Montessori and ADHD

Montessori and ADHD

People seem to be very vocal about the pros and cons of accepting children with ADHD into a Montessori program.  It all depends on who’s doing the talking!  Some teachers –  usually those who are less experienced or don’t really understand ADHD – dread having a child who is impulsive, distractible, and maybe even a bit clumsy disrupt their “normalized” class, especially when they may already have several other “challenging” children.  I get that!  I’ve been there!

While some parents see Montessori as “too permissive” or “not providing enough structure” or as “too distracting”, those who truly grasp the Montessori philosophy and method apppreciate the benefits it can offer to their children with ADHD.  A parent of a perspective client wished that her 14 year old daughter had attended a Montessori school when she was younger.  “I’m sure she would be much more organized and self-disciplined than she is today, with her self-esteem still intact.”

Soon after that conversation, I had an opportunity to observe firsthand a child for whom Montessori really worked.  After I had finished giving a Parent Talk at her school, her father came up to me  and mentioned he had ADHD.   He  told me that his five year old daughter had ADHD and that I would probably have no trouble spotting her.  Actually, it took me awhile.

As I observed the class, I began to notice a child who had three different kinds of work out on three different mats spread throughout the room.  A definite “no” in the Prepared Environment where new work is not chosen until current work is returned to the shelf in good order.  Intrigued, I continued watching.

This child would work on something for a little while, then move on to her next mat – often stopping on the way to speak with a friend or observe the fish or have snack.  This rotation from mat to mat continued all morning.  By lunchtime she had completed all her work and had returned everything to the shelf.  Brilliant!

As it turned out, she was the child with ADHD.  I’m sure a lot of effort, patience, and understanding was needed for her to get to the level of work I observed!  But I saw how Montessori had accepted this young girl where she was and supported her in creating strategies that led to the succesful completion of her work and positive interactions with her peers.

So who is right?  Actually, I think both sides have a point.

It’s hard work to maintain a smile when the brand new pitcher has just been broken due to carelessness or a child suddenly yells in the middle of the Silence Game or work is continually left out.

On the other hand, there are many benefits for children living with ADHD:  hands-on concrete materials; the freedom to walk and talk (within limits, of course); the emphasis on order; the encouragement to explore interests; structure; the opportunity to be in community; and the emphasis on respect, responsibility, and freedom.

As with any  child being considered for a Montessori class, several factors come into play:  the extent of the child’s dysfunction; the experience and willingness of the teacher; the maturity and make-up of the class;  the attitude of the parents; and the availability of support – with the goal being finding the best fit for the child, teacher, and class.