Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Montessori.
There seems to be a lot of talk, myths and even controversy around whether Montessori serves its purpose when it comes to children with on the Autism spectrum and learning needs in general.
If your child is newly diagnosed, there is this great website that recently created a free guide to support parents who have a child recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It serves to educate parents and caretakers of neurodivergent children on all aspects of ASD giving them a better understanding of what it means for their child, for their family, and how to move forward. Please go have a look on their website and free parents guide here,
So I'm going to over my opinion on the subject, bust some myths and hopefully provide enough information and insight so that if you're debating weather Montessori education in the classroom or at home is right for your child with extra needs, that you can make a well informed choice with your child's needs in mind. Let's get into it!
Now I think a key thing to consider is the fact children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) tend to think and act slightly different to a child of the same age who is developmentally where they should be. They need more support in various areas to varying degrees, so obviously I can't be specific as every child is different, as is every child with ASD.
Now with this in mind, we know that every child, especially those with ASD, need tailored support. Which is where I believe Montessori education and philosophy is a perfect fit.
A core principle of Montessori is to follow the child, in their interests and where they are developmentally. So if for a example a child with ASD has trouble communicating their feelings, with Montessori you would follow that developmental need vs traditional education trying to get them to reach the same standard as everyone else when they are not developmentally in that place.
So lets take a closer look at Montessori classroom and how it benefits a child with ASD.
Montessori classrooms are made with the child in mind, not the adult. They have child sized implements that are made for a child's hand to use to help develop their independence. So if a child with ASD needed a different implement to independently reach the same task, this should be introduced to them to help support them, rather than expecting them to be able to function to the same standard with the same tools. Following the childs needs.
Montessori classrooms are also mixed age groups. Which I think can provide a huge benefit to a child with ASD. Instead of being around children all with the same age and same developmental capabilities, they would be around a mix of ages, abilities and general developmental stages. I think this can benefit them in terms of being included and not being made to feel like the only child with a tailored support programme, as with Montessori every child has this kind of tailored support.
Now it's a widely known fact that a large portion of children with ASD have sensory aspects related. I've known children who need ear defenders because they cant handle the noise, and children who have completely melted down at too many lights etc. Now this isnt't indicative of ASD, but it's definitely an aspect of it that needs to be considered.
In a Montessori classroom, whether your child has ASD or not, there is a whole Sensorial Curriculum for refining their senses, learning to understand how different senses work and function and can be manipulated. This sensory area is not encouraged any more or less than any other academic curriculum area. So for a child with ASD who needs extra sensory input, they are free to explore it in every sense in the classroom.
For the children who get overwhelmed sensorially, a Montessori classroom is very fitting. It's a common thing for people who visit Montessori classrooms to observe the fact that the classroom is generally quieter, as children are allowed to concentrate on whatever material they are using for as long as they want, whilst also being encouraged to respect others who are working. So the Auditory input compared to a traditional classroom is much less. Meaning children who need less Auditory input in their environment, can cope relatively well in a Montessori classroom.
Another part of the environment that I think benefits children with ASD, is that the environment stays the same. Their are different areas for different areas of education and learning. But the classroom is neatly kept up with activities on low open shelving and generally everything stays in the same place. For example if they enjoyed using a pouring work a month ago, they would find that same work in the same place today. Which provides security as commonly children with ASD find change in their environment hard to process and cope with.
Now of course it depends on the individual schools and teachers as to how "Montessori" they are and how aware they are of children with additional needs and how they support that. But a good Montessori school will be aware of the needs of children with ASD and be able to positively support them within a Montessori classroom and the child will grow and develop amazingly well in comparison to traditional schooling.
Lets turn our attention to Montessori at home. If you are considering bringing Montessori into your home and you have children with ASD. Please, please. PLEASE, do it!
So often we see that the parents of the children with ASD are the only ones who TRULY understand their child's needs, It's the same with all parents, you know your child best. You know how to best support them and where they need that support. So when it comes to bringing Montessori into your home, it is perfect and I firmly believe that every child (at least those I have met) with ASD would benefit from having a Montessori environment at home.
Such a large part of Montessori at home is preparing the environment for the child's needs and developmental capabilities and following their interests as to what they need in that moment to learn. As a parent or caregiver of a child with ASD you have this amazing way of being in tune with your child and what they need. So who else could possibly prepare your home environment better than you?
If you're wondering how to start Montessori at home or what it entails I recommend starting with reading my blog post 4 Steps to bringing Montessori into your home.
Obviously, bringing Montessori into your home with a child who as ASD, it may look a little different, or VERY different. Your main focus should be on the philosophy and principles of Montessori, then using that knowledge to figure out how that looks for you and your child.
You can get an idea of the fundamentals of Montessori here, 10 fundamentals of Montessori but I recommend reading some Maria Montessori's own works to get deeper insight and knowledge.
I also highly HIGHLY recommend another website completely! They provide so many invaluable resources for children with ASD and Montessori. This is a subject that is absolutely not my expertise, but I felt it deserved a place here on the blog, but if you're looking for a wealth of knowledge on the subject. This is where to go! Go check it out here.
I believe Montessori is for everybody, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.