Hot Pink Butterfly (An RPM Update)


I want to tell you about our progress with RPM (Rapid Prompting Method). It’s been 8 months since Rhema had her first RPM session. We’ve traveled to Wisconsin and Texas and worked with the experts. Last summer we attended one of Soma’s RPM camps, and we were changed forever when Rhema demonstrated her intelligence, thoughtfulness and sense of humor by spelling words on a stencil board.

Since then she and I have worked nearly every day together to learn how to improve her communication through this method. For more info on RPM, click here. Our friend and beloved therapist Terre volunteers her Saturday mornings to work with Rhema.

We’ve had many setbacks and frustrations. Days of tears and epic fails. We’ve also had moments of remarkable success. I’ve tried not to fret about our pace or compare our rate of progress to others. Every time we hit a snag I read, study videos, and pray for insight… a lot.

At this point we are practicing spelling words or short phrases on a letter board and doing some math (addition, subtraction). She is growing more confident about answering open ended questions at the end of each lesson (more about that later).

I used to shy away from “teaching” her academic topics because of my own insecurities. RPM has given me the opportunity to share in learning with Rhema and opened my eyes to how capable she really is. Now we talk about subjects I never dreamed we would. She does not speak words, she does not give eye contact, and often she doesn’t appear to be listening at all. But no doubt we are conversing.

In the past, I would not always tell her about things that were happening – a doctor appointment, trip or change in routine. I’d think, Why bother? Now I build an RPM lesson around an upcoming event. As a result she’s handled situations so much better simply because I told her about them and helped her understand what to expect. Another mom called it dignity. My girl has dignity now – I see it in her eyes. And I could cry thinking that we’ve been (unintentionally) withholding it from her for years.

Every day I wake up hopeful and excited. I honestly can’t wait until the evening when we do our lessons. I can’t wait to discuss the different shapes of butterfly eggs or the pattern on a woodpecker’s wings or the layers of the forest habitat or Joseph’s coat of many colors.

One night after a series of lessons on the butterfly lifecycle, I asked her about her favorite color of butterfly. She independently spelled HOT PIENK.



Now I keep a picture of a pink butterfly on my phone and bring it up when I need a lift… on the train to work, during a meeting, in the middle of the night, every day.

Around Christmas time we studied the birth of Christ and I asked her if she remembered what “Immanuel” means.

She spelled, GOD WITH US

Yes He is, dear one.

Weeks ago I shared with her how God made a way for His people in the book of Exodus and how time and time again He’s done the same for me. I asked her what she thought about “God making a way”, and she spelled RHEMA.

(She gets it. She gets it.)

I finally get to talk with my girl.

And hear from her, too (it’s slow and painstaking and sometimes just a single spelled word). It’s been so long coming, almost 12 years. My heart is pounding with hope and joy.

We’re waiting for more. But even if the “more” doesn’t come, if we stay right here – where we are now, it’s all been a gift anyway, a sweet gift words can’t begin to convey.

7 thoughts on “Hot Pink Butterfly (An RPM Update)

  1. Praising God with you, for seeing the steps and being patient and obedient and never giving up. Hot Pienk! A color full of joy and excitement, standing out, unique. I love it!

  2. Every time I read your posts my eyes well up. You write so honestly and beautifully. Rhema is a gem and she shines bright from within. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling like you short changed her in the early years. We parents do the best we can with what we know at any given time -whether our children has special needs or not. Remember that you are always bettering yourself and adjusting to what your children want and need to thrive and grow no matter what pace it may be. When my daughter was first diagnosed with autism I cried and was fearful for so many things. I only saw darkness. But every day forward since has become brighter and brighter, fuller and fuller. Every bit of progress whether it is because she and I can now have a decent conversation, or because at 11 she’s just learned how to tie a shoelace (sort of), it should always be celebrated. Your girls know your love not because you say it to them, but because you show them, you envelope them in spirit and they can feel it.

  3. Is Rhema using RPM throughout her entire day as a form of communication and education or only in the evenings and on weekends? In talking to other parents whose kids are doing really well with RPM I was told that RPM needed to be used consistently and not to go back and forth between other forms of communication (e.g. signing, augment. comm.) and other means of educating as that is counterproductive. I am not sure if that is true for all but it makes sense as it would probably be confusing. Emma’s Hope Journey is a great blog and in reading it I’ve learned so much from Emma and her mom. Emma’s mom went full time RPM. She is having such success. I am so happy for everyone using RPM. It’s so effective and really helps the kids show what they know!

  4. I also love what Ido says (below) in one of his recent blog posts. He is so right. Most people who are educating kids on the spectrum are NOT teaching grade level lessons in school nor are the kids getting the appropriate physical exercise which is so important. I hope all schools, at some point, will begin in to learn the importance of his advice.

    “Give people with autism the benefit of the doubt.

    Speak normally to them.

    Teach grade level lessons in school.

    Work on real physical fitness early. We need smart fitness trainers more than swings.

    Look at people who have successfully taught typing to severely autistic people. Do their students progress and become increasingly independent in their communication? Does this not demonstrate something worth exploring?

    Finally, listen to those people with autism who have broken through their silence to be able to describe their experiences. We offer insights from the inside. This is valuable because our outsides mislead and theories can go astray as a result.”

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