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.