Special Needs in Montessori

Dr. Montessori started her work with special needs children - this is where the first discoveries were made on what became known as the normalization of children.

Dr. Montessori discovered a universal child - and this universal child is not affected by special needs or challenges. THIS universal child is well-met in every authentic Montessori environment.

Is it true that today many allegedly Montessori environments cannot handle a variety of special needs? Yes, it is a sad truth. But that is not the Montessori method that is not open to children of special needs - it could be a wide variety of factors including but not limited to any or a combination of the following.
If your environment is not capable right now of addressing all special needs, considering how the following could be adjusted:

  • physical space (a school renting basement space with no elevator will not be able to accommodate many physical needs). 
  • lack of adult preparedness (easy to address)
  • lack of adult desire or interest (not so easy to overcome; but if the need arises, could it be overcome?)
  • observation skills - are true observation skills in place? 
  • is the adult able to truly "follow the child" - this could mean some modifying of some (very very few!) materials in order to follow a particular child in his particular needs. 
  • does the child need a more one-on-one helper? Can the environment support this helper? Can this helper also be trained in Montessori (as a Montessori assistant, or at least to study the theory) - so as to understand more appropriately when to give various types of help? 
  • Are the other children relatively normalized? if so, they will welcome children of various needs. 
  • What other considerations should be added to this list? 

A true Montessori environment will be able to address these concerns. But no place is "perfect". If your environment isn't quite there - consider how to get there. Even if you homeschool, what might need to change IF you have a child with special needs? 

The main point: observe and respond. 

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