How a Montessori Environment Can Act as an Intervention for Children With ADHD

Introduction

Summer is here. And for those with school-aged children, it could also mean that now may be the best time to move or relocate. Many parents opt to move during the summer so that their children can complete the current year, and start fresh at a new school in the fall. There are many things to consider when moving, and choosing the right neighborhood or the right school can be daunting. Maybe your child isn't succeeding at their current school, or perhaps you suspect that they may have a learning delay. It can be a lot. 


We turned to our Montessori certified guide, who has earned her Master in Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Guidance and Counseling, to see what she thought about the Montessori method and how it could help children diagnosed with ADHD.


"Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child open up himself to life."

-Maria Montessori


What is ADHD?

Attention and having focused concentration are visibly decreasing in the children these days. But not all attention issues and lack of concentration can be termed ADHD.


ADHD is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is characterized by difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulse control.

A child diagnosed with ADHD is distracted easily, unable to sit still, and instantly act on their impulses.


Most often, energetic and active children tend to be labeled with ADHD without a professional evaluation. 


Any behavior observed over a period of time and which affects the learning, socializing, and functioning of the child might need assessment by a professional.


According to The American Psychiatric Association (APA), 5% of American children have ADHD. Centers for disease control and prevention(CDC) says that the numbers are higher than this, and about 11 percent of children in America have ADHD as of 2011 and that it continues to increase.[1]


In the past decade, there has been a drastic increase in the number of cases of school-going children with ADHD, and if it's undiagnosed, they grow up into adults with ADHD and struggle in various aspects of their life.

The fact remains that ADHD is on the rise in children these days, and if unattended, it can affect their learning and development.

Signs of ADHD

-Unable to sustain attention even for a few minutes.


-Very restless, fidgety, and unable to sit still.


-Have difficulty controlling their impulses and act on them without prior thought.


-They seem to get disinterested in a task almost immediately after starting it.


-They seem to lose their personal items and come across as very disorganized.


How a Montessori Environment Can Act as an Intervention for Children with ADHD

1. LIMITED VISUAL STIMULATION AND CLUTTER

Children with ADHD get distracted easily, and too much visual stimulation and clutter can overwhelm them.


The day in the Montessori class unfolds following a particular routine, which helps the children with ADHD not get overwhelmed with anything new.


Although they seek novelty and get bored with tasks easily, they also tend to find order and routine calming and seek comfort in the familiar aspect of the prepared environment. Any changes in the classroom are introduced very gently during Circle Time.


Parents are advised to have the child’s work and play space at home to be organized and free of clutter.


2. ORDER IN THE CLASSROOM

Montessori classrooms are prepared environments. Every item placed on the shelves or in the class has significance and a developmental value. The setup is very organized, and order is part of the prepared environment.


Montessori material is introduced to the child in a very systematic way in the class. There is order in how the classroom is organized, the order in the shelves where the materials are displayed, and how they are used and kept back.


This order supports the child, and he can learn to organize his items too without losing them, which is common with children with ADHD.


The child with ADHD needs a routine, and doing things in a certain order helps them internalize this order.


3. PEER SUPPORT THROUGH MIX-AGED CLASSROOMS

Children with ADHD can be labeled as naughty and aggressive as they have trouble managing their emotions and tend to have frequent outbursts. They struggle with social skills. They can be easily singled out by other children in the classroom or their siblings at home.


Montessori classrooms have mixed age groups that can help these children in this aspect by offering buddy support.


Often an older child or a more mature and patient child is made to team up or become a buddy to support. The job of the buddy is to remind them when the child is distracted, support them in the activity, help them complete tasks, redirect the energy if they become disruptive.


Children respond better to their peers than adults, which can be a powerful way to support a child with attention and hyperactivity issues.


4. DEFINED EXPECTATIONS AND ROUTINE

Children need a routine and need to know what is expected of them. In the Montessori setup, Circle Time is a crucial routine where children are told about classroom rules and how to behave with their peers.


Although this is essential for all children, children with ADHD need to know what is expected of them and need a routine that reduces their anxiety and helps them feel confident and in control.


The directress in the classroom and parents can tell the child what they need to do instead of what they cannot do. Going over the class rules and defining and breaking down expectations can support these children in helping them understand what is expected of them.


