Montessori and the Circle of Inclusion Project

July 29, 2016
namc montessori circle of inclusion disabilities boy walkingIn September 2015, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services issued a joint policy statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs that states that “all young children with disabilities should have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs, where they are provided with individualized and appropriate support in meeting high expectations.”

Dr. Montessori believed that all children not only had the ability but the intrinsic motivation to learn. Separating and segregating children due to disabilities, giftedness, or other diversities does not align with the Montessori principal of cosmic, inclusive education. In fact, the Montessori environment, first established in 1906, is a leader in inclusive education.

Montessori education follows the needs of the child, regardless of what those needs are.
The teacher must be ready to respectfully accommodate individual needs within the environment rather than make children conform to an impersonal standard. In this, she nurtures the spirit of the child. Her goal is to lead each child to independence. She does not do the work for them; she guides them and ensures that they have the proper materials necessary to complete their work.

Montessori teachers are not servants of the child … to wash, dress and feed him — they know that he must do these things for himself in developing independence. We must help the child act for himself, will for himself, think for himself …
—Maria Montessori
Education for a New World, p. 69.

namc montessori circle of inclusion disabilities boy smiling into camera

Montessori and the Circle of Inclusion Project

Having begun her career working with children with developmental and learning disabilities, Dr. Montessori based her scientific approach to education on the earlier works of Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, Edouard SΓ©guin, and Jacob Rodriguez Pereira, all of whom worked with children with special needs. It was from the work of Itard and SΓ©guin that Montessori understood that children with disabilities were far more capable than previously thought. This led her to formulate an educational approach that was vastly different from conventional standards.

The Circle of Inclusion Project (University of Kansas) and Raintree Montessori (Lawrence, Kansas) have developed a list of 11 specific areas where Montessori education addresses the needs of all children, including those with disabilities:

  • The use of mixed-age groups.
  • Individualization within the context of a supportive classroom community.
  • Personalized instructional goals based on scientific observation and the individual readiness of the child.
  • An emphasis on functionality within the Montessori environment.
  • The development of independence and the ability to make choices.
  • The development of organized work patterns in children.
  • The classic Montessori presentation.
  • An emphasis on repetition.
  • Materials with a built-in control of error.
  • Academic materials that provide a concrete representation of the abstract.
  • Sensory materials that develop and organize incoming sensory perceptions.

The inclusive nature of Montessori education is inherent throughout its philosophy, its values, and its methods. Montessori education: Good for one; Good for all.

— NAMC Staff
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