A Ferry Crossing Away: Our Path to a Diagnosis

A Ferry Crossing Away: Our Path to a Diagnosis: Elliot's diagnosis did not happen overnight; it was a lengthy process, which involved many experts, and it was never easy.  However, i...

Montessori and Autism Special Education Resources from Jola Montessori

  • Catherine Nehring on an International Montessori Initiative
  • Resources on Montessori and special education
  • Montessori4autism site offers advice
  • Exceptional Lives offers Special Ed helping hand
  • Montessori Intervention Program announced
From the Jola Montessori E-news Fall 2012
Go here!

Child-1st Multisensory Strategies for Right-Brained Learners

Child-1st is an informative website to help struggling readers including special needs and right-brain learners (my son is a right brain learner). They also offer educational materials.

The Montessori Method for learning to read is well-suited for left-brain learners... If you have a special needs child or a child who struggles with learning to read using phonics and decoding, look over their website for other ideas to teach reading.

"Child1st learning resources are uniquely designed for right-brained learners, including visual and kinesthetic learners; those labeled with dyslexia, autism, Asperger's, and ADD; and those who struggle with reading comprehension. The materials are also highly effective in teaching beginning readers, providing them with an essential foundation for success in learning."

The role of emotions in learning
  • The clash between learning and teaching styles
  • Negative emotional connections
  • Chronic stress and its results
  • Sources of stress
  • What can we do?

Montessori-Inspired Special Needs Support by Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now

Deb at the Living Montessori Now blog outdid herself again! This time she wrote a great blog post featuring lots of great Montessori and special needs resources, links, and pics (you'll see a few pics of my son Jason working with Montessori materials at home!). Her post was written "for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month... participants have shared how to parent despite and because of challenges...."

Now go check it Debs Montessori special needs post here!

My son Jason (playing with a birthday gift) when he was a little tot!

Sensory Issue Child

I just read a heart-felt blog post (at the Mom-Pinion blog) written by a "busy mom of 2 girls" about her young daughter Pozzy, who has sensory issues. If you have a child with sensory issues, I recommend reading it! You can also read my comments there, and a few book recommendations. Go here!

Autism Mini-Sessions Online

"Autism specialist Anna Cromer, M.Ed. has created a trilogy of [online] 20-minute mini-session classes [at $2 each] on understanding how to guide children on the spectrum. Anna has a passion for helping parents advocate for their children and is sure to help you or a loved one gain insight about autism spectrum disorders through this live, online, interactive class (attend from your computer)."

The My Angels My Autism homeschooling blog is also mentioning these special needs online classes, you can read their blog post here!

Is elementary Montessori the right choice for a child with Down syndrome?

My son is five and has Down syndrome. I am considering a local K-8 charter school which is modeled on the Montessori philosophy of teaching. Have you found that children with DS do well in Montessori schools when they are in the elementary grades? My son would have a 1-on-1 aide with him.

Children who are strong readers do well with the elementary Montessori curriculum. If your child is not reading yet, you need to expect him to by age six or seven. I know of some children with DS who read by age seven, but am not clear if it is "phonetic" reading or just memorizing words. Your child would need to be a strong phonetic reader for a 6-9 classroom or he will be very limited. Also, the aide would need to be knowledgeable of the Montessori activities.

Lastly, the 6-9 classroom does a lot more writing, how does your child do with control of a pencil? Is he writing letters or numbers?

I think that if your child went to the K class, he would do OK, but you have to consider the big picture when moving on to the 6-9 class...

It may be that your child would do better in a public school setting, or Waldorf, and or waiting until age six. Have you visited your local public school?

Is there a charter Waldorf school? Do they welcome DS children?

It is best to see how your child fits into the above styles of education by visiting all the classrooms and talking to the directors/teachers...

Waldorf, by the way, has a two-year K program, and a 1-5 class, and they start academics very late (age eight or nine). My friend has her DS daughter in a Waldorf charter school and she'll be starting the 1-5 class as a first grader...but there has been no focus on reading or writing, yet.

My son showed an interest in academics early on, so Waldorf was not a consideration for him...and he did not do well in a Montessori 3-6 class at age four. So at age six I started him in our local public school K class with an aide and he loves it and is very happy--he's also very social.


Should I send my 14-month-old to Montessori?

My fourth child who is 14 months old has Down syndrome. I am also interested in Montessori for him, because many of the public school teachers today lack a real understanding of development. Any great resources to point me towards? Any tips toward trying to convince a Montessori school who has no kids with special needs into accepting him?

