09 Aug 2022

Giving a voice to Longford’s children with Autism

Giving a voice to Longford’s children with Autism

As humans we take it for granted our ability to communicate with each other, however, many autistic children are nonverbal and therefore cannot freely communicate their needs and wants.
A group of Longford parents have come together to raise funds, in aid of nonverbal autistic children attending St Christopher’s Special School in the town. “Voices for Autism Longford aims to raise funds to give our children the gift of communication using the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), which can help nonverbal autistic children find new ways of communicating.”
The life-changing communication method was recently seen on the RTE documentary “Speechless”, which explores the world of nonverbal autistic writer and poet, 21 year old Fiacre Ryan from Castlebar.
Until the age of 13, Fiacre had no means of communicating. However, Fiacre’s world took a dramatic turn aged thirteen. Desperate to help her speechless child, Fiacre’s mum Carmel, with a few other autism parents, discovered RPM and they invited an RPM teacher from the US to Mayo to see if she could help their silent children.
At the very first workshop, Fiacre showed a level of competence and knowledge that astonished his parents and sisters. Like a dam bursting with words, Fiacre’s thoughts flowed out of him as he tapped out words on a letter board. Finally, Fiacre had found a way to communicate. Fiacre went on to be the first nonverbal, autistic child to use RPM to sit his Leaving Certificate.
The method has already been tested out here in Longford by St Christopher’s teacher, Colleen Mannion.
Colleen teaches students aged between the ages of 6 and 10, and says she has never seen such rapid results: ‘I first started with Soma’s RPM three months ago. In that time, all 6 of the students in my class have begun to make choices by pointing. I have introduced curriculum through the RPM process and all the students have begun to answer literal comprehension questions using choices while also beginning to use the letterboard.’
She says: ‘I have seen amazing results using this way of teaching and for using it as communication. I am able to find out what is happening with my students by using a series of questions. We have only begun our journey and I am so excited to see where the students go with this method.’
A Wexford mum, Teresa Carr Buckley, says “my 2 boys are autistic and use RPM. Both boys are non-verbal and, other than PECs (picture exchange), they had no other form of communication. RPM was introduced 6 years ago to our school and we have not looked back since. It has opened up a whole new world for both my boys. Please support this worthy cause as it’s been life changing for my 2 boys. It has created opportunities that would never have been possible if they hadn't been introduced to RPM.”
All funds raised through the Voices for Autism Longford fundraiser will be used to train school staff to deliver the RPM programme and to help local autistic children unlock their voices.
Donations can be made by searching ‘Voices for Autism with RPM’ on GoFundMe, and you can also find the donation link on the ‘Voices for Autism Longford’ Facebook page.

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