An ad hoc committee of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has put forth the following position statement regarding Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and is asking for formal adoption by its broader community of practitioners:
“It is the position of ASHA that the use of RPM is not recommended. Furthermore, information obtained through the use of RPM should not be considered as the voice of the person with a disability.”
Link to full statement: Here
Here is my open letter to ASHA, in response:
To the Members of ASHA:
I am writing to you with regard to the recent proposed position statement certain committee members have generated toward RPM.
Although this committee has recommended against the use of RPM and stated that any communication made through spelling with this method is suspect, I ask that you read my letter anyway. You see, I am a nonspeaking 16-year old autistic guy using a letter board to write to you now. I am spelling my thoughts. I am pointing to the letters. No one is moving my hand or the board. No one is telling me what to spell. My mom is holding the board. This helps me stay focused. It is hard for me to hold the board myself when I spell, but I am making progress with this goal. I am also working on typing independently. Speaking each word after I spell them is also a skill I work on. I am telling you all of this to let you know that I want full independence with my communication. But that I need RPM to help me get there. Will you take my words seriously, even though you have been told not to? Can you give me the benefit of the doubt? Feel my awesome plea with real, open minds.
Recently, at an appointment with my developmental pediatrician I got to demonstrate my spelling to communicate. It felt awesome to have a conversation with the doctor. We were worried he might think like the committee and just dismiss the process. So, it was a relief that he took the time to observe me spell. He asked me personal questions and I could give him in-depth answers. He did not doubt that I was communicating under my own power. He understood that any support (like a prompt or my mom holding the board) is sometimes needed due to what he has diagnosed as my “severe motor dyspraxia.” I was on fire that day though and didn’t need any prompts.
I get that some of you fear that these prompts and the support we sometimes need means we are being manipulated like puppets. This concern has you turning your backs on real human potential.
I think no matter what ASHA decides, I will continue the journey to fully independent communication with great success, but I would love the chance to have you on my side. This is difficult to do when you know there are others who think you are permanently disabled. Talk to us and try to see our gifts. You are so focused on the so-called methods that you are missing the people that you have pledged to help.
Thank you for your time. I hope you will consider NOT adopting this position on RPM. I feel that such a position will hurt many in the nonspeaking autistic and disabled community.