In Montessori education, we have the luxury and requirement of individualizing the lessons for each child’s needs through our lens of education as “a help to life.” We are not burdened by individualizing our lessons only for those children who have a formal diagnosis and legal paperwork which demands when and how to provide their education. Every child claims this birthright to be cared for and to freely express themselves. Early intervention is key – if a child is showing deviations or any developmental delay, it is up to us as the adults to provide the necessary support to allow them to express freely, and the time and supportive environment in which to practice those skills.
I am thinking mostly of functional communication here. For example, when a very young child has been unable to speak beyond what is expected for their developmental milestones but has been given what he wants only by the adults around him interpreting his sounds and guessing what they mean, that is helpful only in that moment to serve the child’s immediate survival needs.
However, as the child grows from infant to toddler to preschool age, and the adults around him notice he is still unable to communicate with words, they will need to spend extra time and focus to help the child learn those skills. Though not all children are able to naturally acquire language in the same way as described in our Montessori albums, all children will need to speak or otherwise communicate to get their needs met beyond survival, as our needs become more complex as we grow older.
It is our responsibility as Montessori educators and child development experts to observe and intervene in support of the child when necessary. In Montessori, we acknowledge the Sensitive Periods for such things as language. This is why early intervention is crucial to a child’s later development. There are speech and language professionals as well as occupational therapists who are experts in collaborating with families and schools to help a child reach these targeted skills.
Many people mistakenly believe ABA is compliance training, while sometimes compliance is an important skill for some situations such as school readiness, blind compliance does not teach skills. I saw a post this morning and it captured most of my personal experience around obedience and compliance, and the reason I chose Montessori education for my own children. It showed a handwritten note that read,
“I wondered why I was so afraid of conflict
until I remembered I grew up with one rule as a kid: OBEY
(and zero skills on how to safely disagree).
“Compliant and obedient children seem great in childhood, but all of those years of obeying, not being allowed to ‘answer back’ to get their point across and eventually being too scared to confide in you, for fear of reprimand, does not make for an emotionally healthy adult. Disagreements, debates, and healthy conflict may be harder on us as parents – but it makes for a much more positive future for our children. – @notesfromyourtherapist” Sarah Ockwell-Smith
In Montessori, our Grace & Courtesy lessons are like the targeted lessons we use in ABA to teach individual skills. We are all learning different skills in life, and some of us catch on to some more quickly or slowly than others. That is key in Montessori and in ABA – that the targeted skills to teach are relevant to that person in order to improve their quality of life. Sometimes, these skills include self-advocacy, such as “how to safely disagree” by using an individualized and targeted approach. When viewed in this way, and implemented correctly, both Montessori and ABA approaches are an aid to life.
Just as we protect the children’s work as adults, my work is to protect your work as a Guide. My aim is to provide Montessori Guides, assistants, admin, and staff, with collaborative strategies, training, coaching, and 1:1 support within the overarching framework of Montessori – it’s already built in! I work from a strength-based model and I emphasize what you are doing right and build from there. Please reach out to me with your questions, comments, or concerns: calendly.com/tier3montessori
Erin Lopez-Brooks, AMI, M.Ed., BCBA, IBA, LBA