Monday, October 28, 2013

Positively Autism October 2013 Newsletter

This month, we're finishing our series on Montessori for students with Autism.

Montessori Articles/Resources

October Positively Autism Theme -

Sensory Issues in the Montessori Classroom -

Montessori and Children with Special Needs -

Visual Supports for Use in a Montessori Classroom -

Montessori How-To Videos -

Interview with Rhea Brashear, Director of Morning Star Montessori -

What’s Maria Got to Do with Aspergers/Autism? -

"The Asperkids Collection" of Montessori Materials -

Is Montessori TEACCH Without the Velcro? -

An Interview with Michelle Lane -

"Autism: A Montessori Approach" by Michelle Lane -

Freebies and Resources

Task Ideas for Matching and Sorting -

Halloween Social Stories and Freebies -


October 2013 Positive Autism News Stories -

Participants Still Needed for Cutting Edge PRT Autism Intervention (California) -

October 2013 Positive Autism News Stories

Autism Doesn’t Hold Back Montgomery College Graduate
October 1, 2013

'Joshua is the Winner, He's So Proud,' Autistic Senior Named Homecoming King
October 4, 2013

Blind, Autistic Man's Music His Gift
October 12, 2013

‘More Like You than Not’ Event Teaches CSUN Community About Autism
October 21, 2013

Autistic Artist Gives Hope to Many Through His Eco-art
October 24, 2013

Frederick Man with Autism Pays It Forward
October 25, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Positively Autism's Halloween Social Stories and Freebies

Halloween is almost here! Don't forget about Positively Autism's collection of Halloween freebies!
  • Halloween Vocabulary
  • "What to Expect on Halloween" Social Story
  • "Travis the Train Goes Trick or Treating" Story
  • Halloween Math Activity Bundle for Pre-K and K
  • "Things That Are Black" Activity
  • "Things That Are Orange" Activity
  • Songs/Videos
  • Books
  • And More!
Find all the activities here:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Autism: A Montessori Approach" by Michelle Lane

Book Description: The book describes the combined program using the Montessori curriculum and Applied Behaviour Analysis for teachers, schools as well as parents of children with autism. It provides the reader with the history as to why the Montessori curriculum is ideal for a child with special needs, a curriculum overview as well as strategies for these children in a clinic setting as well as a traditional Montessori school setting.

Review: Michelle Lane's book series (which includes the main book, as well as program manuals and tracking guides), provide a helpful overview of using Montessori methods to teach children with autism. It provides a brief overview of two approaches: Montessori and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), as well as the combination of these two approaches for teaching children with autism. This book does not go in depth about the Montessori philosophy, but readers seeking this information can find it in the many books available about this topic. It does, however, provide an easy-to-understand guide to using the Montessori ideas.

I would recommend these books for ABA practitioners wanting to incorporate Montessori instruction into their ABA programs, as well as Montessori teachers wanting to include students with autism into their programs.

Chapters in "Autism: A Montessori Approach" include:
  1. Montessori, Itard and Seguin
  2. Autism
  3. Applied Behaviour Analysis
  4. Blended Program
  5. Montessori Curriculum
  6. Sensorial
  7. Practical Life
  8. Language
  9. Math
  10. Culture
  11. Data Collection
  12. Play/Social Skills
  13. Sensory Processing/Anxiety
  14. Creating Your Own Program
  15. Summary
The following program tracking manuals and curriculum guides are also available:
  • Sensorial
  • Practical Life
  • Language
  • Math
  • Culture
Order at:

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Interview with Michelle Lane

Michelle Lane is the author of "Autism: A Montessori Approach" and has developed a program that combines Montessori and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Click below for an interview about her background and teaching approach.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Participants Still Needed for Cutting Edge PRT Autism Intervention (California)

I received the following newsletter e-mail from the Koegel Autism Center at University of California, Santa Barbara. Drs. Robert and Lynn Koegel are the pioneers of Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), which, in my opinion, is a preferred method of early intervention for children with autism. Here is the e-mail:

Dear Friends of the Koegel Autism Center,

Do you have a 4 to 6 year old child diagnosed with ASD? Are you interested in receiving a developmental assessment and 16 weeks of intervention? Your participation will enable researchers to better understand the developing brain in autism. Through the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we are able to see how behavioral intervention (specifically Pivotal Response Treatment or PRT) improves children's processing of social stimuli. This cutting edge research, funded by Autism Speaks, will hopefully lead to better care for all children with ASD. For more information on the current study, please see results from a similar project conducted at Yale University.

Please fill out the quick one page information form here and send it to

Please spread the word, even if this opportunity does not apply to your family!

