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Study rejects claims over Rapid Prompting Method for autism

A new study finds no basis for the controversial Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) that some claim helps autistic people communicate. Proponents say RPM aids communication with autistic people or others with special needs through pointing, typing or writing.

Critics say it resembles another discredited technique, called facilitated communication, where an autistic person shares their thoughts using a board or tablet after another person applies pressure to their hand or arm. Studies conclude the results are controlled by the facilitator, sometimes with harmful consequences.

RPM has been promoted for more than a decade

Despite the lack of any independent study, RPM was first featured on “60 Minutes II” on CBS in 2003 and later by CNN and PBS. The method was developed by an Indian woman to communicate with her autistic son. Soma Mukhopadhyay claimed RPM allowed her son to share his thoughts and ideas for the first time.

Since then, the method has grown in popularity despite any proof it is effective. Nearly one out of every four people with autism speak a few words or not at all. Speech and language pathologists often use augmentative and alternative communication, which uses various tools to replace or supplement speech.

Choosing the best treatment for autism

While there’s no evidence that RPM does any physical damage to autism patients, researchers say there's no proof that it helps an autistic person communicate with others. Therapists recommend that you choose any treatment based on these considerations:

  • Evaluate your child’s present status relative to the therapy
  • Establish clear goals for your child with a therapist
  • Compare the actual outcomes to your goals

Seek legal advice to protect your rights over special needs education

Parents of autistic children often face frustration and roadblocks to getting their child the treatment they deserve. Delays can result from problems getting the disorder diagnosed properly so a special needs education plan can be put in place. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can help families reduce the roadblocks and help their special needs child gain access to educational resources.

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