Years ago, I worked with a child with severe autism in the mountains at a Montessori school I was helping to establish. He was my only student for a little while as we waited for enrollment. He would enter the classroom and immediately begin to push all the lessons off the shelves.
If you know what my classroom looks like, then you will know there were a lot of beautiful lessons I had prepared for the children. The first time he did it, I stood speechless with my mouth open. My eyes must have looked crazy because I was shocked.
I have always worked with primary children and yes there are incidents where a tray is dropped or thrown across the room. But this was a child walking around to each shelf simply pushing the trays off.
The fortunate thing was that he was the only child I had at that time and the director’s son was taking his training to learn how to work with children with autism. I worked under his guidance, and the owner of the school was a physical therapist. She knew how to help him as well. We set off on a mission to help this child.
He was very hyperactive. He couldn’t sit still. If you are a Montessorian you would guess the area he was attracted too. The sensorial of course! He loved those materials. He would grab the pieces and examine them very closely and would hold them with purpose.
I had to be extremely consistent with my routine. Any changes would throw him off because he felt secure about what was happening next and would mention it saying things like “We are having lunch next, right Ms. Rivera”. Dare I say no or that we were going to do something different.
If we had any changes in the routine. He would immediately go back to pushing lessons off the shelf, get very irritable, and cry. This is the reason why I am very consistent with my routine till this day. I saw firsthand how this affected this child. How much he needed me to be consistent to help get on with his learning.
The owner of the school assisted in helping his parents make changes to his diet. He was taken completely off dairy and processed foods. He was put on an all-natural, organic diet. This was hard on him.
He cried for a while and wouldn’t eat his lunch. He would just rock back and forth, of course, he was upset. But it didn’t take long for him to start eating his food. He had cold cuts, but they didn’t contain any nitrates and a lot of chemicals. They were all-natural.
He also had fresh veggies and fruits. He eventually started loving his lunches. He became a happy, vibrant boy. He was learning and independent. He learned to read and write and was able to enter a traditional first-grade classroom. He did so well in a Montessori classroom because Maria Montessori created her works for children like him.