Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Pouring Beans

Beginning Our Montessori Journey

Clearly this will not be the typical jaunt through Montessoriland (See end note below [1] for info on Montessori and the book we are following). Beth has autism with very significant stims, attention issues, motor planning core deficits, language impairment, and she is almost 7 years old (Montessori is usually started at age 2 or 3).  In Montessori, natural motivation is key, as is independence, but I am sure I will be doing more guiding than typical in Montessori. Maybe even some, gasp!, correction of errors. It is simply not possible to just demonstrate something a few times and have kiddo catch on and sometimes I have to directly instruct her to get around stims and other hurdles. Adjustments will be made, but not too much, because I want her to improve her non-verbal observation and processing skills and gain independence. It is a delicate balancing act. The beauty of Montessori as it relates to Beth’s autism is its focus on the senses and working on senses in isolation, visual scanning practice, practical work, and simple distraction-free materials. It is a good fit for Beth, but perhaps something she was not ready for when she was younger. I read somewhere that special needs kids often start the process later and it is “not easy.” Ha! We are all about doing things that are not easy. Bring it on!

Bean Pouring

We tried several Montessori activities over the past month and pouring beans is the most motivating thus far. When we first started I thought…easy peasy…this will be quick. Wrong. The crossing of midline, cocking of the wrist, maintaining eyes on work, scanning and picking up the beans. It is not simple at all for Beth.

But she has made great gains. Yes, I did have to directly tell her to cross midline and turn that jug on her left side (and not just non-verbally model as is typically done in Montessori). Beth has gone through years of not crossing midline very much and is in a firm habit of not using her hands in certain ways. Also, she has grown to rely on verbal cuing, so I used the minimal amount I could and chalked it up to reasonable accommodation. We skipped the typical small tray but we should have used it…it would have made placement more obvious. No this is not as perfect, as smooth, and focused as a typical kid doing Montessori. But she crossed midline 4o times a day for weeks, she moved from insisting on standing to working at the table, she learned to tilt her head to see what she was doing, she learned she must look and use her hands at the same time for the best outcome. I am calling this good enough, and time to move on. But I will leave the bean pouring jugs out as an activity because she loves it so. The klink of the beans on the ceramic and the pouring sound…there is just something about it.

Video I found helpful:

Beth pouring beans:


(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

Period One

  1. Practical Activities – pouring beans between two jugs, opening and closing containers; buttoning; buckling; other simple dressing frames; carrying and laying out floor and table mats; saying please and thank you; carrying a tray; lifting, carrying, and putting down a chair, sitting down and getting up from a chair at a table; climbing up and down stairs; walking on the line; folding, hanging clothes on a hook;  brushing hair; dusting

  2. Sensorial – Cylinder blocks; pink tower; box 1 of the color tablets; presentation tray of the geometric cabinet; sensitizing the fingers; touch boards; presentation of Geometric solids; stereognostic bags presentation

  3. Language – Classified pictures exercises; speech stages – I Spy; book corner and library

  4. Math – none

  5. Culture – land and water presentation

montessori book



2 thoughts on “Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Pouring Beans

  1. I’m excited to follow you! I’m a former Montessori teacher and a behavior therapist at a school district in CA!

    • grahamta says:

      Really…a montessori teacher and behavior therapist? I would love to chat with you sometime. I am running into challenges and sometimes I don’t know how much to guide, how much to stand back, when to move on. We are making progress but it is lonely, self-doubting progress…ha ha

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