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