I remember visiting many Montessori and non-Montessori schools when my son was 15 months old, looking for a toddler program for him when he turned 24 months old!

I did both scheduled observations (and tried talking to the teacher in the classroom) as well as a school tour (where you typically talk to the director). And I chose schools within our budget and close to home.

Then my son got into the Early Head Start program at 18 months of age, ten blocks away from our house! They already had a child enrolled with DS, and after my son started, they accepted another one a few months later. They were a wonderful and committed staff!

As for traditional schools, I looked at only one, who was very open to DS/special needs and already had a girl with DS enrolled.

Montessori schools: I went to three, two were very open, one was not. So you just have to feel it out when you visit, and or bring it up over the phone! And whether Montessori is a good fit for your child, you won't know until you try (this is true for any child).

Now, during this process, you can consider an aide for your child (when he /she gets a little older) to be with him/her in the classroom or daycare... this is not uncommon (we had to get an aide for our son's Montessori preschool classroom at the request of the school/his new teacher).

I would not send my child to any school or daycare who was not open (and honest) about taking a child with DS, I see it as THEIR LOSS!

Are You Considering Waldorf for Your Special Needs Child?

Waldorf schools are often welcoming of special needs children, and Waldorf has a two-year Kindergarten program, but they start academics later than Montessori (around age eight). Montessori offers early academics in the primary 3 to 6 classroom.

And, depending on where you live, there are Waldorf charter schools (here in the U.S.) that are free to a few hundred dollars per month.

One of the moms of a child with Down syndrome in the county where we used to live was not happy with any of the local public school Kindergarten classes or special ed programs, so she sent her child to a charter Waldorf school, with an aide, and the county school district is paying for the aide.

If you think you need help with your IEP (and getting an aide) there is a book that is recommended locally for all parents of U.S. school-age special needs kids: Special Education Rights and Responsibilities by Community Alliance for Special Education and Inc. Protection and Advocacy (you can find it on their website).

If you want to consider a Waldorf school, and have one in your area, give them a call and make an appointment to do an observation, take a tour, and or go to an open house... and tell the director you have a child with special needs and are very interested in the Waldorf program.
If it is a private Waldorf school, you will then bring your child in for a classroom visit, and the director will decide, based on that visit, whether your child is ready, as well as whether he or she will need an aide.

If you have an older child I do not recommend a Montessori elementary school, unless your child has been in a Montessori preschool, because it is a very challenging environment, even with an aide! And Waldorf is a kinder, gentler option, in my opinion, for children with special needs.

Parents I know who have sent their special needs children to Waldorf, like the low stimulation, no pressure to do academics, emphasis on gardening and the outdoors, and classroom community involvement by the children.

For an extensive list, with descriptions, of Waldorf and special needs books, go here http://www.waldorfbooks.com/special-needs or here http://www.waldorfbooks.com/anthroposophy/special-needs-camphill.

To search Waldorf books on Amazon, go here.

A helpful, make that very helpful, article on Waldorf, homeschool, and special needs, is "Head, Heart, Hands" by Robin McDonald. Read it here: http://eclectichomeschool.org/articles/article.asp?articleid=321.

Special Needs Activity Downloads and More

Affordable and free special needs activities, hand-outs, and information sheets from Your Therapy Source, "online resource for special education, pediatric occupational therapy and pediatric physical therapy." See the rest of my post here!

Do You Recommend Talk Tools for Oral Motor Development?

About speech—did you know about oral motor therapy, by Sara Rosenfeld Johnson of Talk Tools?  From all we’ve learned, it is the best for people with Down syndrome, and builds all the muscles necessary for speech. 

I remember looking at their Talk Tools website when Jason, my son, was a baby. But we never ordered anything from them. Instead, we gave our son sippy straw cups starting at age 12 months. And we were lucky he did not have sensory issues with his mouth.  I think this is because I allowed him to "mouth" everything in the home environment when he was a baby (and later a toddler) using Montessori infant activities, and our trusty dishwasher! I put many an object in our dishwasher!
I also, upon the advice of our pediatrician, gave finger foods to Jason as young as seven months old, including beef jerky! He used to suck on it all the time (and it replaced his pacifier which I weaned him off of at 4 to 5 months).
I read somewhere that infants and toddlers with Down syndrome feel more in the nerve endings in their tongues than in their fingers!
So try some straw sippy cups and beef jerky, and some safe activities to explore orally that you can then stick in the dishwasher!
What are your tips? Leave your comments

Is My DS Toddler Ready for a Montessori Class?

