By Steve Dada
Parents have been warned to take closer look at their children behavioural attitude during the formative years, before they attain the age of six years. This is to enable them detect early enough some medical disorders that can result to permanent mental deficiencies and physical challenge requiring special need, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Dr. Bolanle Adewale, a montessori certified who gave the advice in a lecture tagged: ‘Momentum 2013, Effective Strategies for the Inclusive Montessori Classroom’ at a workshop organised by Association of Montessori Educators in Nigeria (AMEN) for the teachers of the institution recently noted that, autistic children are special breeds who could display great talents if given the opportunity to do so.
Adewale who is also the Vice-president of AMEN noted that there are certain features a child would exhibit indicating that all is not well with such child, saying that the most notable of such incident is limited eye contact.
According to her, it has not been ascertained but there is speculation that autism can be due to genetic problem or as a result of administration of different vaccines to children, but she said autism can lead to learning disability, developmental delay, mental health issue and advised that such children require special attention.
She further explained that handling autistic problem is one area of learning where Montessori as an institution excels, having been able to adequately trained its teachers on the method of handling issues relating to such pupils with special needs.
The guest lecturer said that some of the traits of special needs include: lack of attention, lack of social interaction, sensory perceptions, repetitive behaviour, limited eye contact, concrete/visual learning, limited vocabulary and certain behavioural problems to mention a few.
“The reason why parents have to give greater attention to the behaviour of such children is because of certain attitude that cannot be easily suspected, because an autistic child looks normal but others assume they are naughty or their parents are not controlling them,” She said.
Adewale further explained that autism is a developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people around him/her. She said that, “Children and adult with autism have difficulty with everyday social interaction. Their ability to develop friendship is generally limited as their capacity to understand other people’s emotional expression is low.’’
In her presentation, the President of AMEN, Mrs. Omobolanle Kalejaiye noted that corruption and poverty has affected the educational system of the third world countries and has created sharp difference between the system in the advanced countries and developing world, stressing that Montessori schools have come to revolutionise the 21st century educational system in Nigeria and indeed other parts of the world.
“The identification of three core players in Montessori school: the learner, the teacher and the environment, made the school to be different,” she said.
“In the traditional education, the teacher is the focal point of the classroom. The teacher directs the pace of the work, determining what the children as a group will learn at virtually every point in time. But in contrast, in Montessori method, the child is the focal point, who determines what he/she needs to learn and how long it will take him to learn it, while the materials he/she uses are self correcting.”