For more information you may contact Avery Voos at

Koegel Autism Center
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9490

Friday, October 18, 2013

Is Montessori TEACCH Without the Velcro?

by Nicole Caldwell, M.Ed.

When researching this month's issue of Positively Autism, I saw a comment on a blog post that that Montessori was like TEACCH without the Velcro. I attended a Montessori school as a child and worked as a teacher’s aide at a Montessori school in college. I’ve always thought that Montessori materials were ideal for children with autism due to their appealing and visually structured nature.

“The environment itself will teach the child.” – Maria Montessori

If you’re familiar with the TEACCH approach, you know that it places an emphasis on visual structure and creating materials and classroom spaces that contain many visual cues that allow a student with autism to understand what to do. I like to think of it as, “Show, don’t tell.”

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” – Maria Montessori

When using TEACCH, teachers provide visual supports such as picture schedules and structured workstations in which children complete a numbered or color-coded series of activities.

“The teacher's task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives…in a special environment made for the child.” – Maria Montessori

When you look at many traditional Montessori materials, you will see many of these same features of visual structure and clarity.

“To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” – Maria Montessori

Additionally, TEACCH is founded upon a respect for “the culture of autism,” and the idea that individuals with autism may be different than those without autism, but they are not inferior. This seems very much in harmony with the Montessori philosophy of dignity and respect for the child.

“Bring the child to the consciousness of his own dignity and he will feel free.” – Maria Montessori


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"The Asperkids Collection" of Montessori Materials

Wonder and curiosity. Respect and kindness for all children everywhere. These are the common goals of Asperkids, LLC, and of Montessori Services. Through Asperkids' award-winning multimedia social education and Montessori Services' beautiful practical life tools, we have created a road to confidence and independence for kids with Asperger Syndrome, autism -- and every other "typical" child, too. With you in mind, every single item in this collection has been "chosen, celebrated and personally used" by Asperkids' award-winning author (Aspie and Asperkid mom x3), Jennifer O'Toole.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What’s Maria Got to Do with Aspergers/Autism?

Above all, they [children] absolutely want the joy of learning that they are capable, important, relevant human beings. In one word, then, let’s sum up the Montessori philosophy thusly: dignity.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Interview with Rhea Brashear, Director of Morning Star Montessori

As we continue our series on Montessori and Autism, we would like to welcome Rhea Brashear, Director of Morning Star Montessori.

Question: Thank you for taking the time to participate with an interview with Positively Autism. Can you start by telling us a little about Morning Star Montessori and your background at the school?


The school was started in 2008 to try and address the growing need for truly individualized education in the special needs community.  The school was originally developed as a ministry of a small church. Over the course of a couple of years Morning Star became an independent organization. 

I had personal experience with my own child that had special needs and I am a certified Montessori teacher.  My desire was to offer a hands on opportunity for harnessing two complementary approaches for the benefit of special needs children.

Q: How do you feel that your school’s approach, and Montessori methods in particular, benefit students with autism?

A: I have always believed that Montessori education had the best potential for meeting the differentiated educational needs of special needs / autistic children.  Dr. Montessori implores us as teachers to create the environment suited to the child’s needs.  By understanding more about the sensory, developmental, and neurological foundations of any of the disorders / delays that are so prevalent today, we can better understand how to look at our classrooms and make the lessons and the environments more attainable for these children.

Ultimately, though, this will require a deeper preparation of the teacher.  Dr. Montessori makes this point very clear in her writings. As Montessori teachers, we must stay focused on her words as we take the lead in education for the next generation.

Q: Your school uses The HANDLE® approach. Can you tell us more about this method and how it is integrated with Montessori?

A: This has been the school’s primary focus for the past 5 years. HANDLE has been the foundational approach for the program because it, by it’s very nature, is a holistic approach that looks at all people from the perspective of neurodevelopment.  HANDLE training is first about understanding the hierarchy of development from internal systems such as vestibular (inner ear), proprioception, muscle tone, kinesthesia, lateralization, vision, audition, and so on.  Each system is viewed in relationship to the others.  Then, through careful observation, we are trained to note differences and compensations such that the client’s indirect and direct aims can be understood.  This very important as many autistic children are non-verbal and can not tell parents or teachers what they need or why they are doing things.

Montessori philosophy is very similar because the emphasis is on the observation of the child in a prepared environment as well as  understanding the purpose of the child’s work in a holistic way.  First, understanding how this may be serving a need in the child, then how does this activity fit in the classroom community.