I have 2-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.  My daughter was born with Down syndrome.  I like the Montessori school in our area, but now I am trying to see if it’s the best fit for them. 

We still need to meet with the teacher, at which time she will also meet with the kids and see if it's a good fit. 
Can you recommend any questions that I should ask the teacher in regards to working with my daughter, to see if she is a good fit for her? 

I can understand the emphasis on having the child become independent, but to a certain degree it made me nervous.  What if she needs extra help and guidance before becoming so independent; will this model work with her needs?

I think you may consider having your daughter go to school, in the beginning, for a very short time each day. She can go for the morning work period and snack, but you can pick her up during playtime. (This is what I did as I was nervous too! My son could only handle so much.)

Try this for several months, then, when she and the teacher(s) are ready, have her stay for lunch, or keep it half day until she is 3.

When she is 3, keep her in the toddler program, as the 3-6 class will be too advanced, especially socially, and language will be an issue (as well as potty training). When she is 3, you and the teachers decide if she is ready to stay for lunch and nap, etc.

There are no questions I can think of to ask the teacher, just offer her the willingness that you can be flexible (like go half days and pick her up a playtime, if need be). And the willingness to keep her in the toddler program until she is 3 1/2 or 4.

And also, be willing to be consistent at home and do what the teacher suggests (like sitting down while eating, washing hands after eating... at home, to follow the same rules as the classroom).

But you may find she is not ready for a Montessori environment, yet, and wait until she is 3 to go to the toddler program. In the meantime, have her try a traditional infant toddler class so she can learn the basics including potty training/learning.

My son was in an infant toddler Head Start program from 18 months to 3-years-old. At age 3, he went into a toddler Montessori class (with 18 to 36 month old children). When he turned 4 he went into the Montessori preschool class. Language was still an issue, so his social skills were lacking. He could share and take turns, but he could not communicate with the other children (he said one word but it was hard to understand his words). In his toddler class, it was not an issue.

What is nice about a Montessori toddler environment is that the expectations are not as high as in Montessori preschool, and your daughter will have a lot more wiggle room!

Is My DS Child Ready for a Montessori Class?

I have a little girl, 4-years-old with Down syndrome. So far we’ve been doing an NACD neurodevelopmental program (similar to a Glen Doman of the Institutes, program).

I have some background in primary Montessori and have been wanting to do some Montessori exercises with her. My daughter is really still a toddler, developmentally, and not at the primary level, yet.

Six months ago I visited a Montessori program a teacher was running from her house—actually it was more of a pre-k, 2 mornings a week with a 3rd day field trip. I really liked the home environment, the teacher, and the kids. But I know my daughter is really not at their level.

The teacher suggested that I could come with Annie until she was ready to stay by herself. Anyhow, we did not join the class. But I still ask myself if it would not help her move up to the next level if she were in that environment. What do you think?

Yes, I agree that you could be your child's helper or aide in a Montessori home daycare (and to help in her development), until she is ready to be on her own... or hire an aide..

And two mornings is just enough for her to handle, to get her feet wet, so to speak. And I like the idea of it being in a home! I wish I could have found an in-home Montessori program for my son

When my son was three he went to a toddler Montessori program two or three mornings from 9 to 10:30 AM. Eventually he was able to stay until 11:30 AM. (He did not have an aide.)

But when he moved to the 3 to 6 class, he needed an aide, and he stayed until 12:15 four days per week.

I could not be his aide because my son regressed when I was around (plus I work at home)! He listened better to other adults than me! So you may be able to be your daughter's aide, or it might not work out...

Another mom in my area had her child in a Montessori preschool class and she was the aide, and it worked fine for them!

And whether it is a good idea or not... you will only know by sending her! But at least you will be prepared with an aide (either you or some one you hire). And she will "move up" by being with the other children: by just being around other children in a Montessori environment, she will progress! I find this to be especially true with children with Down syndrome! They mimic and copy the children around them.

Always raise the bar higher, not lower, and your child will follow (or try to follow) the bar--be it high or low. So make it high!

So call the daycare and see if you can try it out, with you as the aide, or be open to hiring an aide. And start slowly, maybe 90 minutes at first, then work up from there!