As awareness of autism spectrum disorders grows, more and more families are picking their child's school carefully and according to their needs. It's no secret that traditional schools not only do not teach the way children learn, but can be especially trying for a child on the spectrum. With that in mind, many parents are finding that the Montessori method best fits their child's special needs. Here is what you need to know about Montessori and autism.
What is Montessori?
The Montessori method is named after Maria Montessori, who was an Italian physician and educator who noticed that children struggled with the traditional setup of public education. After coming to this realization, Montessori decided to create her own curriculum that would cater to children's needs instead of trying to force them into a teaching model that is convenient for adults, but difficult for children.
The Montessori method focuses on self-directed learning, and allowing children to learn the way their brains are meant to at each age. Children are put into classrooms with older and younger children, which reinforces their learning, and helps them adapt to social interactions within a safe environment. Teachers guide children to learning activities, and provide the necessary structure, but also allow for the child to learn as best fits the individual.
Why Does this Benefit Children with Autism?
Teachers in traditional schools do their very best to accommodate the learning styles and paces of all the children in their class, but can only do so much with what they are given. Some children on the spectrum do quite well in traditional school settings, because the routine and structure help them stay focused. Other autistic children need more time to explore the ideas and topics that interest them. It's quite common in children with autism to be deeply interested in a few subjects while struggling in others, and the Montessori method allows for this. The teacher will help your child strengthen their weak areas while allowing them to dive deep into subjects they love.
In addition, your autistic child will be interacting with peers in a more natural and neutral setting. In traditional schools, children with autism often struggle with socialization because interactions with peers are somewhat prohibited except during lunch and recess periods. This can be difficult for autistic children, who often need consistency in order to feel safe and secure. By allowing constant peer interaction, Montessori schools offer a more natural method of socialization in a neutral, safe setting under the watchful eye of experienced and highly trained teachers.
Most children learn best with interactive learning activities, and hands-on experiments, and autistic children are no different. Many autistic children fare far better with this more natural teaching and learning style than in traditional schools, and can go on to showcase their unique and wonderful talents to their teachers, families and communities. In fact, the "three R's of autism" (rules, routines and reasons) are naturally built in to the Montessori approach to education, and can lead to a more peaceful, effective, and enjoyable learning experience.
By considering enrolling your child in a Montessori school, you are truly considering what is best for them. The Montessori method of teaching and learning has been time tested to produce fantastic results in children, and cultivate a culture of self direction, self reliance, problem solving, creativity, and confidence. Autistic children, even more than others, tend to do wonderfully in a structured environment that allows them to follow their interests while still obtaining a well rounded education. The same cannot be said for other types of schooling. Visit a Montessori school today to see what benefits your child will reap.