I believe good autism programs are enhanced by using FC-Facilitated Communication, RPM-Rapid Prompting Method and similar supported typing and writing strategies. Why? These partners have a unique way of establishing relationship with a nonverbal child who is hard to reach. Although it is difficult to comprehend how they work, these complex, controversial methods creates miraculous changes in the behavior and the temperament of the child.
Although I am an FC and RPM supporter, I simply suggest communication programs that the child can use independently. PECS (Picture Exchange System) does not require pointing ability, it encourages spontaneous requesting, and it teaches identification and interaction with a communicative partner. In its initial stage, the person who works behind the child serves as a partner too. Until the child becomes adept at pointing, I may also facilitate voice output communication programs and any other type of eye-hand activities. Similar to FC and RPM, my focus and attention to the task at hand sees to aid the nonverbal person select a correct response. As the child becomes more profitable, I withdrew this focussed energetic prompt, slowly, just as I would any other prompt. The iPad is providing many affordable options for communication and eye-hand coordination activities.
Although I use FC and RPM for energetic linking and shared higher level communication, I do not depend on words for functional communication until the child has repeatedly shown that he understands word meaning. The child needs to be able to demonstrate that he can match the word to the corresponding pictures and / or the actual object or activity. Reading without understanding usage, is rampant in this population. I do not assume because a child is typing and has made an amazing “subconscious” telepathic like connection with me, that his “conscious mind” or “independent ego” can express understanding of the words he types or reads. Functional communication should be used simultaneously and independently with multiple partners in a variety of settings.
The program should have staffers that demonstrate the knowledge and flexibility to meet the complex needs of the each child. ABA does not have all the answers, but some discrete trial procedures can complement any sound autism program. Questions to ask yourself? Does the program make the child feel comfortable? Does the child feel safe and trust his environment? Are there meaningful traffic and sensory activities? Do staffers share a philosophy that an organized body leads to an organized mind? Is the child forging relationships with the staff? Do they incorporate activities that foster joint attention? Do staffers provide activities that teach cause and effect? Is the child taught to imitate? Is he motored consistently with slow removal of prompts to complete movement patterns he can not do independently? Do staffers teach categories and parts of speech to help the child form his own internal filing cabinet? What do staffers do to encourage the child to initiate? Do they foster projects that develop eye-hand coordination? Do staffers address adaptive daily living skills? Do they realize that focused intention used in Facsimile Communication are beneficial teaching a variety of skills? Do the staffers understand how FC strategies enhance their own intuitive abilities? Do staffers understand that FC helps the student understand our word dependent language system.
Often ignored, denied and discouraged, I believe the telepathic resonance in the FC and RPM relationship, should be embroidered as a part of the process since it helps the child engage more with his surroundings. This energetically dependent strategy should not be discarded just because it is not currently understood. If one listens with an open heart and an open mind, the child will show what he needs. Look for staffers who understand that the child has a different perceptual reality, and are willing to meet him more than half way.
I believe all forms of communication should be open to the child and parents should steer clear of just using one strategy. I would like to see these disciplines work together to help bridge the gap between subconscious partner dependent communication and ego based needs and needs.