I have had quite a few questions recently regarding children with Special Educational Needs and how Montessori fits in. I thought I would write down my thoughts about how a Montessori education can specifically impact a child with SEN.
Firstly let me start by saying Maria Montessori’s whole philosophy began during her work with children of differing SEN needs. She made observations on how the children interacted with their environment, teachers and resources and from there the Montessori Philosophy was born.
For me, she was a pioneer who’s work proved that an education is so much more then achieving milestones at a pre determined age. She looked beyond that and championed that all children are unique. She believed that their individual learning styles should be respected.
It all sounds good in theory but how did she suggest we achieve this? Perhaps one reason that the Montessori method has proven so successful among children with Special Educational Needs is the pacing. Children are encouraged to move ahead at their own pace. They take up a new activity only when they are comfortable that they have learned enough from the previous activity. The pace of learning is decided by the child, children stay motivated and build positive self-esteem.
Another technique that is highly supportive for children with SEN is the degree of personal attention children receive. Montessori teachers are not stationed at the front room on an imposing desk. Rather, they move throughout the room observing and assessing each individual child.
Vertical groupings , so that 2 and 4 year old work together allow children to feel at ease. There is no pressure to compete or feeling of being “left behind”. Montessori truly values a child’s ability to develop at their own pace.
There never has been or will be a “one cap fits all” approach to education that works. For me that is the beauty of being part of the human race. All so unique but still fundamentally the same in many ways.
Montessori embraces not only our differences but also the unique ability of every child to progress in a way that suits them.
p.s Here is a great blog post for anybody interested in some further reading on the subject.