Thursday, May 11, 2017

Early Days of RPM

Sharolyn wrote:  I want to hear about the early days of RPM and what made it click for you.

To Sharolyn,

Thank you for your question. My early days of RPM were very difficult. RPM is a great learning method but it was really hard to start. I started when I was 9. For so many years I was assumed to have an intellect of a toddler. I was not challenged to engage my mind. Instead I had my senses to entertain me all day. At school I learned nothing I did not already know. So I taught myself to read the signs on the wall. I stimmed my life at home by tapping my hand repeatedly on everything. It helped me feel alive and not just a passive object taking up space. I could escape in my mind to other places where I would have a voice. 

I remember my first time doing RPM with Soma as being the most significant moment in my life. Soma was the first person to believe in me. Her ability to see my intelligence despite my outer appearance allowed me to follow her teaching and respond as my mind wanted. I felt so much joy from being liberated from peoples’ assumptions I was not smart. 

When I came home I was frustrated I could not respond to Mom like I did with Soma. Mom did not know how to prompt me to help me keep my mind and body engaged. I could think of what she was saying but could not get my body to move as my mind directed. I became frustrated and tried to escape the lessons. My mom got upset many times and yelled at me. That made me feel so stressed. But mom persisted. Dad made me my own little workspace with a small table. It was easier for me to concentrate and not escape. Eventually I got better at sitting through lessons.

RPM taught me how to leave my own sensory world to actively participate with others for a while. I first had to learn how to listen actively to respond to questions of me. Expectations that I would meet had to be meaningful. I was tired of being asked the same questions over and over again. Questions like how many, what color, and what is it. These were the questions I got all day long at school. I listened better when I heard something new and interesting. Nothing could be better than learning about God. Mom headed toward the right direction when she started teaching me about God. 

After I got better listening I had to learn to bring my body under better control to point to what I wanted to answer. RPM helped me by getting me to think more and plan my movements more carefully. At first it was hard. I had to engage my mind and body together to learn and show I was learning by picking the right choices and trying to spell. Getting a good lesson helped me listen better to Mom. Then I would learn to focus on getting my hand to choose the right choice. At first my hand would move without much control. It would sometimes prefer to choose one side. I am easily drawn to the word I heard last. My hand would pick the last choice. Things started to click when my mom started to teach more interesting lessons instead of quizzing me on basic concepts. I made progress by a lot of active engagement of my mind. This allowed me to leave my sensory world. Learning to think through autistic impulses is hard work. Autistic impulses envelope me in a purely sensory realm where I am alone in my world. I need high amounts of prompting to keep me engaged with you. I want to be a part of what is going on but I am passive because I am not able to get out of my sensory world without your help directing me to leave so that I can interact with others. I am learning to better join the world today. I am practicing by going to school with typical classmates and going out in the world more. I stay more peaceful than I used to. I think RPM has a lot to do with it. RPM is a life changer. It is worth the struggles in the beginning. It gets easier. 


 Soma and me at first RPM Camp Oct. 2012

My old workspace

Copyright 2017 Philip Reyes.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

RPM: Balance & Role of Motor Planning

Guest Blog by Em (Filbert's Mom) and Filbert

Filbert’s Bio:  I am soon to be nine years old. I love being outside biking or swimming. I am a Harry Potter fan. I enjoy exercising and singing. My latest love is piano playing and snap circuits. I have been doing RPM since November 2014. I have accomplished so many hard goals.

By Em

We have loved being a RPM family for almost 2 and-a-half years. Coming from a play therapy background there were holes in Filbert’s academics that needed filling. However, academics only take about two hours per day leaving many hours to fill as a homeschool family.

Soma’s blue book Developing Motor Skills for Autism really sparked my passion for my son to have independent skills and hobbies. All of those take motor planning, which is a struggle for autistics.

Our family decided to divide our time 50-50 between academics and motor skills. Upon starting in November 2014, my son could not dress himself, feed himself, zip, and do many other skills. I was now armed with the tools to teach him. We began with motor modeling — assisting Filbert hand-over-hand 2-3 times, then having him immediately try himself. Consistency is key. We picked a few skills and exercised persistence. 

Improvement comes slowly, but it comes and is so worth it. Many of the initial skills we started with took 6-9 months to master. Several took us 2 years. The pride and independence Filbert now has was worth every day we spent working on these. 

We broke our list down into three categories: self-help, exercise and hobbies. Our first self-help skills included self-feeding, self-dressing, zipping, putting on shoes, cutting, and teeth brushing. Exercises included lots of stretching and core strengthening (a weak area for us). We now do Special Fit with Mike Ramirez and find it very helpful. Our hobby journey started with foosball, crochet, and tracing/drawing.

Working on all these motor skills has given Filbert a defined role within our family and community. Prior to having diversified motor skills, he ran around our house whenever he was not engaged in something. Now it is as if he does not need to run out of his own skin and can control his body much more effectively. Just like all kids, he has chores and he is such a help! His hobbies also allow him to do joint activities with friends, participate at Boy Scouts, and take piano lessons.

Below are some videos of where we are now. Through his hard work and the support of our team he has blossomed! Excited to see where this next year takes us. Remember the only mistake is not to try. Get started!!!

Friday, April 28, 2017

A Walk in My Shoes

Guest Blog by Graciela

Can you imagine having the intelligence of a savant but never being that lucky to be in a school that works with this ability? This has been my experience because I have not found the awesome school that can work with my body and my mind. Because I need the support for my challenging body many have made the mistake of thinking that my intelligence is totally challenged too. Daring to believe challenged bodies are still intelligent is hard for most educators. Could teachers do better? Could stopping to think about intelligence help the situation? Could trying to presume competence be effective? Amazing education thinks about how to stop doing the same things over and over  and thinks about how to really educate strong minds.  

Autism in the non-speaking is challenging because the outer body is so careless. However the inner mind is fully intact and on many levels greatly intelligent. It is hard to stop making the outer body behave the way it does. Educators must have the ability to look beyond the body’s actions. Is it a lot to learn to do this? My body is autistic. My brain is not. With the support I need for my body I am able to do incredible work with my amazing mind.  

The awesome thing that we are finding out about the brain and learning is that the brain has an incredible way of working in some individuals and we must help these individuals get the education they deserve. 

Graciela is an amazing 13 year old girl. She has been using the letterboards for three years. She always does her best to challenge others  to be making the path to inclusion as beautiful as possible in spite of always running into a lot of obstacles on her own journey. 

Graciela has a blog entitled Dare to Listen.  Check it out at