Michelle Lane-Barmapov

Montessori and Autism: Inclusion of Children Requiring Diverse Levels of Support


During her 15-minute talk, Lane-Barmapov discusses and explains the following:

  • The history of the study of autism, DSM IV, DSM V, Autism Spectrum disorder levels 1 - 3;
  • Today‚Äôs therapies: Speech, Occupational and Applied Behavioural Analysis;
  • Montessori as a scientific and medical approach;
  • Teacher attitude;
  • Montessori and Inclusion

Lane-Barmapov defines a "Prepared Adult" as someone who, is dependent on the prepared environment. For me, this means removing barriers and promoting a sense of belonging for all people. The prepared adult has been shown love, kindness and the opportunity to develop themselves fully.


Michelle Lane-Barmapov was the founder of the Lane Montessori School for Autism (LMSA; previously known as the Toronto Montessori School for Autism [TMSA]) in Toronto, Canada. This not-for-profit school was the first of its kind in the world to combine Applied Behavior Analysis with the Montessori curriculum. TMSA/LMSA ran from 2003-2010. She co-chairs the advisory board for MMPI (Montessori Medical Partnership for Inclusion) with Dr Joyce Pickering. Michelle is currently working on her Doctorate in Health at the University of Bath (UK).


So. Hi everyone. Today I will be discussing Montessori and autism inclusion of children requiring diverse levels of support. I am Charlene Balmer. I am a professor at Sheridan College in Canada. I teach in the Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies. Some of the courses I teach are Autism, Inclusion and other courses in the Department of Education. I'm currently working on my doctorate in health and my passion and my research that I'm interested in conducting that I did for my master's degree is on Montessori and Autism. So Dr. Montessori said in order to educate, it is essential to know who sorry, who are to be educated. Taking measurements of the head, the stature is to be sure, not in itself the practice of pedagogy. But it does mean that we are following in the path that leads to pedagogy, because we cannot educate anyone until we know him thoroughly. So let's talk about in terms of my interest of children with autism, who are our children? So this is Dr. Leo Connor, who coined the word autism in 1943. The word autism means self. So Montessori did not have the opportunity to work with children diagnosed with autism because the first person who is known to be diagnosed was Donald Ray Triplett in 1933. He was one of the 11 cases that Dr. Connor studied, which he called infantile autism from his published paper, Autistic Disturbances of Effective Contact.

This term was later changed to simply autism. So before 2013 and this has changed over the decades, we were using the DSM four to understand children. And so all of these disorders were under a big umbrella called Pervasive Developmental Disorders. So Autistic Disorder was the traditional classic autism for a child with severe impairments, also known as Connor's autism. Then we have Asperger's disorder, which referred to children requiring a lesser amount of support who would typically verbalize and communicate because children in the autistic disorder were verbal and verbal. Their challenges typically revolved around social communication, sensory sensitivities and high levels of anxiety. Then Rett Syndrome is primarily found in girls, not exclusively, and has is one of the symptoms hand-wringing and an eventual loss of skills. Childhood disintegrating disorder is another disorder that leads children to lose their skills. So you will typically see skill regression between the ages of two and ten, and then not otherwise specified is what we used to call atypical autism. A milder form. And I know the language is not people don't like to say severe or mild, but that's the language that is used a milder form of autism. So the DSM five came out in 2013 and this this Diagnostic and Statistical Manual remove those subcategories. And as a result, the current diagnosis is autism spectrum disorder. So now what happens is we have a current diagnosis of autism, and then there'll be a severity level that is added to this diagnosis from the doctor.

So if you are at a level one, that means that the child requires some support. And it says here about the in terms of social communication and restrictive, repetitive behavior so that the student requires support. A level two is that a child needs substantial support. So more than a level one and then a level three is that that child needs that one on one, that very substantial support. And another thing to note is that autism can and does occur with other disorders and disabilities, including ADHD as an example. So there are different therapies that work that are used to treat children with autism. One common one is speech therapy. And so speech therapists, speech language pathologists are essential members of that team for a treatment plan for children with autism and should be part of the collaboration of the team out of Montessori school. Then we have occupational therapy, which is the most used therapy besides speech therapy, which helps children with their sensory systems as well. So they are also part of that treatment team. And then ABA, which always generates a lot of controversy from where from where I sit, but is considered the most effective way to help children diagnosed with autism. It has a long history. Autism has a very I would say, a very turbulent history anyways.

