Report by Silvia Dubovoy
This summer, 26 outstanding students from 10 countries graduated from the first AMI Inclusive Education Course held at the Montessori Institute of San Diego.
The objective of this course was to use all means of Montessori education to support the personality of all children, so they can fulfill their potentialities to their maximums and have happy, satisfied, and productive lives. Our goal was to make the Montessori trained students aware that they had in themselves and in their environments many of the resources necessary to observe and discover certain characteristics of exceptional children. Emphasis was placed on their abilities to trust their training and find that the answers are not just in the material, but also in the attitudes of those working with each special child. Because all of the Inclusive Education students held AMI certification in Assistants to Infancy, Primary, or Elementary, the group was able to maintain a strong focus and delve deeply into the heart of the matter, generating practical insights rooted in a shared ideology.
I have so much to tell you about this extraordinary experience, and I would like to pick up where I left off when I reported on the first summer in 2015. A year ago, we wrote that, “The Inclusive Education Course could not have been such a success without the invaluable contribution of the dedicated students who shared their wisdom and experience with open hearts each day.”
Looking back on this experience, the tremendous value of the students’ contribution is more apparent than ever. We opened our second summer by reviewing case studies that the students had prepared during the interim year. The assignment was to observe a struggling child for 35 hours, plan and carry out an intervention and observe its effects. Our students chose children with common issues such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Sensory Integration Disorder, to more severe issues such as Mosaic Down Syndrome, significant vision issues and infant drug addiction leading to serious complications. Some of the case study subjects had previously been diagnosed by specialists, but many had not. As we listened to each student present their case studies, we were struck by several factors. For instance, we began to notice some trends that bear further research in the circumstances of the children selected for study. We were pleased to note the creativity of the planned interventions and how well they worked in accordance with Montessori pedagogy. But most of all, we were inspired by the amount of heart and soul with which these Montessori practitioners approached these struggling students and their parents.
To provide context for the student’s case studies, our 2nd summer was filled with captivating lectures from medical doctors and other experts in the field, including: Dr. Sharyn Rhodes (speech and language disorders), Dr. Jorge Torres and Aurora Pena (bipolar disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome), Edi Nelson (occupational therapy based on affect), Mario Salguero (Mindfulness and the work of the brain) and Vivian Dubovoy (Child Neuropsychiatry topics).
Because this pilot program was such a resounding success, I am delighted to announce that we will offer a second Inclusive Education Course over two summers from 2016-17. Based on student feedback, we will be making some exciting improvements:
- The course will be extended from 9 weeks to 10 weeks.
- We will add the classic AMI elements of albums and exams (written as a reflection of their learning).
- We will place increased emphasis on supporting the students with the necessary resources to perform the tasks at hand.
However, perhaps the most exciting news is not about the course itself, but about two new professional paths that have emerged recently for graduates of this course. The first opportunity is for students to act as Inclusive Education Advocates in Montessori Schools, coordinating the efforts of teachers, parents, and medical professionals to support exceptional children throughout the school year, while maintaining an emphasis on Montessori practice. The second opportunity is for graduates of our first course to enter an internship program through The Montessori Institute of San Diego so that they can take on leadership roles in future Inclusive Education Courses. The first stages of this internship program will occur in mid-January and June/July 2016.
The strength and success of this course came from a combination of self-reflection and being grounded in Montessori pedagogy. Students reported that they felt the course to be a transformative experience and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to delve deeper into Dr. Montessori’s writings, while at the same time learning about current neuropsychiatric research and practice. Although this course is in its infancy, we are excited to continue offering this essential and timely experience to Montessori practitioners around the globe.
Click here to read more about the course and to read a special account from one of the students.