A Calgary teenager living with autism wants the world to know the benefits of a form of communication that has changed his life.
For most of his life, 19-year-old Erik Herzog was unable to articulate in words what he saw in his deepest thoughts and dreams.
“It’s kind of trapped,” Eric said through communication partner Madison Martin.
Herzog’s mother, Mo, says she discovered the RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) about a year and a half ago.
“It was a shot in the dark and a friend mentioned it to me so I thought I’d give it a try,” said Mo.
What happened in my twice weekly sessions with Martin at Mentoring Minds was amazing.
“We use letter boards and lessons as tools in RPM sessions,” says Martin. “In lessons, I engage students in a teach-and-question loop. I teach them information. We start with known answers and gradually build open-ended communication.”
Martin uses the alphabet board and Eric points to the letters to create words and sentences.
“For someone with autism, high tech can be overwhelming. There are also iPad apps, but often there is a lot going on, and a low-tech approach initially proves to be the most effective.” I know,” said Martin. “Eventually, we want them to grow into iPads or keyboards.”
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Thanks to this method, Eric is no longer mute.
“It was life-changing,” Eric said through Martin.
“I want other people to find a voice like mine.”
Instead of feeling trapped, Eric now feels free.
“We spent two hours peeking inside Eric’s head, seeing things we haven’t seen in 19 years, and learning more about our son in every session,” Mo said.
“When he joined the company, Eric was very emotional, with little ability to communicate his inner thoughts and dialogue, and many tears were shed in this office,” Martin said of Eric. He was talking, saying cool things, how his brain worked, how he tasted colors, and things he couldn’t even imagine.”
Wayne, Eric’s dad, said it was hard to believe at first.
“Before RPM, he took our hands and showed us what he wanted. That was the only way he could communicate with us,” Wayne said.
“I’m a skeptic by nature and for a long time I couldn’t accept what was going on here. Before RPM I thought he had the intelligence of a 3- or 5-year-old. Seeing his ability and the thoughts in his head made me feel guilty.I had underestimated him the last few years.”
“I couldn’t ask him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ At least here he can tell you what’s going on in his head when he does certain things.” added Wayne.
Mo was particularly touched by one of Eric’s first conversations.
“I lost it when he typed ‘I love you mom.’ I know his son loves me, but he’s never heard the word,” he said Mo.
As for Eric, he said he felt “blessed” to hear a voice for the first time in his life.
Eric said he would like to go to college one day and study to become an educator.
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