Dyslexia tutoring: What families need to know

Learn what skills and qualifications to look for in a tutor for kids with dyslexia.

Kids with dyslexia often get specialized reading instruction as part of their (IEP). That’s very important in helping them learn to read. But it may not be enough to get every child reading fluently at grade level. Having a tutor outside of school can help.

Here’s what you need to know about tutoring for kids with dyslexia.

What to look for in a dyslexia tutor

Kids with dyslexia learn to read best with a specific type of reading instruction. It’s called multisensory structured language education (MSLE).

Most MSLE reading programs are based on an approach called (OG). You may hear them referred to as either MSLE or OG programs. Both approaches focus on the sounds in words. They teach the rules for how letters and sounds relate to each other.

Ideally, your child’s tutor should use the same MSLE or OG-based program your child’s school uses. The tutor may be able to fill in parts of the program that the school doesn’t use or doesn’t have time to cover.

Whether they use the same program or not, having the tutor and school communicate with each other is important. You want the teacher to reinforce what the tutor is doing. And you’ll want the tutor to draw connections with what your child is learning in school.

Learn more about how Orton–Gillingham works.

What a tutor might do

Most one-on-one tutoring programs recommend 60-minute sessions, two or three times per week. (For small group instruction, they recommend 45 minutes per day. That includes what kids are getting in school.)

Some instructors might use letter tiles or sandpaper letters to help kids build words and feel the shape of the letters. Some programs also teach kids how to use different arm movements to make commonly confused letters like p, b, and d.

These and other similar methods are engaging for kids. But the critical part of the instruction is directly teaching kids two things. They need to know:

  • How to break words into sounds

  • The rules for which letters produce which sounds

When working together, the tutor should set goals for your child. The tutor should also give you regular progress updates, which you can share with the school.

Learn how to help your child’s tutor and teachers communicate.

Who can provide tutoring

It takes specific knowledge to teach kids with dyslexia to read. Tutors with this training may go by different titles, like reading specialist or educational therapist. But there are no regulations about who can use these titles. So be careful not to rely on titles alone when choosing a tutor.

Tutors may have a certification that shows they’ve been rigorously trained. They may get it from:

  • MSLE or OG-based programs that certify instructors

  • The Academy of Orton–Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE)

  • Training programs accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC)

It’s a good idea to look for a certified tutor. But even more important is finding one with experience using an MSLE or OG program. You may find a teacher who isn’t certified but who has taught kids with dyslexia using an MSLE program at school. In any case, you should ask a tutor for references.

Also, look for a tutor whose personality is a good fit for your child. Struggling with reading can affect a child’s self-esteem. So you want a motivating, supportive tutor who sets high, but reachable goals for your child.

Where to find a tutor

Your child’s school is the best place to start. The reading specialist, special education teacher, or case manager may have a list of qualified private tutors. Other parents who have kids with dyslexia are also a good resource. Or you could ask your child’s pediatrician.

Two groups keep lists of certified educational therapists. They are the Association of Educational Therapists and the National Institute for Learning Development.

MSLE programs usually list people certified in their methods on their websites. Local hospitals and colleges can also be resources.

Most commercial tutoring centers don’t offer MSLE instruction. One exception is the Lindamood–Bell program. It has many centers throughout the United States.

You could also consider finding an online tutor. When online tutoring is done right, it can be just as helpful as meeting with a tutor in person. The key is to find a tutor who is an expert in MSLE and good at online teaching. Also consider whether learning online is a good fit for your child.

No matter where you find the tutor, it’s important to know the tutor who will work directly with your child. Be sure to ask about the tutor’s qualifications.

How much tutoring costs

In general, you have to pay for private tutoring. Educational therapists and reading specialists tend to charge more than traditional tutors. Rates can range from $40 to $125 an hour. Rates may be much higher in major cities.

If you live close to one, look into Children’s Dyslexia Centers. There are over 40 centers in 13 states. They offer free OG-based tutoring. It’s for students who have a formal dyslexia diagnosis. Universities and hospitals may offer free tutoring also.

In some cases, a school district might pay for a tutor to provide compensatory instruction to a child as part of their IEP. 

Private tutoring is a big commitment for any family. But evidence shows that it can have tremendous benefits for kids with dyslexia. Learn about places that offer free or low-cost tutoring.