Children with Disabilities Attending Montessori Programs in the United States


  • Toby Long Georgetown University
  • Clare Westerman Georgetown University, School of Health
  • Nadia Ferranti Georgetown University



disabilities, Montessori programs, young children


Early childhood education plays a critical role in establishing positive social-emotional behaviors and promoting the development of skills needed to succeed in elementary school. Although inclusion of children with disabilities (CWD) in early childhood classrooms is increasing throughout the world, numerous social, logistical, and political factors continue to present challenges to full inclusion. The Montessori educational approach, established at the beginning of the 20th century and now applied widely throughout Europe and the United States, may present a highly suitable learning context for CWD, particularly given its historical basis in efforts to meet the needs of underprivileged and cognitively delayed children. On a theoretical level, the inclusion of CWD should be an accepted practice for Montessori programs yet reports of the number and characteristics of CWD attending Montessori programs are scarce. This paper reports upon the findings of a survey of U.S. Montessori early childhood programs’ current enrollment of CWD. The survey indicated that CWD represent 3.75% of the infant and toddler (0–3 years) population and 8.49% of the preschool/early childhood (3–6 years) population at responding institutions. Additionally, although school directors indicate that their teachers generally feel confident and competent including CWD in their classrooms, they expressed a need for ongoing professional development and additional support from special education experts to further empower the inclusion of CWD in all aspects of Montessori education.

Author Biographies

Toby Long, Georgetown University

Dr. Toby Long, PhD, PT, FAPTA is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Georgetown University and the Training Director of the Center for Child and Human Development and the GU University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Long is the Director of the Graduate Certificate in Early Intervention Program offered by Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies and the federally funded Critical Components of Contemporary Early Intervention Practice Program. She is a Core Faculty in the Disability Studies and Education, Inquiry and Justice Programs within The College where she teaches Children with Disabilities and the Education of Young Children with Disabilities: A Global Comparison. Dr. Long is part a member of the leadership team for the Early Childhood Personnel Center. Over her career she has directed over 20 million dollars in federally funded programs related to the training of professionals who serve children with disabilities and their families. Dr. Long is an internationally known speaker and consultant on service delivery to children with disabilities and special health care needs. She has worked in Asia (China and Japan), Central Asia (Tajikistan, Azerbaijan), Eastern Europe (Georgia, Bulgaria, Ukraine), and the Gulf Region (Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Oman) on issues related to serving young children with disabilities. She consults with NGOs, government organizations, and universities. She is the author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications and The Handbook of Pediatric Physical Therapy, Second Edition. The recipient of a variety of awards, Dr. Long was recently named a Catherine Worthingham Fellow from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Clare Westerman, Georgetown University, School of Health

Clare Westerman is a senior at Georgetown University, School of Health.

Nadia Ferranti, Georgetown University

Nadia Ferranti was a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University at the time of this study. She lives in Milan, Italy.


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How to Cite

Long, T., Westerman, C., & Ferranti, N. (2022). Children with Disabilities Attending Montessori Programs in the United States. Journal of Montessori Research, 8(2), 16–32.