RPM Ripple Effect

Today, I am happy to present a guest post from Faith, the mother of my client, Luke. Luke is a delightful, smiley, almost 8 year old who started RPM with me on April 2, 2014. Luke is nonspeaking but showing off just how verbal he is on the letter board every week! He is answering questions, defining words, making predictions and is beginning to write in sentences. Yesterday, during a lesson about coins and the US Mint, Luke impressed his mother and me by naming all the coins and then adding various coin amounts.  (I did not name any of the coins or state their worth before showing them to Luke!). Surprises like this happen in almost every RPM session with my kids. Over Spring Break, a different kind of RPM surprise unfolded that Faith has agreed to share with us today! ~ Elizabeth

Luke is 7 years old and has been doing RPM for a little over a month….here’s an early glimpse of the power of RPM

Luke’s 5-year old brother, Eli attended two of Luke’s RPM sessions during spring break—we decided upon a “stay-cation” this year to catch up and relax. Eli played in the next room for most of both sessions, sometimes reading on some chairs, but we left the door open. During this time, his curiosity got the best of him and he came into the room a few times to see what was going on. Luke and Elizabeth were doing a lesson on Washington DC. Elizabeth asked Luke a question about the National Mall, which Eli thought was great fun, and he decided he really wanted to help Luke.

After the session, we stayed for a few minutes to meet Ben and his mom, Bertra. While I was talking to Bertra, Eli and Luke played a little game of chasing and tickling around the office, which Luke thoroughly enjoyed. Bertra commented on how well they played together and I replied that this was a new thing for the two of them – while they occasionally played together, we most often have to facilitate an activity. I realized in that moment that I had never really seen them play like this before – more than a few minutes and real engagement from Luke.

During the week, listening to Eli talk about how much he wanted to go back to “Elizabeth’s” and spell with Luke, I reflected on the fact that Eli now seemed fascinated with Luke being able to spell, and what that might also mean for his communication with his brother. He occasionally comments and is aware  that “Luke is not able to talk” (Eli’s words). We know he’s working on processing that in his 5-year old brain and we talk about it occasionally to help him work through it.

Those two RPM sessions that week (only Luke’s 3rd and 4th sessions) demonstrated that all of this is more than just about Luke  – it’s a family journey. For Luke and Eli – their bond is stronger and their relationship is growing because Eli is able to participate in Luke’s development and appreciate that Luke is capable of communicating – and on a level that Eli finds fascinating. Bertra’s comment and observation also allowed me to step back and take a few seconds to reflect on the beauty of the moment – something about hearing it from someone else makes it even more powerful and validating. Elizabeth’s awareness (she could have shushed Eli out of the room when he wanted to come in, and gotten upset by hearing Eli out chasing Luke around the space – but she didn’t) and silent invitation to allow Eli to observe also made it possible for Luke and Eli to take their next step together as brothers and, just as importantly, have some fun at the same time.

It was an unexpected gift we got that day and one that I will never forget. Luke and Eli’s laughter and pure joy as they played together is a gift that is beyond words. Thank you RPM and Thank you Elizabeth for making this possible!

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12 thoughts on “RPM Ripple Effect

  1. We have begun doing a “sibling chat” on the weekends. I sit next to Emma (who is twelve) as she writes to her older brother. He then answers her questions and asks some of his own by speaking. After they had the first “chat”, my son looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “that’s the first time I’ve ever had a real conversation with my sister, Mom.”

    • I love this Ariane! I have done some text chats with clients and a parent or sibling. I have had more than a few tears as I am working on the board! As you described in your beautiful comment, it is often the first “real” conversation. a text conversation between my client, Ben, and his older sister about music led to her taking him to a concert on a Saturday evening. He later described it as “the best evening of my life”! RPM open so many doors!

      • Yes it truly does. So glad you’re writing about your experience of it.
        Now we need to figure out how to train more people!

        Her current school (a public school middle school in NYC) is on board with learning, but so far, while they are willing and eager to learn, they do not seem to fully understand why they can’t immediately start asking her open ended questions, so it’s been a bit frustrating…

      • I could not agree with you more Ariane! Proper training is so important! We need more people to learn and to learn well so that our kids can be successful. I have encountered some well intentioned folks who look at this low tech communication tool and give it a try. Without the proper training to support their attempts, both parties walk away feeling unsuccessful and frustrated!

  2. This demonstrates so clearly that “communication” is not only about words and speaking but about making connections through shared experiences and common interests. Rarely do we have an opportunity to see something like this happen. Two people who have shared so much for most of their lives – but were unable to communicate – find themselves suddenly in possession of that gift, as if a switch had been thrown. The voltage is and always had been there – but only as potential until the two parts of the “circuit” are connected through the ability to communicate. Only when the circuit is completed can the current flow. Potential becomes power, either to make things happen or to forge new connections that amplify the effect.Too often the rest of us take “communication” for granted. We talk and write, argue and judge, and many of us somehow manage not to “complete the circuit” and achieve the understanding that should be so easy for us. We have much to learn from our “non-speaking” friends, not only from what they have to say (which we are learning from skillful therapists like Elizabeth Vosseler is so much more than anyone had assumed!) but from what we can learn about ourselves by doing what they have done all their lives, the only thing they could do until now: watching and listening.This story of Luke and Eli in particular reminds me of the most touching moments during the 2014 Winter Olympics when Olympic gold-medal champion Alex Bilodeau publicly shared the deep connection he had with his brother who had been living with cerebral palsy. His brother was there on the sidelines in Siochi, joyously cheering Alex on, and Alex made no secret that what he did, what he accomplished, was not just for himself but for the two of them. It makes one wonder how something that strong and powerful came to be. This small glimpse at Luke and Eli helps answer that question.

    • Dan, I absolutely LOVE your circuit analogy! It is amazing what happens when all the current can flow through the connections! Also, a great reference to Alex Biodeau and his brother. There can be amazing connections between siblings!

  3. Many thanks to Faith! What a beautiful story, and the photo made my heart smile! I am SO happy for Faith, Luke and Eli… and every connection that grows with RPM and Growing Kids Therapy Center. 😀

    • This is a moment that I would have completely missed had Faith not shared it with me! SO glad that she did and then was willing to share it with everyone else! The picture makes my heart smile too!

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