Everyone is welcome

As a special education teacher for over 20 years, I realize that all children can learn no matter what their special needs may be. There are children with Down Syndrome, autism, learning disabilities, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or a physical disability. Whatever the case may be, all children can learn.

Montessori Garden School and the Child with Special Needs

Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. She emphasized independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development. Children with challenging behaviors inspired her work. At her time, they were considered mentally challenged.

In a Montessori environment, children learn by exploring specially designed materials. Each material teaches one concept or skill at a time. It gives the child the foundation for the child to understand abstract ideas. The classroom is beautifully prepared and inviting. The materials are introduced and the child is taught how to use them appropriately. Then, the teacher allows the child to work through the process independently where most of the materials are self-correcting. The teacher’s goal is to inspire rather than instruct.

Children with special needs, such as learning differences and physical disabilities often thrive in a Montessori setting. The younger they start, the most gains they will make. Montessori materials engage all the senses, which in turn is extremely important with students with different learning styles. Students are free to move about the class, which is great for students who require a high level of physical activity. Each child learns at their own pace, so to children who are the same age but have different abilities work on the same lessons without the pressure of formal standards. Language is encouraged in the Montessori classroom helping the children with speech and language impairments.

There are some Montessori classrooms with large class sizes and a special needs child who needs a lot of one-on-one time with the adult may not get as much attention as he or she needs. The children are encouraged to work independently. A child with special needs may find it difficult to focus, concentrate, and work on his or her own. Also, some Montessori schools do not have teachers who are specially trained to work with a special needs child, where they need a lot of patience and strategies on what to do in certain situations. Special services may not be offered in the school and may be difficult to coordinate. So not all Montessori schools are created equal. Some schools may be able to provide for the special needs child, but not for another with the same disability. Every child is different and not every special needs child will be successful in a Montessori environment.

Montessori Garden School and the Child with Special Needs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Montessori – Her educational method is in use today in some public and private schools throughout the world. Get more information about the founder of Montessori.

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/montessori/method/method.html – A story about the Montessori Method translated from the Italian version.

— I’ve always been a firm believer that everyone deserves to go to school no matter what. Having said that, I really feel bad when people stereotype Montessori as a place for children with special needs. There are so many schools that accept special children. Montessori was developed as a way for children to learn at their own pace, where the child dictates if he or she is ready or not. It was not created as a “home” for special children. It’s a place where children gradually learn to become more independent, which is really what matters when they grow up.