Ms. K & RPM: Filbert learns math


I have been working with Filbert since the beginning of January, and it has been truly amazing. Filbert is a beautiful six-year-old boy who has a fairly severe form of nonverbal autism. Nonverbal doesn’t necessarily mean he does not talk, it simply means that only 20% of the words he says are actually what he wanted his mouth to say. For the past three or four years his parents have been doing the Son-Rise Program which that focused on creating a safe and fun environment for him every day. As of about November, he has been introduced to a new therapy called RPM ( The basis of the Rapid Prompting Method is the belief that Filbert’s brain works just fine, it is the connection from his brain to his mouth that is broken. Previously, his mom wasn’t even aware whether he could read or not, but now we know a whole lot more.

The therapy involves teaching lessons and asking questions which sounds normal, but the way he answers is what is different. A letter board is held in front of him and he spells out what the answer is or what he is thinking. Sometimes we also give him two or more choices and he must point to the correct one. This therapy works for nonverbal kids because pointing and spelling is in a much different part of the brain than speaking. So even though I might ask Filbert what 2 + 2 is and he might say “go to the couch”, that does not mean he doesn’t understand the question or doesn’t know the answer, his mouth just won’t cooperate. This is proven when we place a letter board in front of him and he spells out four while he is saying “go to the couch”. Through this process his mom and our team have been able to learn so much more about him. We now know his favorite color is red because he loves blood and he likes to spell cool with a “k”.

When I first started teaching Filbert, which is way harder than it sounds, we began with simple concepts like counting by 5’s and so on, but I quickly grew to realize that he was much smarter than I even thought possible. Yesterday, I taught this six-year-old how to change point-slope form equations into y-intercept equations which is a skill I didn’t learn until at least eighth grade. The kid is brilliant. Not only is he a genius, but he has changed me in so many ways. Filbert has added tremendous amounts of joy and understanding to my life. I cannot wait for one o’clock to roll around because I know that as soon as I walk through their front door I will be met with a huge smile and a, “RPM with Miss K!” from the cutest little boy around. I have had people ask me if I get paid to do this since it is pretty time consuming and my reply is always yes, but I don’t mean it in the monetary sense, more in the greatest experience of a lifetime kind of payment. I love being Filbert’s math teacher and I hope I get to do this for a long time.

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