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About a month ago, I was really struggling with some of Sunshine's behaviors. Some are a result of her autism. Others are due to her Reactive Attachment Disorder. There have been many days over the past few months where all I seem to do is discipline. I've been more firm and strict than I prefer, and ultimately by days end, I'm in tears, feeling frustrated and exhausted. What I'd give for positive and constructive interactions between the two of us.
Sunshine is the youngest of my four, and is three years old. Looking back, I can say with certainty that three years old has been the hardest year with all of my kiddos. The stories I could share... Still, Sunshine seems to be THE HARDEST. Though I'm more experienced this time around, my patience has thinned.
It seems everything I've tried with my other kiddos has failed with Sunshine, except for the implementation of Montessori methods in our home. Though it may sound silly, implementing more aspects of Montessori in our every day lives seems to be the key to success these days, especially in areas that the kiddos struggle. However, as I poured over my collection of materials, activities, etc., I couldn't seem to find anything that would help me with Sunshine's behaviors. Until I remembered Deb Chitwood's new book: Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace & Courtesy.
I've been studying, learning, and applying many principles of Montessori into our home and school life, but the area of Grace and Courtesy is the area I know the least about, and quite frankly had no idea how to implement. That is until I read Deb's book.
Before we implemented Montessori into our home we had daily schedules filled with appointments for speech therapy and occupational therapy. After I started using the Montessori approach, creating language, practical life, and sensorial activities for our kiddos, occupational therapists would enter our classroom and mention how pleased they were with the therapeutic activities on our shelves. Dinomite was evaluated by an occupational therapist. It was determined that due to Montessori activities, he no longer needed therapy. A few months later when discussing Sunshine's progress with her team, they declared that there was nothing more that they could do for her, that I wasn't already doing on a daily basis in the home, using the Montessori method.
As thrilled as I was to eliminate therapies for my children, there are still some gaps. All of my kiddos are verbal, but lack conversation skills. Though we work hard daily, their inability to express themselves appropriately and socialize with others affects them (and me) in big ways. There are meltdowns and screaming fits, which can lead to physical aggression. Sunshine has these episodes multiple times a day.
It wasn't until I was reading Deb's book that I realized Grace and Courtesy lessons are in essence Maria Montessori's version of speech therapy. Through these lessons, children learn to communicate effectively and learn social cues at the same time. They are able to memorize the correct responses for specific social situations and feel successful in their interactions with others. When taught and applied correctly, meltdowns, screaming fits, and physical aggression episodes will diminish and both parties will thrive due to more positive interactions. Grace and Courtesy lessons are exactly what Sunshine (and all the other kiddos) need! Deb's book: Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace & Courtesy is exactly what I needed, to be able to prepare, present and help my kiddos be successful in their progression of Grace and Courtesy lessons and activities.
Deb's book is broken down into several detailed chapters that build on one another. Her explanations of proper etiquette are specific, informative, and easy to understand. If you're looking to use the book as a tool for speech therapy lessons, the set up of each chapter is PERFECT, giving step by step instructions about what to do in specific social situations. In essence this is an amazing speech therapy instruction manual for teachers, whether you're a parent or public school teacher.
I lost count at how many times I expressed my amazement about the content of this book, while reading it. For me, it was the missing link in my kiddos' education. It's exactly what I have needed to help Sunshine. I can't wait to incorporate Deb's etiquette lessons into our days, progressing from one chapter to the next!
If you haven't read Deb's book yet, don't wait, especially if you have a special needs kiddo at home who needs to work on their communication skills. The book includes everything you need to successfully teach the material.
Thank you Deb for once again helping me be the best parent and Montessori teacher I can be!