Benefits of Montessori for ASD Kids
Montessori learning materials, whether used in a Montessori school or at home, have a host of benefits for all young children, including ASD kids. The younger the child, the greater the benefits.
All development in early childhood, especially from birth to around 5-6, centers on brain development. Differences in the brain development of ASD children have been identified as early as 6 months of age.
Young children open as many as 700 new brain nerve pathways every second. By age 5-6, these pathways organize into the Brain Nerve Architecture that we use for the rest of our lives. Clearly, the experiences children have in their early years can dramatically affect the brain nerve architecture they are building.
Around 1905 Maria Montessori, by carefully observing children use hundreds of special learning materials she created, saw that young children develop their brains through movement, sensory experiences, and purposeful, independent activity. The learning materials and methods she developed for encouraging and supporting this process blossomed into a worldwide movement that now includes over 20,000 Montessori schools. Many parents now do Montessori at home.
Here are some of the positive things that happen when young children, including those diagnosed with ASD, use Montessori materials:
Concentration & Repetition
When given appropriate, hands-on materials to use, young children can focus their attention for significant periods of time. Montessori observed that repeatedly focusing concentration has a host of benefits for young children. They exhibit more joy, less anxiety, and increased sociability. They also become better able to learn anything in the future. Montessori materials are self-contained to help focus concentration. They are designed to be freely chosen and used for as long as a child wishes, including repeating favorite activities numerous times.
Young children are acquiring millions of direct sensory impressions of the real world. This is required in order to eventually consider the world mentally, using abstract thought, like older children and adults. Montessori materials support this process. They engage a child in manipulating objects with a purpose, having all kinds of sensory experiences, and using sensory information to compare, contrast, and organize objects based on their sensory characteristics.
Montessori Practical Life materials, all of which are easy to create at home, allow children to master real life skills in a positive, sequential way. By doing this, a child acquires a positive self-image as a confident, capable person who can master challenges, succeed by applying effort, and act independently in the world.
Practical Life and Sensorial materials help children develop both gross (large) and fine (small) motor (muscle) control and coordination. They guide children to naturally develop a proper writing grasp at just about the same time they become interested in learning to write. Motor skills help a child understand her position in space and succeed in challenging skills such as dance, swimming, gymnastics, and sports. These further reinforce a child’s self-image as that of a confident, successful person.
Maria Montessori stated that the goal of a Montessori Guide (or a parent using Montessori at home) is to help children achieve successive levels of increasing independence. This benefits all children, including ASD kids. Independent children learn accept themselves as they are and manage their own education and lives.
Reading, Writing, Math, and Science
By developing excellent, efficient brain nerve architecture in their formative years, young children using Montessori materials typically learn to read, write, work with numbers, and understand science concepts at a young age. They enter school with these vital skills already in place, which sets them up for early and continued success in that environment.
ASD children have some built-in challenges in life. Using Montessori materials, whether at a Montessori school or at home, can help them optimize their development and make the most of their innate potential.
John Bowman is a lifelong Montessori Advocate and the author of:
Montessori At Home!