Montessori method effective for ADHD? - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Montessori method effective for ADHD?

erick1822 profile image
11 Replies

Hi! I am new to this community, and while my 8 year old son has been diagnosed for 3-4 years already- I still feel so uneducated! I am struggling through trying to make school work well for him, but don't quite know what he needs or where to begin.

A new montessori charter is opening near us and I have been considering it. I've always been drawn to the movement and hands-on learning approach montessori provides, but am afraid about my son's struggle with self-direction. Does anyone have experience? I am afraid to make the leap as it is such a different approach than he's had thus far, and I would hate to do anything to make him further behind his peers if we end up returning to public school.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you so much

11 Replies
DecaturDAD profile image

This may not be helpful, but here’s what I can offer: it depends. Not all Montessori schools are the same; the name is not protected intellectual property, so it can be hard to generalize. Usually AMI Montessori Schools start the kids at the Primary level- 3 or 4 years old. Most lessons at that level are very hands on. And particularly in mixed age classes there is plenty of direction from the teacher and more experienced children.

By the upper elementary level the lessons are still largely experiential, but more reading, writing and abstract work is expected, even though it’s child driven to a fairly large extent.

My kid did great in an AMI Montessori School until around 6th grade, when the independent work expectations ramped up, and work output expectations were high. In seventh grade, homework was added, and we had to make a change. The high reading, writing and independent research demands played to my boy’s weaknesses.

I’d say check it out, be honest with the admissions team, and if they say it’s not a good fit believe them and don’t get your feelings hurt. On the other hand, if they stress that they “follow the child,” and believe all would be fine, your son might have a great experience. If he’s one who finds a topic he’s interested in and can’t get enough, Montessori may give him more freedom to pursue his passions. Good luck!

22789 profile image

I agree with DecaturDAD. I pulled my son from a certified Montessori school towards the end of first grade, which was prior to diagnosis. My son is gifted. He was completing 3 1/2 hours of work in 45 minutes so there wasn’t a boredom factor but he was not being given curriculum to match his intellectual ability. The work he received was the same as that of his same aged peers some of whom were struggling with the basics. When he got to public school in our exceptionally high achieving district, he was far behind especially in math because he did not receive exposure to CGI at the Montessori school. Writing expectations at the first grade level lagged behind that of public school. My son caught up easily because of his intellectual abilities.

Although students move around more in a Montessori environment, self/control of body and speech is demanded IMHO. There are no incentives to perform; intrinsic rewards have to suffice.

erick1822 profile image
erick1822 in reply to 22789

Thank you so much! That is definitely one of my fears- deciding that it isn’t working for us and then my son falling behind where the public school is at (since it’s already a struggle to keep up).

clanchita profile image

Our child is in a Montessori school and we have struggled with whether it is the right fit for him. For now, we are staying because the positives are outweighing the negatives. But that is largely because this particular school has gone out of their way to 'follow the child' and to adapt the Montessori curriculum to him.

From what I have seen, the advantages of Montessori for a child with ADHD are: they are able to move around the classroom as needed, they can spend longer or shorter time on work as needed, and the mixed age classes offers different levels of work so that they can move ahead in what they excel in and get more practice on what they are weak in. Also, Montessori classroom environments emphasize order, a calm environment, and quiet engagement with one's work.

A major disadvantage of Montessori for children with ADHD is that it requires a high level of executive function, which is often weak in kids with ADHD. In order to carry out independent work, the child must be able to locate their work materials, plan/organize the steps of the work, initiate work individually, and sustain their attention through various steps of the work. All of this can be very difficult for kids with ADHD. In addition, the classroom environment of all of the kids moving around can be very distracting for a child with ADHD.

If it is a public Montessori school, you may be able to get an IEP to help the child achieve their goals despite executive functioning weaknesses. This is what has happened with our son, who receives a couple of hours of special education support daily. Without those supports, he is unable to function in the classroom independently (as Montessori is designed). On the positive side, due to the special education supports and Montessori environment, he seems to be improving his executive functioning by practicing EF activities everyday at school.

It is a big change to make and it is hard to know how your child will react once in the new school environment. Could you ask the school if your child might do a couple of 'shadow days' there to see how he might respond to the new school?

Good luck,


erick1822 profile image
erick1822 in reply to clanchita

These are such wonderful Insights! Thank you! I definitely worry about the executive function requirements and the distraction level in the classroom. What kinds of accommodations do you have on your child’s IEP that has made it work ? I can try to discuss them with the school beforehand and see their attitude on the accommodations.

Crunchby profile image

All above are great responses and more than I ever analyzed our experience. We did try with my gifted girl. I love the Montessori concept...but... She didn't have the ability to work actually work on her own, not play. I got calls constantly about what a distraction she was. Hardest thing I ever did was take her out (well we were shown the door) and put her into public school. Turned out being forced to sit at a little desk all day with a regiment was exactly what she needed. I did get her into gifted program in school.

erick1822 profile image
erick1822 in reply to Crunchby

Interesting! I find it interesting a couple of your issues stemmed from your children being ahead. They have ADHD and are still able to manage being ahead of peers?

Crunchby profile image

So, imo, adhd is not a gift. However, kids get about 221 traits, and being a smarty is one of my daughters. Your child might be good at math or a great athlete. So despite the adhd the other traits will come out. My job is to quiet the adhd symptoms. When she was at Montessori, she was not in medication. Looking back I really regret this.

erick1822 profile image
erick1822 in reply to Crunchby

True, that’s a great way to look at it! Oh she wasn’t? I wonder how much that could have affected your experience had she been medicated

katcald profile image

After my oldest two (girls) did really well in Montessori, we enrolled my son at age 4. It was horrible for him. It is a very child driven environment-- they choose their work, they do one task for an extended period etc. My son couldn't handle it. I would say it is not the right environment for an ADHD kid.

Klmamma profile image

3 out of the 8 kids in our social skills class were in Montessori school and they did horribly. I think all 3 were eventually asked to leave for behavioral issues. My son got into one for Kindergarten and I declined after the tour. I found it chaotic and distracting and lacking of structure.

My son needs the regiment of traditional school. He is gifted as well. His Kindergarten teacher did a great job of keeping him busy. He would finish his work quickly and then she had him help other kids in class who were behind. We are homeschooling this year bc of virtual and COVID and it's going well. It's basically a CBT session every day.

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