The modern classroom with its tightly controlled and scheduled syllabus is not a good environment for dyslexic children. Any children who falls behind the learning curve is in deep trouble as they have no opportunity to catch up. The classroom is like a production line than forces children to move on to the next class whether they are ready or not. However the Montessori classroom isn’t like that.
Devised in the early 1900’s by Dr Montessori, it is an approach to education that is child centric, focusing on individually-paced learning and development. The Montessori Method should suit a dyslexic child better. Allowing child and teacher to spend time on their basic literacy regardless of the rest of the class’s ability level. As the Montessori method also does away with traditional grading of students there should be less issues about confidence and self-worth. In fact, Montessori and dyslexia should be perfect together.
Another way that Montessori and dyslexia go together is the teaching materials used. Montessori has always used a multi-sensory approach to teaching involving wooden letters to handle and sandpaper letters that children trace out with their figures for a strong tactile feedback. Lots of the Montessori teaching uses physical objects for teaching basic number skills. Making learning movement based, rather than purely paper-and-pencil, increases the opportunities for hand / eye coordination and cross lateral movement.
What the traditional Montessori methods lacks is a strong phonetic element to its teaching. Dyslexics generally struggle to hear the different sounds that make up our language and this undoubtedly plays a significant part in a dyslexic child’s problems with reading and spelling. However many Montessori schools do include phonetic approaches but the emphasis placed on it varies from school to school.
There is not a lot of firm scientific evidence to support the Monsessori method over normal teaching methods and even less specifically looking at dyslexia and Montessori. This is partly because it is hard to separate the outside factors such as class sizes and the children social background from what methods are actually used.
The best indicator as to whether a Montessori school is better for your dyslexic child is how happy your child will be their. Montessori and dyslexia may be a perfect match or it could be no better or worse than a normal educational approach. However a happy child, settled in a school will always do better than an unhappy one.
See: An article on Dyslexia [PDF] from Montessori UK.