Tutors and educational therapists can help kids do better in school. But they may do this in different ways. Use this chart to see what’s similar and what’s different. This may help you think about which option is best for your child.
What they do
• Tutors help kids improve their grades. They tend to focus on specific subjects like math or social studies. They often reteach skills that have already been taught in class. One of their main goals is to build academic skills so kids can keep up with their schoolwork.
• Some tutors are trained to recognize signs of learning and thinking differences and how these issues affect academics and behavior.
• Educational therapists have a broader focus. They provide intensive interventions to help kids work on foundational skills. They also teach kids techniques to cope with learning and thinking differences, which may go beyond what they’re learning right now in class.
• Many of these therapists are trained to recognize signs of learning and thinking differences and how these issues affect academics and behavior. Social-emotional learning is often a big focus. So are non-academic skills like organization, problem solving and self-advocacy.
Where to find them
• Your child’s school may be a good starting point to look for a tutor. Some schools may have afterschool programs that provide some sort of homework help. Your child’s school may also know some tutors who live near you.
• Educational therapy isn’t usually available in public schools. Therapists mainly work in private practice or at some learning centers. The Association of Educational Therapists (AET) is a good resource for finding educational therapists.
• None. Tutors can range from high school students with good grades to current or retired teachers who have decades of classroom experience.
• Some tutors have specific training to help kids with learning differences like dyslexia. They may be certified to teach reading programs like Wilson or to use teaching approaches like Orton–Gillingham.
• None. However, some educational therapists are certified by the AET. Many have master’s degrees in education or in fields related to education.
• Like tutors, they can come from various backgrounds. Some of them may be:
• General or special education teachers
• Math or reading specialists
• Social workers
• Speech therapists
• Some schools offer free or low-cost tutoring programs. Some churches or community centers provide free tutoring.
• Different kinds of tutors charge different rates. The average charge for private tutors in many states is around $40 an hour. In metropolitan areas, highly skilled tutors may charge $150 or more.
• Online tutors or tutors at learning centers may cost less than one-on-one sessions with a private tutor.
• Educational therapists charge rates that are similar to those of highly skilled tutors.
• The cost for these one-on-one sessions may be higher than what some learning centers charge. But the strategies may be more effective because they’re based on deeper insights into learning and thinking differences.
• Tutors target specific academic areas, like reading or social studies. Some tutors coach kids on things like time management and organization skills to help them stay on top of their assignments.
• Reading and math specialists may develop intervention plans, use assessments to track progress and adjust these plans as needed.
• Educational therapists work on academic skills like reading, spelling, and math. They also help develop critical thinking and other key skills needed for lifelong learning.
• Educational therapists may develop intervention plans, use assessments to track progress and adjust these plans as needed.
• Tutors may boost kids’ confidence by helping them achieve academic success. As their grades improve, kids may start feeling better about themselves.
• Educational therapists tend to focus a lot on motivation and self-esteem. They aim to provide a safe environment for kids to talk about school and learn how to self-advocate.
What kinds of students may benefit
• Having a tutor can be a good option for students who are struggling to stay at grade level. It can also benefit kids who need help reaching academic goals in one or more specific areas like reading, writing, science, or math.
• Having an educational therapist can be a good option for kids who are below grade level and who are also having social-emotional issues. Students who haven’t improved much with tutoring may want to try working with an educational therapist.
About the author
About the author
Alexis Clark, MA, MS is a freelance editor for Understood and an adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School.
Ellen Braaten, PhD is a child psychologist, professor, and founding director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP) at Massachusetts General Hospital.