Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Catch Up Post on Period 1

I am so far behind in my Montessori posts I decided to just do a quick catch up post for period 1. We are done with Period 1 and well into Period 2 and Period 3 math (1).

Cylinders, Period 1

The purpose of the cylinder blocks is to teach about varying height and width together, holding height constant and varying width, and holding width constant and varying height. Based on the book I am following (1), for period 1 the child is supposed to work with each cylinder block one at a time, remove each cylinder and place them in front of the block in random fashion, then replace the cylinders back into the block in a random fashion. The point of the randomization is work on visual scanning and matching while teaching the progression of the cylinders along the blocks. This is a good demonstration video of the ideal presentation of a cylinder block:

Of course Beth just removes each cylinder and places it directly in front of the hole and works from left to right. There is no way to convince her to randomize the cylinders, just like in the other Montessori tasks I have written about, because her autism drives her to line things up from big to small. I just say we are playing a mix up game and then I mix them up after she places them on the table. I make sure she watches me place them and encourage her to scan the whole field. She insists on working from left to right to replace, but I actually think that is good because it shows she understand the progression. As for getting her to do the task slowly and completely quietly, I let that go. She is close enough in my book to completing the period 1 cylinders, since my goal was to teach the language associated with the cylinders (tall, short, deep, shallow, wide, narrow, thin, skinny, same width, same height) and work on visual scanning. Here is a sample video, where I give more direct instruction than usual due to the obnoxious riding lawn mower outside (condo living, gotta love it):

Wrapping Up Period 1

Many of the period 1 practical activities Beth could already do, with the exception of brushing her hair (she absolutely hates it), dusting (um, because I barely do it myself), exploring categories of language, and walking on a line (a classroom activity where you learn to walk with others, which is similar to some activities in music class and little gym, so she is working on it).

The period 1 language activities included a phonics game where I look around the room and say I spy something that starts with a sound and then Beth needs to name the item. This was very easy for Beth as she is good at phonics, but she loved the game so it was worth doing.

There was a big production in the book (1) about library time, handling books, etc. I didn’t feel the level of detail was necessary for Beth, but the book did inspire me to reorganize our books and create an area next to her bed with her favorite books, and a separate organized “library” at the top of her bookshelves. Now I can say “go read in your bed” and she will pull her favorite books out independently and look at them.

Book Center

Book Center

Thoughts on Progress

Do I think this is worth it so far?  Yes. Her motor planning, visual scanning/coordination, independence, concentration, and persistence has improved. Can I be 100% certain it is due to the Montessori process? No, not without a formal study. But all I have to go on is my gut. The therapists and teachers would describe the problem over and over, but they could not develop a step by step plan to get us there. Montessori at least provides a step by step framework with all the materials, so I believe it is the best we can do.

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(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: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. 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

Period Two

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent
  2. Sensorial- advanced cylinder blocks exercises, brown stair, red rods, boxes 2 and 3 of color tablets, geometric cabinet exercises 1-4, binomial cube, blindfold, tactile tablets, stereognostic bags exercises, sorting grains, sound boxes, preliminary presentation of bells, three stage lessons and the names of Sensorial qualities
  3. Language- classified picture exercises 3 and 4, stage 4 of I Spy, exercise 1 of single letter sandpaper letters, metal insets, frequent speech questioning
  4. Math- none
  5. Culture- Land and water exercises, first maps, places classified pictures, preliminary work for classification by leaf.
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