What’s the difference between remedial instruction and a compensatory approach?

Q. What’s the difference between remedial instruction and a compensatory approach?

A. These are two of the many educational strategies schools use to help kids with learning and thinking differences.

Think of your child’s education as a bit like building a house. It’s hard to start working on the second floor until you’ve laid a solid foundation and built a sturdy staircase up to the next level.

Remedial instruction targets the foundational skills your child needs to master. This is important to help them make progress with more advanced skills and concepts.

Some remedial approaches include breaking tasks down into smaller chunks, reteaching skills, and using a different teaching approach that may be a better fit for the way your child learns. Remedial approaches tend to focus on repetition to help develop specific skills.

Many schools use computers to help provide remedial support. Teachers also work with students in class. Depending on your child’s needs, the school may also recommend a summer program or repeating a grade.

If remedial instruction isn’t helping your child make enough progress, it may be time to talk with the school about compensatory measures. This approach looks for ways to build on your child’s strengths and work around weaknesses.

Let’s say your child has a reading issue. Audiobooks or text-to-speech software can provide alternative ways for your child to access material at their grade level. This approach helps struggling readers expand their vocabulary. It exposes them to more complex ideas than would be available in books at their current reading level.

Another example of a compensatory approach would be to let a child with writing issues use speech recognition software that converts her own words to text.

Keep in mind that using compensatory approaches doesn’t mean your child has to stop receiving remedial instruction. Finding the right balance between remediation and compensatory approaches is essential.

For many kids with learning and thinking differences, it’s best to aim for a combo. Remedial instruction will address skills deficits, while compensatory approaches will enable them to reach their full potential.

Understanding more about assistive technology can help you push for the resources your child needs to succeed. You may want to read more about your child’s rights, too.


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