Is Montessori for everyone?

A look at neurodiversity in Montessori classrooms

Your neurodiverse child already attends a Montessori school, or you have recently received an assessment of your child as being neurodiverse and are considering educational alternatives and want to know if Montessori will be a good fit for your child. The simple, short answer is yes! Let's explore why Montessori education can be an ideal education for children who think and learn differently.

Neurodiversity may not be a term you are familiar with, or you have heard it but are not quite sure what it means. Neurodiversity is a belief that brain differences such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (motor planning challenges), Dyscalculia (difficulty learning and understanding math) and Tourette's Syndrome are normal variations in the human genome and are not deficits. These neuro-differences are recognized as a social category that is on par with ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Educators who embrace the mindset of neurodiversity respect each student as an individual and want to meet that student where they are, as they are and guide the student to their full potential. This means recognizing the student's strengths as well as their challenges. Neurodiverse people bring new ways of thinking and seeing into our communities.

There are several factors that make Montessori a good educational environment for neurodiverse children.

Montessori teachers are trained to meet the developmental needs of children. That means that whatever the differences in a child's developmental needs may be, Montessori guides are trained to recognize these needs and know how best to meet those needs. This is key in supporting a neurodiverse student who will naturally have areas of strengths, along with areas of challenge. A Montessori guide is able to continue to provide the student with activities to meet the child's strengths, while simultaneously supporting the student in the areas they experience challenges.

Montessori teachers are trained scientific observers. An AMI Montessori teacher-in-training spends anywhere from 90-220 hours observing children in a clinical and non-judgmental way. Montessori teachers know how to observe children by looking at what they see, not what they think, feel or interpret behaviours to mean. This skill, of scientific observation allows Montessori guides to gather important data on each student, this data aids the teacher in preparation of the lessons, activities and interventions that students will receive each day/week.

In Montessori each child already receives their own Independent Education Plan. No matter the size of the Montessori classroom, each student moves through the curriculum at their own pace. Montessori guides develop lesson plans for each child after careful observation, to see what areas the child is excelling in as well as what areas the child is experiencing difficulties and may need a review of a lesson, more practice or a targeted intervention. In Montessori we recognize that children develop at their own pace, that children are unique individuals who blossom in their own time. Montessori guides are experts at curating education plans for each individual student.

So, whether your child already attends a Montessori school, and you are curious if your neurodiverse child will thrive in this setting, or you are looking for alternatives to traditional education for your neurodiverse child, Montessori education is extremely well suited to scaffold your child through their educational journey.

Melanie Noble is the founder and owner of Red Maple Montessori. Melanie is an AMI trained 3-6 Guide as well as an Inclusive Education Consultant and Mentor.

Melanie has always had a passion for working with students that have diverse learning needs and styles. She has pursued this niche interest by training as an Intervenor for students with ASD at the Geneva Centre for Autism. She recently completed the Inclusive Education course at the Montessori Institute of San Diego and is now one of a small handful of Canadian guides with this certification. Within this line of specialized training, Melanie has witnessed first-hand how children with diverse learning needs can thrive in a Montessori classroom.