Guiding Children with Learning Disabilities in the Montessori Environment
Some children will require additional time, attention, skill, effort, and patience before they are fully integrated into the learning environment. Dr. Montessori stated that “Discipline is reached always by indirect means. The end is obtained, not by attacking the mistake and fighting it, but by developing activity in spontaneous work […]. Discipline is, therefore, not a fact but a path.”
Montessori teachers who work with students who are at risk or who have special needs will find that they need to intervene more. While continuing to help and guide all students in the classroom, Montessori teachers must meet the needs of those who need additional help by:
Making more deliberate choices to teach about the work cycle.
Giving more direct presentations.
Breaking presentations into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Using fewer materials during presentations.
Understanding that both the child and teacher are responsible for focus and attention understanding that there will be more “down” or “non-productive” time as the child moves toward normalization.
As teachers we must discover the key to unlocking the child’s interest in order to develop and increase their concentration and focus. As an educator I believe that to be able to serve the individual child and society, an educational system must assume a reasonable range of humanity and be designed to meet the nature of the child, her/his innate characteristics and tendencies, and her/his developmental planes rather than demanding he or she to fit in.
To claim that there is no room for learning disabilities in the Montessori environment is to deny the very tenets of the Montessori philosophy — respect for the child, following the child through individualized instruction, and fostering independence.
If we truly believe that all children can and have the right to learn, then there is a place for all children in the Montessori environment, including those with learning disabilities or who are at risk.