HANDLE trained me to go much deeper in the observational assessment with a profound level of understanding about the neurological implications of the natural desires / needs of the individual.  These all stem from developmental “thrusts” and can be facilitated differently in each child through careful observation.

Q: What advice do you have for Montessori schools and teachers in working with students with autism?

A: This is a tough question to answer because there are so many different aspects to autism that need to be addressed individually in each child.  In my area, the term Autism Spectrum Disorder is becoming more frequently used by professionals. This term gives credence to the realization that each child with an autism diagnosis will have their own unique combination of symptoms.  No two autistic children are really just alike.

It is very true that every autistic child may not be integrated successfully into a every Montessori classroom.  Some children do require specialized one on one care and this is often not possible in many school communities. 

But, keeping the tenants of Montessori in focus, it is possible to create a prepared classroom environment that would meet the needs of children with ASD, speech delays, Pervasive Developmental Delays, etc. 

The best direct answer to this question would have to be directed towards the teacher – parent relationship.  If a parent has come to your school seeking placement for their autistic child consider it an honor:

  1. They see you as a professional expert /resource in the community.
  2. They have heard the deepest message of Dr. Montessori for love/respect for the child and believe your school can offer this.  (Believe me, these parents talk to other parents voraciously! If your school was an option to be considered, you are doing something right!)
  3. No one plans to be the parent of a special needs child.  By the time the mom walks through the door of your school she is most likely feeling rejected, battered, and often discouraged.  They are mostly looking for acceptance for the child they love…just like every one else.

You could:

- Have the local resources ready in a file.

- Try to give them an extra few minutes in the interview.  The mom may just need listening ear for few minutes.

- Consider if your school could possibly offer some way for limited interaction?  Half-day inclusion one day a week?  Join for special events? 

-  Keep thinking!

Q: How can teachers in non-Montessori public and private schools and intervention programs use Montessori methods in their classrooms?

A: The Method is really central to the preparation and attitude of the teacher.  I could be placed in a traditional classroom and use the materials on hand and lessons plans in such a way as to foster individual exploration, self directed use, and encourage collaborative learning.  It comes down to having respect for the child and their purposes for learning.

Montessori education does not only exist in the Golden Beads, botany cabinet, or moveable alphabet!  It is an approach that is built from the inside out and must be facilitated that way from the teachers. 

Q: How can our readers learn more about Morning Star Montessori and your programs there?

A: Sadly, the building where our program was located had a pervasive mold contamination that was discovered just before the 2013 -2014 school year was set to start.   We contacted 13 other churches or schools looking for a place to relocate but none were available in time to start the new school year. We have had to temporarily postpone the school until new arrangements can be made.

I also want to explain that my classrooms were small with very low ratios which would be difficult for many schools to replicate.  We had at the most 9 children in class with 3 teachers.  The 3:1 ratio is not budget friendly! 

But the combination of Montessori and HANDLE did work in amazing ways for the children that came to the school.  We were able to accept children with autism, Cerbal Palsy, PDD-NOS, Turner Syndrome, apraxia, and developmental delays. 

I had to really challenge myself to reset the expectations and structure of the classroom to adjust to the new challenges presented in the children.  After 5 years, I am convinced that these children are just like other children.  They too have a desire to learn, find community and develop a sense of self. 

The children learned to talk, read, write, and make friends.  I used the practical life and sensorial materials in ways that were a few steps way from the “traditional Montessori way”, but they met the needs of the child and that keep me focused on what Dr. Montessori really intended.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

A: I would welcome the opportunity to speak with any school with regard to how any individual child could be helped in the classroom. 

To the adage of pictures being worth 1000 words:


This student with autism needed more proprioceptive input in order to focus on the lesson.  He was able to complete the triangles but I had adapt to giving the lesson in an unconventional way. 

The internal order of the child will be developed, but the teacher may need to understand that the child is beginning from a different point than the typically developing child. 


Friday, October 11, 2013

Montessori How-To Videos

My Works Montessori Provides:
  • Information on Montessori Education.
  • Video tutorials for parents and/or educators on the Montessori method and principles.
  • Interactive Montessori video lessons for at home use between a parent and child. Video lessons taught by AMS certified Montessori Directors.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Montessori and Children with Special Needs

From Casa Vera Montessori School: "We would like to show you how children with special needs influenced Maria Montessori as well as affected the development of her educational philosophy and how Montessori education can help these children to reach their potential. "


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October Positively Autism Theme

This month, we'll wrap up our series on Montessori education for children with autism. We will provide information to help Montessori schools include children with autism, discuss the similarities between Montessori materials and the TEACCH approach, and post new free downloads.