It needs to always be reviewed, but it does have the best impact compared to all other evidence based treatments that are available. There is a new research that came out in 2020, and I do have the research that looks at that particular research study. There are a lot of flaws within that research study by. One is aware of it, and I'm happy to share and share more information. But we know that children who require substantial one on one support with the goal of a children child being independent and supporting their skills, ABA is one of the treatment options. So in in after working. So I was working in autism for at least a decade before I did my Montessori training and I did work in ABA. And at the time we weren't we didn't have the board certification, which is important, it's important to regulate the ABA work anyways. But when I was doing my Montessori training I really noticed similarities in Montessori and ABA, some of which was the task analysis, the breakdown of each lesson that I found fascinating. And so I created a montessori ABA model as an alternative to traditional ABA because I feel that we can always improve on what we're doing. And I felt that Montessori really we really saw benefits with the sensorial and therapeutic properties that are ingrained in the Montessori materials, which Dr. Montessori and her, the doctors before her really put a lot of energy and time in developing.

So using an ABA approach made it possible for children requiring substantial intensive one on one support, made it helpful for them to develop skills. So I started the school which ran more like a clinic in 2003. In 2005 I was recognized for my work when I received the Premier's award. However, the board decided to close the school in 2010. We were a not for profit school because we always lacked funding and the reason why we lacked funding was due to a lack of research for the benefits of Montessori education for children with autism. And so I didn't do the traditional ABA method. I did absolutely blend the children had a work cycle. They were able to take the materials from the shelf, work on the activities, put it away. And part of that work cycle was why we were not funded if I had stuck to at the time ABA. Aba has changed over the years, but at the time it was literally one activity after the next. And I found by my own observations of children that giving them the work cycle that is inherent in a montessori program, really, you could see there they were happier. They built more self confidence things that Ben was sharing in his presentation. We need to be able to to track and show those measurements that are very important.

So this is inclusion. This is a student, one of the students that I wanted to have when I was working in a traditional, typical Montessori school. The school would not allow her to come because she had a severe seizure disorder and required substantial support. I'm very good friends with her mom and she unfortunately she's Montessori trained as well. And she put her daughter in a public school. And at the school her daughter had a nurse. She was able to use her communication device. So in this picture, are her friends at the school playing or work? I guess we say playing, see, but working with her communication device, exploring it. And that was something that her mom was and the teachers were very open to. And this helped with the sense of belonging that her peer group could see. Oh, this is how our our classmate, she communicates in this way. And so she does require a lot of support, but she has her peer group, she has a sense of belonging. And so my you know, why are our children who do need that severe support excluded from not all? There are a lot of Montessori schools who are including which is wonderful, but this should be, in my opinion, the model. We should be inclusive for all children. So scientific and medical pedagogy, Montessori education that is developmental, diagnostic and therapeutic. So I co-chair Montessori Medical Partnership for Inclusion with Dr.

Joyce Pickering, Co-Chair of the Advisory Board. This organisation was founded by Katherine Masi and Barbara Lebowski. They felt strongly that what was missing in Montessori inclusion was the medical piece. So Montessori was a medical doctor. It made sense to combine the Montessori method which stemmed from Attard Hard and Montessori's work in special education to support inclusion by reuniting scientific and medical pedagogy. With the Montessori method of education, our board of Directors at MPI come from all over the world. Professor K, a fellow board member specializes in Montessori therapy. There is a specific training from. The Berger Foundation in Germany, where Montessori education has been working together with the medical community since the late 1960s. This work is known in Europe, but North American countries were unaware of this work until MPI started bringing it to the forefront and translating their work, which has been predominantly in German. So we provided a foundation training from the Halberg Foundation team around early childhood education in 2019. We are doing another elementary training this summer with translators and ah, we're our goal is to do one in 2022 where we're hosting the adolescents work. Mario Montessori was involved with Dr. Hal Berger until the 1990s and Dr. Berger was past Vice President of AMI when Mario Montessori was the President. We don't know why they stopped working together, but we feel that the Montessori community, medical professionals and parents can learn from their work.

So Dr. Montessori shared that the school constitutes an immense field for research. It is a pedagogical clinic which, in view of its importance, can be compared to no other gathering of subjects for study. This is the field, therefore, in which the culture of the human race can really and practically be undertaken, and a joint labour of physician and teacher will sow the seed of a future human hygiene adapted to achieve perfection in man, both as a species and as a social unit. So this quote means a lot to myself and my colleagues. Children with autism who required diverse levels of support also deserve the benefits of a montessori education, the social skills opportunities, the love of learning, a sense of belonging. We need to work together Montessori educators, medical professionals, parents and the child at the centre in order to continue the best way to support all children. Many schools will say that the child who requires substantial support is not the right fit, or will counsel families away from Montessori for their child to attend a traditional school. Montessori schools are the best places for children who acquire diverse support levels because the teaching instruction is individualized. So it's my belief that we need to provide the schools with more help to become the right fit for all children. Thank you for your time.

Made possible by the Prepared Adult Initiative.