‘Grace and courtesy’ is an essential element in the Montessori setup, which helps in this aspect. Social skills and expectations can be modeled, and role-plays can be used to show children how to behave in a class, how to agree to disagree, how to support someone, how to include everyone in a game or a play, and how to be a team member.


Concepts of kindness and compassion can be introduced and discussed during Circle Time through a reflective story or a role-play.


5. BREAKING DOWN INSTRUCTIONS AND REPEATING THEM

Children with ADHD are unable to follow through with several instructions at the same time. If we give them four instructions, they can grasp only one.


It is essential to break down the instructions to the tiniest detail and repeat them. Having the child repeat the instruction back to you helps too. Once the child completes the first instruction, we then give him the second one.


Although we can be hard-pressed as adults for time, it is essential to be patient with children with ADHD.


6. SUPPORT IN DEVELOPING SITTING TOLERANCE THROUGH THE "SILENCE GAME"

Being able to sit in a place consistently for some time is essential to finish a task. Children with ADHD struggle with this aspect and get very fidgety if restricted to being in one place for more than a few minutes.


The Silence game is introduced in Montessori classrooms for children to develop awareness and develop moments of quietness. From basic stillness, the child learns to control his entire body and stay silent.


From movement, we take the child to the highest form of self-control which is silence or stillness. This aids the child in developing his will and, in turn, also his spiritual development.


This is not enforced on the child, and several other preparatory activities are introduced to children, and once they appear ready, they are introduced to the silence game.


We start with asking them to start with one part of the body not moving initially. For example, ask the child to sit without moving their legs at all for a few minutes. Once the child can do it, he needs to try not moving two parts of the body. Like this, we continue adding more body parts that should be made immobile for that short span of time.


As the child slowly can do each level, we then ask him to try not moving any part of the body for that period of time. All this requires immense control over the mind and body.


Children with ADHD benefit greatly from this. This might not be easy for them initially, but they can develop sitting tolerance over a period of time, which is an essential element for learning.


7. SUPPORT IN DEVELOPING FOCUSED ATTENTION THROUGH "WALKING THE LINE"

Focused concentration is essential for learning. Being able to stay focused on a given activity without getting distracted and completing a given task is a skill. Children with ADHD struggle with this aspect of concentration. They are unable to stay focused and on any activity consistently, and thus, their ability to do well in school-related tasks is not good.


Montessori classrooms have a very important activity of ‘Walking on the line.’ This activity involves children walking on an ellipse-shaped line drawn in the middle of the classroom. They are expected to walk on the line without getting deviated. This activity has increasing complexity, which helps children to develop control of the body and focused concentration.


This is an excellent way of supporting children with ADHD to develop focused concentration.


The more the children practice this activity, the more they can stay focused, which eventually helps them stay focused on their other classroom tasks.


8. PROVIDING OUTLETS

Children with ADHD need to move and get restless if they are restricted constantly. The school and home environment need to provide enough opportunities and activities for the child, supporting their need for movement.

Practical life activities like Sweeping, Mopping, Washing a Cloth, Washing the Table, ‘Care of the Environment’ are activities that help the child channel his energy productively.


They can be given in several chores such as setting up placemats at the dining table, organizing the supplies shelf, cleaning the classroom, making sure the materials on the shelf are correctly placed.


Parents could also involve their children in household chores at home and give them errands around the house to keep them occupied.


Children with ADHD also need a good amount of time outdoors with games, sports that involve a lot of physical movement like running, skipping, jumping, swimming, etc.


The Combined Effort of the Montessori Guide and Parents

The best way to help a child living with ADHD is for parents and teachers to work together to reinforce what is being taught at school so that the learning becomes consolidated for the child.


Montessori is not about enforcing; instead, it supports the child based on his needs and requirements at that point in time. It is unique as Montessori is based on observing the child and offering him the kind of support as per his needs and requirements.


The philosophy offers freedom for children wherein children learn to explore their world in a prepared environment and develop skills that stay with them for life.


Children struggling with ADHD are calmer and at ease in the Montessori environment as the method supports their needs and helps them build skills in dealing with the difficulties that are part of living with ADHD.



If you have questions, comments, or if you’d like to suggest future topics, please leave a note in the comments section below.


[1] Website- Healthline (for statistical information).


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