In recent years, an increasing number of Montessori programs, teachers, children, and parents are discovering the benefits of educating young children with special needs or “atypical “characteristics together with their “typically” or non-special needs developing peers. In the past, children with “special needs” were pulled out of regular classrooms and grouped together as if all their needs were alike. Relatively few children with disabilities were served in community-based early childhood programs like MCH.
Children with disabilities are, first and foremost, children, and then children who may need support or adaptations for learning. The term "special needs" or “atypical” refers to a wide range of developmental disabilities such as challenges with sensory processing, executive function or impulsivity. At the Early Childhood level, these difficulties may occur in different areas, to varying degrees and may be difficult to identify. Since most of these characteristics fall under what could be just delayed development, we are often able to make appropriate accommodations with in our classroom environments.
But how do we really make it work? Since learning is so important in the early years, Montessori recognized this is the best time for children to begin to respect all people's differences and the contributions everyone makes. The Montessori philosophy has a fundamental methodology to support children as they navigate through their learning differences. It allows for the children to have the freedom of movement, individualized work plans, and hands on concrete sensory experiences. It requires educating ourselves and others about how to ensure every student in the classroom has the chance to reach his or her fullest potential! Studies have shown that with an equal partnership benefits such as:
* Increased social initiations, relationships, and networks.
* Peer role models for academic, social and behavior skills
These benefits can not only be demonstrated in the classroom but outside the classroom in the community in which we live for many years to come!