College Paper by James Potthast, Adult with Low Verbal Autism: “Attaining the Information of the World”
Our son James who is 18, has significant impairment from his vaccine induced autism. He fights a dysfunctional body everyday and I wish everyday that it didn't have to be so hard. But RPM the teaching method that gave James communication has changed his life. Hopefully any AoA reader has already heard about it but its good to be reminded and this essay will inform some of you about what the journey from silence to communication has been. He wrote it for his community college english class. The class was supposed to explore how they get and process information. A different question for someone with autism! Brooke Potthast
By James Potthast
January 19, 2018
Information Literacy Narrative
“Attaining the Information of the World”
My current environment stimulates and allows me to continue growing in my information literacy. I have a multitude of resources for receiving and sharing information. I am a college student, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, I write a quarterly newsletter, I have a personal blog, and I often listen intently to those around me. I consider myself to be information literate. I am able to listen and process information presented to me in a variety of formats. I pride myself in the speed at which I can auditorily process information. However, all of this did not happen overnight. My journey from prisoner to college student is one of struggle in finding ways to access, use, and understand information.
Almost five years ago, I had very limited access to information, no ability to use the information I possessed, and was not being taught to understand what I heard daily. I have Autism and I am nonverbal. For this reason, I was denied access to information that I was presumed not to know or be able to understand. My learning consisted mostly of matching and repeating patterns. Then, one day my parents took me to meet and work with Soma Mukhopadhyay, and Autism and education specialist. I remember being taught a lesson about planes. I felt empowered by the fact someone felt I could understand a middle school lesson. I was asked questions to show my comprehension. Using a stencil board with the alphabet on it, I answered each question correctly. Everyone was surprised I could spell, and even more shocked I processed all of the information that was given to me. This day changed my life. I was given the opportunity to access information for the first time, and was able to express my understanding of that material. My shackles had finally been removed and using a letter board was the key that would allow me to freely explore the world.
After this discovery, my parents decided that learning with a homeschool program would be best for me. A few months later, I became a homeschool student. I vividly remember meeting my teacher, Shannon. I thought she was so smart. I asked myself on many occasions if I would be able to work for a whole school day. At times, I needed breaks. The transition from not being able to communicate the thoughts in my mind to having an organized school day full of educational input was overwhelming at times. I would get tired easily, and get frustrated with myself for not being able to point at the letters as easily I wanted to. This process helped me build resilience as a learner. Now I was able to learn at my grade level. I had the opportunity of accessing the meaningful information that I always wanted.