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Financial challenges

How Can I Afford a Tutor for My Child?

By Whitney Hollins

My daughter has learning issues and gets special education services at school. We also want to hire a tutor to help her at home, but we hear it’s expensive. Are there free or affordable options for kids with special needs?

Whitney Hollins

Adjunct Instructor, Hunter College

Tutoring services are a great way to help your child succeed academically. Private tutoring can be expensive. But finding affordable help may be easier than you think.

Talk to your child’s school. This is a good place to begin exploring your options. Some afterschool programs are free and provide some sort of homework help. Many schools also offer tutoring services to help students prepare for standardized tests.

Some school districts work with local organizations to pair students up with volunteer tutors. You may also want to ask your child’s classroom aide about tutoring. These aides often charge less for tutoring than certified teachers do. Another upside to classroom aides is that they’re familiar with the curriculum and with the teachers’ expectations.

Reach out to local colleges. This is a common source of low-cost tutoring. College students studying to be teachers may charge less than certified teachers do. One way to find these students is by posting help-wanted ads in college newspapers or online.

Look for group tutoring sessions. This is another way to keep costs down. Search online for local group tutoring sessions. Parents in our online community might know of some in your area.

The groups are usually small, consisting of three to five students. Think about whether your child will feel comfortable working with kids she doesn’t know. Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for transporting her to the tutoring site. You may also get charged a fee if you cancel a session at the last minute.

Contact local nonprofit organizations. Some nonprofits offer free tutoring. For example, the Scottish Rite Masons have more than 50 Children’s Dyslexia Centers in a dozen or so states. The centers provide two years of free one-on-one, multisensory structured language instruction for students who have been formally diagnosed with dyslexia.

See if you can get a tax deduction for tutoring. This isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s possible to deduct tutoring services as a medical expense. Check with an accountant to see what your child’s doctor would need to do for you to be able to take the deduction.

Also, if you’re eligible for childcare deductions and tutoring happens to be a part of that childcare, then it will technically be deductible. Every little bit helps!

Surf the web. There are many great sites that aim to improve skills and boost knowledge. Some of these sites cost money. If so, you may want to ask your child’s school to get a subscription. Many schools sign up for online tutoring sites. The subscription gives students access to the sites at home as well as in school.

There are also many great sites that are free. Even if your child doesn’t have access to a computer at home, she can access these sites by going to the library.

Explore Tech Finder for apps and games that can help your child with math, reading, writing and more.

Become an advocate. Pushing for services can be a great way to get your child tutoring at school. Attend PTA meetings. Meet with the principal to request tutoring services and website subscriptions. Meet with other parents and start your own group tutoring sessions.

With a little effort, you can become an effective advocate for your child and help get more resources for other kids with learning and attention issues too.

About the Author

Portrait of Whitney Hollins

Whitney Hollins

Whitney Hollins is a special education teacher and adjunct instructor at Hunter College.

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