by Pam Aronow
Last Friday was an exciting day as Ian and I launched our blog! I am passionate about helping Ian build his ability to communicate and to share that experience. We both have a deep desire to reach and teach others that may benefit from RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) and spelling to communicate. As such, this joint blog venture will be a great vehicle for putting Ian’s voice out there and in providing help and inspiration to others. As his communication partner and Mom, I can offer a perspective that is vitally important!
As lofty and in the clouds as we were, last Friday, with the excitement of Ian sharing his voice for the first time, it is important to take some time to note the amount of work, dedication, persistence and practice it has taken, and will continue to take, for Ian to maintain and grow (see Ian’s blog post too: How Do I Spell in the First Place?) Phew! Yes. That was a long sentence. It will take more than a long sentence and even one single long blog post to do justice to the behind-the-scenes workings and goings on of Ian’s “unlocking my potential.”
For Ian to openly communicate (like in his blog entry), it usually requires some sort of warm-up– having him spell words I dictate or doing an academic lesson in which I teach him some information and then ask for a fact-based “known” answer in return (the teach/ask method in RPM). This time, Ian was able to dive right in without much warm-up. It did take a few hours to spell out his post, however. Ian spelled out about half of the entry before we had to take a break. It was getting harder for him to get that pencil to the letters he wanted. This is especially true when spelling something that is particularly emotional. Emotions are like fuel tossed on a fire–it can create an explosion. In Ian’s case, the body gets harder to control as the emotions fuel the body/brain disconnect.
There are many motor skills that require a great amount of practice to develop competency and skill. I think of learning to play the piano or violin. Hundreds of hours of practice and learning are required to play competently. Once skills are mastered, a musician must continue to work on the skills and practice to maintain that level of ability. This is what Ian must do, but with the wrinkle thrown in of having more difficulty controlling his motor movement than a typical person.
Moving forward, Ian and I will continue to do daily RPM/letterboard lessons that are centered around age-appropriate (high school level and higher) academic material. Just because he has now had a breakthrough into more open communication, does not mean Ian has reached the end of the journey. Like the musician, he will need to continue practicing his skills to maintain what he has achieved. Also, there is more that he can accomplish in terms of motor skills for communication, from hand writing to typing on a keyboard, and ultimately purposeful speech!
In future blog posts, I will dive more in-depth into what a lesson looks like, why “presuming competence” is so important, explain in greater detail the body/brain disconnect that Ian experiences and much more. We are looking at also adding a Question of the Week or Question of the Month feature. Stay tuned!