In "The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know" in Wired online by David Wolman on 02.25.08, there is a great quote:
Mike Merzenich, a professor of neuroscience at UC San Francisco, says the notion that 75 percent of autistic people are mentally retarded is "incredibly wrong and destructive." He has worked with a number of autistic children, many of whom are nonverbal and would have been plunked into the low-functioning category. "We label them as retarded because they can't express what they know," and then, as they grow older, we accept that they "can't do much beyond sit in the back of a warehouse somewhere and stuff letters in envelopes."
Does Montessori work for children with autism and Asperger's? I have never seen it work well in a classroom setting, but that may be because the constant movement and noise of children with autism and Asperger's leaves traditionally-trained Montessori teachers at a loss for what to do. For parents who are considering Montessori, this is definitely something to consider because traditional Montessori teacher training focuses on achieving a certain type of classroom environment, one with quiet and self-discipline that shows itself through lack of noise and absence of physical distractions. Obviously, if you watch the video, it would be a horrible disservice to children with autism and Asperger's, if you did try to enforce a standard Montessori classroom environment on them!
Montessori equipment and presentation methodology is, however, successful when presented differently with an open mind. (If anyone is looking for specifics, please post a comment and we'll respond.) For Sensorial material such as the Pink Tower or Colored Tablets, be ready for things to be handled and tasted. Expect the Pink Tower to be possibly destroyed after or before it is built. Did you know Maria Montessori intended the tower to be knocked over when it was finished being built? Montessori classrooms present a careful deconstruction of the tower these days...probably due to the price of equipment. What an unfortunate change!
You will need to take care that small pieces of equipment, such as the Golden Beads, do not get choked upon, but generally good quality material can take a bit of a beating.
I think this video is wonderful because it reminds us not to judge what we do not know.