Rapid Prompting Method
((If you are totally new, click here to learn more about Jackson’s Story.))
What a whirlwind of a few days! It’s amazing how everything can change in the blink of an eye. I always knew Jackson was smart and listens to everything we say, but I didn’t know the extent of his brainpower and cognitive abilities until starting Rapid Prompting Method: RPM.
Jackson began Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy when he was 2. Despite having many well trained, happy, fun therapists, Jackson often ended up up in tears and unhappy throughout his sessions, unable to follow simple commands…
“Jackson, touch your head”
“Jackson, put puzzle in”
“Jackson, clap hands”
“Jackson, quiet hands.”
When Jackson turned 4, we took Jackson’s schooling into our own hands and converted one of our home bedrooms into a playroom to start Jackson’s Son Rise program (www.autismtreatmentcenter.org). Click here to read the full story of Team Jackson. Managing a full time Son Rise program was amazing, and we learned so much about Jackson. What I appreciated most about Son Rise was the loving, child-centered, respectful, accepting way of entering Jackson’s world.
Jackson entered into a 1st grade Special Education classroom when he was 6 years old, and that’s his current school placement. We like the teacher, school, and the intensive individualized support Jackson receives, but have always known something is missing.
My mom (YOU ARE AMAZING, MOM!!) was the one initially who brought RPM to my attention. She emailed me videos of kids using the letter boards and working with skilled facilitators. My mom then bought be several books to read:
These books fascinated me and I found some Facebook groups with other parents using this method of communication. If you’re at the beginning phases of learning about RPM (like me), these two websites are great to reference:
When I found out that Lenae Crandall, an amazing RPM Teacher, comes to our area a few days each month, I emailed her to set up Jackson’s time slots. Jackson conveniently had the week off of school, so we scheduled three hour-long sessions to start to better our understanding of what RPM really looks like. I had watched a few YouTube videos of kids using the letter boards and RPM method, but still didn’t know what to expect or how Jackson would respond. I went in with an open mind and heart and what we saw was knocked my socks off! Jackson made choices, spelled out words, pointed to numbers, solved addition problems, and even communicated what he wants to be for Halloween! What I love about RPM (like Son Rise), is that it is very respectful, child-centered, fun and accepting of the child’s bodily/sensory needs.
Lenae used RPM to teach Jackson grade level academic content, asking him to spell words ranging from ‘mom,’ ‘continent,’ ‘bring,’ and ‘together.’ In each 45 minute session, she focused on 20-30 vocabulary words she’d write down, and have Jackson spell about 10 of them using the letter boards.
Jackson LOVED his RPM sessions. Although Jackson is often looking away, chewing and appearing unengaged, he is a very auditory learner, hearing Lenae spell the words, and listening and absorbing the information in the lesson. And now, he’s learning the technique of pointing to the letters on the letter board to communicate his knowledge.
You must be thinking (as I was), how does Jackson know how to spell?! At school, he still does simple puzzles and preschool level activities, so how does Jackson know how to spell ‘together?’ Jackson was fascinated with letters when he was younger. In the playroom, he would often line up the alphabet and carry various letters around the house. He likes books, but never sits down to read a book. The thinking behind RPM is that our children are very smart, listening to everything, and have picked up reading and other skills and knowledge along the way from their amazing auditory learning.
Did I previously think Jackson knew how to add? No.
Did I previously think Jackson cared at all about what he wanted to be for Halloween? No.
Did I previously think Jackson could spell the word ‘mom?’ No.
Our plan moving forward is to continue using RPM with Jackson outside of school hours. I ordered the letter boards from Soma’s website, and my mom, Gabby (an amazing former Son Rise volunteer) and I will take turns planning lessons and practicing RPM with Jackson. We’ll continue to work with Lenae when she returns each month, but really, it’s going to take commitment, consistency and practice on our part to learn more and implement RPM at home.
My belief is that Jackson will continue to astound us, spelling and communicating, we can then show the district that this method of learning and communication works for Jackson to then have a specially RPM trained aide work with Jackson during school hours, and eventually move to typing on an iPad.
Navigating this ‘Autism’ journey these past 7 years has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced. I never blame myself for anything I’ve done or tried , because mindset is strong, knowing I’m always doing the best I can with what I know. Now that I know more about RPM and Jackson’s amazing response to it, I’m optimistic and excited to move forward, learn more and best, learn exactly what Jackson is thinking, what Jackson likes and what Jackson wants. I am inspired and will continue to blog with updates as we begin to execute Jackson’s RPM program!
Know Better Do Better,