce that I am back and I have quite a few new things to talk about and share with you!
So, what have I been doing? Working with lots of clients in my ever growing private practice, developing an app (which is nearing completion after two plus years of work!!!), completely changing every belief I have about autism and transforming the way I work with clients with autism! Yes – EVERYTHING! This last bit has been amazing, eye-opening and truly life changing and is what I’d like to focus on in today’s blog.
In May 2013, I was given the opportunity to learn about Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) from its founder, Soma Mukhopadhyay. From the first moment that I saw non-verbal children communicating sophisticated thoughts and ideas by pointing to letters on a letter board, I knew my therapeutic practice could never be the same. I have SO much to say on this topic that will follow in future blog posts.
I can think of no better way to introduce the changes in my thinking, practice and life than through the words of Ben. Ben is a client whom I have worked with for ten years (thank you to Ben’s mother who gave consent to use his name in this blog). These are Ben’s words, spelled out on the letter board, from a session we had this week. In this session, Ben used the letter board to compose an essay for an application to attend a summit for an advocacy group for people with disabilities. The only instructions I gave to Ben were the parameters of the essay: How has having a disability impacted your life? What strategies do you use to meet these challenges? Describe a turning point of how you dealt with your disabilities. The response below is 100% from Ben – not touching him, no prompts, suggestions or questions from me!
MY NAME IS BENJAMIN. I AM EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. FOR SEVENTEEN YEARS, I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO TALK OR COMMUNICATE IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY. I AM AUTISTIC AND NONVERBAL. I CANNOT CONTROL MY BODY OR MY MUSCLES SO I CANNOT TALK RELIABLY. NOW I CAN TALK USING THE LETTER BOARD. SINCE LEARNING TO TALK, STRANGE THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING. MY WORLD HAS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. NOW I AM NO LONGER A PRISONER TRAPPED INSIDE MYSELF. NOW I AM A FREE MAN WITH NEW POSSIBILITIES.
BEING UNABLE TO SPEAK HAS MADE MY LIFE UNUSUALLY STRANGE, UNUSUALLY DIFFICULT, UNUSUALLY BEAUTIFUL AND UNUSUALLY INTERESTING. I HAVE BEEN OBSERVING AND LISTENING MY WHOLE LIFE AND NOBODY KNEW. BECAUSE I COULD NOT TALK, EVERYONE ASSUMED I COULD NOT UNDERSTAND. SCHOOL SPECIALISTS LABELED ME AS RETARDED AND INCAPABLE OF LEARNING. AS A RESULT, I HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO A LIFETIME OF MEANINGLESS EDUCATION. I HAVE CAUSED YEARS OF TANTRUMS TRYING TO PROTEST MY SITUATION IN LIFE. NO ONE UNDERSTOOD MY COMPLAINTS. THEY CHALKED IT UP TO BAD BEHAVIOR. I HAD NO OTHER WAY OF EXPRESSING MYSELF.
ALMOST NO ONE BELIEVED IN ME EXCEPT MY FAMILY AND EV. THEY NEVER GAVE UP ON ME EVEN WHEN I MADE IT DIFFICULT TO WORK WITH ME. THEN EV TAUGHT ME TO USE THE LETTER BOARD AND MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER. NOW I AM NO LONGER SILENT. NOW I AM NO LONGER A VICTIM OF MY LACK OF MOTOR CONTROL. NO LONGER AM I UNUSUALLY STRANGE. SINCE I CAN COMMUNICATE, I AM NO LONGER IN ISOLATION BUT A MEMBER OF SOCIETY.
SO NOW I HAVE A MISSION TO STAND UP FOR NONVERBAL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE AND HELP THEM FIND THEIR VOICE TOO. MY ONLY OTHER GOAL THAT MEANS AS MUCH TO ME IS, THAT OTHERS DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH MEANINGLESS AND INSULTING EDUCATION LIKE I HAVE HAD TO ENDURE.
Powerful words from an amazing person! Ben is not the only client who is now communicating with the letter board! I am using RPM with several clients and each of them is finding their “voice” – sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly! I have been honored to be a part of their journey, to learn how to do things differently and to help tell their story. I hope that you will continue to follow along and hear what my clients have to say!