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Nearly every child, at some point in his academic career, will benefit from tutoring outside of school. The need may arise as early as first grade, or as late as the college years. A child may need a tutor because he is struggling to acquire the decoding skills required for reading or calculation skills in math. When you move to another school district, the material being presented in science or math may be different from that in the child’s previous school. You may want to engage a tutor to prepare your student for taking college entrance exams. 

Anyone offering her services as a tutor should be willing to discuss her training or credentials. When it comes to tutoring in breaking words apart (decoding), a teacher or tutor who is specially trained in using a multisensory, structured language approach will benefit your child the most. Multisensory means that the method uses several senses (hearing, seeing, and touching) in order to more effectively integrate the information into your child’s long-term memory. Structured means that the instruction is presented in a logical order and taught very explicitly or deliberately to the student. Ask if the teacher/tutor had some type of supervised experience in applying the methodology with students. If she is a math tutor, what type of training do they have in working at the elementary, high school, or college level? Ask for references.

Some parents are led astray by promises of a quick fix if their child participates in some program that bears little resemblance to the area of struggle – for example, walking on a balance beam as an intervention for reading or math skills. Nutritional supplements are another problematic recommendation. Unless your child is diagnosed with vision problems by a pediatric ophthalmologist (a Medical Doctor), eye training is not a good investment. Reading is improved through instruction and practice in reading, just as math skills are improved by instruction and practice in math.

Tutoring occurs in the context of a trusting relationship between an adult and a student. It is helpful if the tutor looks happy to see your student and tries to form a connection with her. If the tutor seems abrupt in her interaction with your student, this may not be a good fit. As the consumer of a service, it is also acceptable for you to receive regular updates regarding progress. The update could be a brief chat after the session or more formal reports at set intervals.

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Mary Ann at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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