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Nonverbal Seventh Grader Has a Wonderful Way With Words

“Autism lets me see the beauty in nature that people often miss.”

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Philip Reyes is a seventh grader at Heim Middle School in Williamsville, New York. He’s on the autism spectrum and is nonverbal, and felt like a “caged animal” until he was able to finally communicate through the use of the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). What’s astonishing is that although he does not speak, a recent article he wrote about living with autism shows a stunning clarity of thought and an understanding way beyond his years.

RPM was developed by a Texas woman, Soma Mukhopadhyay, to help her communicate with her son who has autism. The method involves the teacher using a sheet of paper and pointing to letters to help the person with autism spell out what they’re attempting to communicate. Although the RPM technique has shown some success, many in the behavioral science community believe it deserves further research.

Here’s an excerpt of Reyes’ article:

Autism is something I was born with. It is all I know. When I was younger I could not communicate well. I could not express my thoughts even though I had so many. It was not until I was 9 years old that I started to be able to show I had a smart mind under my autistic exterior. It was the year I learned Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and began to spell on a letter board. I now write a blog to tell others what autism is like from the inside.

People need to hear more about autism from autistic people themselves. Autistic people don’t like being assumed emotionless and uncaring.

When people talked about my concerning behaviors in front of me I would feel embarrassed and pent-up shame. I was made to feel horrible for my autism. People pitied my family and me.

Teachers were well meaning but believed I could not understand much of anything because I could not talk or write to communicate that I was smart and understood everything going on around me. I became like a pet to train, as everyone tried to make me act normally with candy rewards.

For me, autism is how God made me to get around in the world. Autism lets me see the beauty in nature that people often miss. Autism allows me to think thoughts about other ways of perceiving the world. Autism gives me a close relationship with God.

To help me best, please see me as an equal human being as you. This means treat me the way you want to be treated.

You can read the whole piece at The Buffalo News.

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