Teaching Children With Special Needs

As a young professional, Montessori worked as a hospital assistant, opened her own clinic and continued her psychiatric research at the University of Rome. Her research took her to many asylums to see children regarded as mentally ill or retarded. Montessori was disturbed to see these children kept in bare, dark rooms with literally nothing to play with except crumbs of food. Montessori believed the children should be in school, where they might learn if given materials adapted to their special needs.

Montessori began creating teaching materials to help cultivate the children’s senses. With these materials, Montessori found that the children were able to learn well enough to pass academic tests given to “normal” children in public schools. Montessori was anxious to apply her methods to other children.

Montessori Becomes a Mother in Secret
Montessori met and fell in love with a colleague, Dr. Giuseppe Montesano. In March 1898, she gave birth to their son, Mario. Montessori never married and her relationship with Montesano ended.

Social customs would have made Montessori, her son and her parents outcasts if she had publicly admitted her motherhood. Instead, Montessori found care for Mario in the nearby countryside where she could visit him often as his “aunt.”

Montessori continued to keep the secret from him until he was 15. At that point, Mario told her he just sensed that she was really his mother. He asked to stay with her and she happily consented. Publicly, they continued to state that Mario was her nephew, as they lived, traveled and eventually worked together.