“Alright, so Ryan where were we?” Stephanie Curry asks her son while sitting in his bedroom opening a book.
For 10-year-old Ryan, reading with his mom is a favorite activity, but spelling with her is even more important.
“E-d, okay, you’re happy to be interviewed?” Stephanie ask Ryan. “R-o-o-m, okay, can we in the classroom? Is that okay? Yeah.”
Stephanie hasn’t always been able to communicate with her son.
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“For, I would say, close to eight years, he was in silence,” Stephanie said. “And I can’t imagine not being able to have a conversation like we’re having.”
But Ryan couldn’t, until a chance encounter in an autism treatment waiting room introduced his mom to Soma Mukhopadhyay's Rapid Prompting Method.
With Soma R.P.M., Ryan points to the letters on a plastic sheet or “board,” spelling out his thoughts. His mom reads what he points to and translates for him.
Using this method, Ryan told us that he has difficulty with eye tracking, so he has trouble reading books independently. Stephanie explained that motor skills are a challenge for Ryan, but they practice handwriting everyday and believe that one day he will be able to type independently on a device with voice output capabilities.
“Is it okay if Kristin just asks? Yes, okay,” Stephanie asks Ryan.
We asked what it was like before he could communicate.
“L-o, go ahead, n-e-l-y, dearly lonely,” Stephanie said after Ryan pointed to the letters.
“It’s hard to think what your life would have been like? Yes, okay ... good to say it hardly would have been a life at all,” Ryan wrote.
Now that he is able to share his feelings, he asked his mom to start a blog.
“He had asked, ‘You know, I want to start a blog,’” Stephanie recalled. “And I was like, ‘I don’t know, that’s a lot of work, I’m not sure that we’re up for that.’”
Since that conversation roughly two years ago, they have written more than 70 blog articles together.
“Can you think of a title for this blog post I wonder?” Stephanie asked Ryan.
Their blog is called “I Am In My Head,” and it’s where they share about a variety of topics, including Ryan’s First Communion and his relationship with God. Ryan wrote, “Dealing too much with loneliness, I often pray to him.”
They interview people like their mayor, and what it was like getting interviewed by NBC 5.
“I’m too grateful for the opportunity,” Ryan wrote after our interview was over. “It really lived up to my expectations.”
Ryan’s goal is to help people understand how children with autism should be treated.
“Really treat caring Autistics with respect,” Ryan wrote.
He said too often children with autism are spoken to like they don’t understand—like they are babies. He added that parents should read to their children who have autism.
Ryan and Stephanie want their blog to empower other families who are facing similar communication barriers.
“You know, Ryan’s story is Ryan’s story. He doesn’t speak for all autistic children, but I think that there are similarities between many of them, and I think that hopefully it [the blog] helps other people,” Stephanie said.
Learning to communicate has taken a lot of work, but it’s finally letting Ryan connect—with his family and the world.