Approaches to Autism – What is Rapid Prompting Method? (RPM)

What is Rapid Prompting Method?

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Rapid Prompting Method is within the same area as Facilitated Communication, but arguably different enough to require a separate explanation.

Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) is a method of teaching autistic people to communicate via initially selecting words written on paper, then progressing through selecting individual letters from a letter board or letter stencil, before progressing onto handwriting and/or using a keyboard independently. It was devised by Soma Mukhopadhay when she couldn’t find much in the way of professional guidance to help her autistic son, Tito. Mukhopadhay now teaches parents and professionals how to do RPM through the HALO organisation in Texas.

RPM differs from Functional Communication in that rather than holding or physically prompting the individual, the tendency is for the professional or parent to hold the paper or letter board. Of course this doesn’t mean that the method is completely free of the possibility of prompter bias, and this is a common topic of controversy within discussions of RPM.

Unlike facilitated communication, there is also very little rigorous research into RPM, especially research that doesn’t have involvement from HALO or Mukhopadhay, and this makes it difficult to conclude whether it does actually work, or assess how effective it is or the influence of the professional or parent. There have been documentaries about RPM such as “Tito’s Story” and “A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism”, and books written by the parents of individuals who have learnt to communicate through RPM or by the individual’s themselves such as “Ido in Autismland”, “Strange Son”, and any of Tito Mukhopadhay’s books. Anecdotal evidence cannot be taken as objective evidence, but the documentaries certainly seem to suggest that individuals are learning to communicate independently. Of course, there are suggestions and the distinct possibility that footage is staged or prompted or coached somehow and just not documented by the camera. Without actually standing and watching an individual progress through the stages of RPM, and in the absence of empirical evidence, it is difficult to make an informed judgment on RPM.

Anyway – I will discuss more of the actual teaching of RPM in future posts, as well as looking at the few studies that do exist. If you’ve tried RPM or have anything to say about it, leave a comment below.

Until next time.

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