As I was sitting last night researching what kind of hands on activities I could use while we learn about the moon next week, I thought about how the boys learn best, and the concept of being “table ready.”
I thought about ten years ago…
When my son with a classic autism diagnosis was in early intervention, his therapists (skills, speech, and OT) worked with him on the floor. Or well, they tried to. Most of the sessions consisted of chasing him around the room trying to get him to attend. I suggested that if he were sitting they might have an easier time, but they insisted it wasn’t conducive to natural learning.
Pete would sit, rather happily, at meals strapped in to his booster seat. It looked like this:
He insisted. If he wasn’t buckled, he stressed about it. One day after breakfast while he was still at the table I pulled out a puzzle and worked on it with him. I mimicked the language his therapists used. He not only did the puzzle, but he was engaged. I then added another two activities (like song games, shape sorter, story books) and then more. We got up to a half hour, then 45 minutes. He loved it.
I learned about structured work tasks and how to use visual cues and schedules to show when work began and ended. We went from a “work” and “finished” basket to visual work schedule with velcro numbers and a “finished” pocket for the numbers. We covered fine motor, academics like counting and colors, sorting, stacking, matching and joint attention tasks. He learned to point, but I never bothered with eye contact, its not really necessary for joint attention. I bought some tasks, but usually made my own. As he aged and rapidly learned I had trouble finding /making materials with visual /hands on components and clear beginning and end of task that met his more complex learning needs.
Then he went to a small Montessori class run by our old church. He was engaged, and fairly independent, though still in need of help staying on task and choosing work. The materials engaged him. I began buying Montessori materials, teaching myself and then him to use them, and then using them during his structured work time. They are wonderful.
He eventually started kindergarten in public school and my activities and materials ended up in storage.
My youngest son on the spectrum has a pdd-nos diagnosis and is much Pete’s opposite in some ways. His teachers would complain he wasn’t “table ready.” They insisted in order to learn he had to be sitting straight in a chair at a desk or table. This rarely happened. I refused to allow him to be restrained against his will, and refused when they mentioned trying to puppy train him into a chair using m&m rewards. He also was best engaged when working with manipulatives, and balked at the pencil and paper activities that replaced the hands on work of his preschool years.
When the boys came home to learn, we went back to Montessori. It still offers the structured tasks Peter needs, as well as hands on tactile activities for older students that keep Patrick engaged sans chocolate treats.
PLUS Montessorians have nothing whatever against working on the floor. Learning can happen anywhere, and the need to spread out, to move, to wiggle, doesn’t impede it. Patrick still does school work mostly on the floor, but as he ages he also is ok with sitting at a little table from time to time as well.
Patrick using grammar symbols to identify parts of speech, on the floor of all places.