About Montessori and Dementia
Who was Dr. Maria Montessori and how does her work apply to dementia?
Dr. Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was a physician, educator and humanitarian and the first woman to obtain a medical degree in Italy. She began her work at the University of Rome Psychiatric Clinic with special needs children and in 1907 opened the first Casa dei Bambini or House of Children. Her ‘method’ developed from her scientific observations of children was based on respect for the individual.
Maria Montessori, through her observations of children, discovered the importance of the Prepared Environment. It must be beautiful in its simplicity, orderly, accessible, provide freedom to work according to one’s needs, offer materials to explore the world and provide opportunities to interact socially. The result of offering a prepared environment leads the individual to be as independent as possible, having a meaningful place in society, have high self esteem and have a chance to make meaningful contributions to his or her community.
Some of her many contributions to the work of raising and educating children were:
• Preparing the most natural and life supporting environment for the child
• Observing the child living freely in this environment
• Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Cameron Camp, PhD, Director of Research at the Center for Applied Research in Dementia (www.cen4ard.com), in Solon, Ohio is an internationally known research scientist in the field of aging. Dr Camp adapted Montessori’s methods of teaching and applied it to help people living with dementia. He stated, ‘How can we connect with the person who is still here?’ His research has shown that this approach to learning, one based on creating community within supportive environments, can benefit people in all stages of their lives, and even those with serious cognitive impairment. His research is also the inspiration behind the Montessori Dementia Program.