I am a nonspeaking teen who types to communicate. I learned to communicate this way when I was nine years old. This was the year I learned Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) with Soma Mukhopadhyay, RPM’s creator. My life changed forever the day I met Soma.
Being able to communicate after many years of silence was like being let out of a cage. I sat in this cage like a bird on display at the zoo. People could not penetrate the glass of my cage.
I did my best to make myself at home in the cage. The cage was transparent and I could still sense the world. I could lose myself in the world of colors, shapes, patterns, and rhythms.
I did not share my experiences with others. I had no means to share my thoughts. I learned to keep myself occupied by teaching myself through my senses. It was lonely not being able to communicate with anyone outside my cage. I prayed I could leave the cage everyday. My one comfort was talking to God. I talked to him all the time.
The cage only needed a key. If I could find someone with a key, I could get out. When I was nine my family went to Austin, Texas, where I met Soma. I saw she knew my situation. She was my hope for opening my cage. I tried with all my energy to answer all her questions by pointing to the choices and spelling. During that week my parents learned to see me in a whole new light.
At home I could not do with my mom what I could do with Soma yet. Mom and I had to practice a new way of interacting. I had to persist in working with Mom at lessons to make me able to listen, spell, and eventually express myself.
Getting out of my cage was practically like escaping a maximum security prison. Even though Soma had the key, I had many other obstacles. I had made lots of routines in my cage that couldn’t be given up easily. Leaving them behind felt like betraying old friends. I made myself free of them by learning to trust God to protect me outside the cage.
I began openly communicating with Mom after months of RPM lessons. I could see more clearly through my mind’s clutter only after I became used to thinking through lessons that helped me categorize my thoughts and organize them in a way I could access them better. My communication is the greatest gift I ever received. Communication freed me from my cage. At last I could tell my thoughts and feelings to everyone.
The world was suddenly open. My cage slowly became dismantled. For me this was both amazing and frightening. My greatest wish came true. I was free.
But I was also more aware I now had new expectations on me. Would I be able to handle them? I could interact with people, but I was different. Would I be included? Could I be integrated into society like every neurotypical person? I began to have more anxiety about my new life. Sometimes I had meltdowns because overwhelming feelings could not be contained.
Integrating into society has been meaningful to me. Before I could communicate, I was treated like a beloved pet. I was loved but I was not seen as understanding. People would talk about me but not to me. When I was able to communicate people began to talk to me more regularly.
I love being included even if I can’t join in easily. I am becoming better able to integrate but I have to keep working at it daily. It is helpful if society puts in the effort to include me too.
I have been able to integrate into more mainstream education. This has been so beneficial to me. I have learned so much. I learn new things everyday. I learn to manage myself better. I make friends. I have meaningful days. I am no longer in a cage.
I am now free to fly.
- The Cage — August 8, 2019
- Independence through Dependence: Why I Need a Communication Facilitator — June 26, 2019