Montessori for Children with Autism

It is every parent’s dream to provide their child with an environment that not only helps them achieve academic attainments but also facilitates the development of their confidence, inner potential and helps them become independent as well as self-reliant individuals. 

If you are looking for an educational tool that provides a nurturing, supportive, and structured environment that helps your child learn at their own pace, Montessori might be the answer. 

Children with disabilities often face obstacles that a normal child might not face. Hence the rigid structure of traditional educational institutions is not suitable for their special needs. 

Montessori Method of education is known for facilitating effective education to children with special needs ranging from behavioral, cognitive, and learning disabilities. 

These include learning disabilities, physical disabilities, behavioral disorders like ADHD, and mild to moderate Autism Spectrum disorder. 

According to the Autism Society, about one percent of the world population is accounted for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. 

There are several reasons to enroll your child with special needs in a Montessori Institution ranging from mixed-age level classrooms for socialization to an environment that caters to the child’s individual needs. 

Here is a list of pros and cons one should consider before enrolling their child with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Montessori Institution. 

What is Autism Spectrum?

Autism Spectrum Disorder or in its abbreviated form ASD is a condition that is related to the development of the brain. 

Individuals who are diagnosed with ASD experience the following issues:

  • Impact on how an individual perceives and socializes with others
  • Communication impairments
  • Hyper Sensory Sensitivity 
  • Problems in Socializing. 

The Triad of Impairment:

The triad of impairment incorporates a greater or lesser degree of difficulties and restrictions that a normal child may not experience. 

These difficulties are delineated below:

  • Communication: 

Children with autism experience language impairments across all areas of communication ranging from speech, gestures, intention, facial expressions, and communication through body language.

  • Socialization:

Children diagnosed with Autism often experience difficulties with building or sustaining social relationships, have a lack of empathy, apprehensive of physical contact, uncomfortable with eye contact. 

  • Imagination:

Children with ASD often have rigidity or inflexibility of thoughts as well as thought processes, resistance to change, lack of creativity, obsessive and ritualistic behaviors.

Pros of Montessori Education for Children with Autism: 

Autism is a very individual disorder, each individual diagnosed with this disorder can possess different symptoms, as well as one, can also be diagnosed with ASD in conjunction with other behavioral disorders like ADHD.  

Montessori Method of Education recognizes every child’s individualistic needs and incorporates several features that aid the child’s education. 

Here is why one should enroll their child with Autism in a Montessori Institution:

  1. Structure and Order:

Children with Autism are not accustomed to sudden changes. A Montessori Environment is well structured and organized that helps instill values like Order in children.

In a Montessori environment, the materials and other apparatus are placed on designated shelves that promote order as well as structure. 

In a Montessori Prepared Environment children with autism can feel safe along with providing order and consistency. 

  1. Auto-didactic Education:

Children with Autism are observant and reserved, they like to observe or comprehend the task before performing it. 

The Montessori Method of education makes it possible for children to observe and learn at their own pace. 

In a Montessori institution, children are encouraged to explore new possibilities and new materials at their own pace. 

  1. Freedom:

Children with Autism learn faster when they are given the opportunity and freedom of:

  • Choice: 

Children have the freedom of choosing the Montessori activity and Montessori materials they want to use as well as participate in. 

  • Pace: 

Children are not rushed to finish their curriculum before the end of term, instead, they are given the freedom to learn as well as work at their own pace.  

  • Repeat:

Children are allowed to explore as well as play with any materials of their choice for as long as they want to. 

  1. Mixed-Age Level Classrooms:

Children with Autism can be socially awkward as they can experience difficulties with building or sustaining social relationships. 

The Montessori Method of education provides mixed-aged level classrooms where children of different age groups can help, learn, as well as interact with each other. 

This can help children venture out of their comfort zone, socialize, improve their communication skills, and establish new friendships with their peers.

  1. Individual Montessori Materials:

Children in large groups can cause a lot of noise which can agitate and distress the child. 

Children in a Montessori Institution are provided with individual materials to avoid chaos, confusion, and to maintain decorum. 

  1. Courtesy and Grace:

The Montessori Method of education is more than just traditional curriculum and books. 

Children along with the basic curriculum are also taught about practical life activities that incorporate unconventional topics like grace and courtesy. 

These activities are great to instill values and socially acceptable behavior in children with Autism. 

Cons of Montessori for Children with Autism:

As a parent, when you are looking for areas you want to see your child succeed or excel in, it is best to reconsider if Montessori is right for your child with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

It is a misconception that the Montessori method can lend itself as a great educational tool for your child with ASD as it helps in hyper-focused areas of interest and can make the parents find other areas of education to be aversive. 

So what are the challenges of learning in a Montessori Environment for children with autism? Here is a list of cons that one should consider before enrolling their child with ASD in a Montessori Institution:

  1. Inability to learn in a natural environment:

Even though Mixed-age level classrooms can help children socialize, children with special needs like ASD need a properly structured environment where they will not be distracted. 

Children with Autism benefit most from an institution that provides an environment that is tailored to their needs. Children with autism are more likely to respond to a predictable and structured schedule.

  1. The Program can be too rigid for the child:

Regardless of providing children with limitless play and endless possibilities one may also say that the Montessori Method of education does have its own limitations or rigidities. 

Children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, need more opportunities than the Montessori method would provide in order to refine their skills.  

  1. The child can become overwhelmed and overstimulated:

If your child is susceptible to sensorial stimulation and has a tendency to become overwhelmed or overstimulated, then Montessori might not be the right institution for your child. 

As a pedagogical tool that promotes and encourages sensorial education to their child, Montessori Method integrates a largely unstructured environment. This Environment can make it difficult for children with behavioral or emotional disabilities to stay focused due to overstimulation.