Kids with learning and attention issues can benefit from extra help with schoolwork. Both tutors and educational therapists can provide this extra assistance.
Although their jobs may sound similar, tutors and educational therapists are different. The ways they work with kids are different, too. Understanding these differences can help you decide what’s best for your child.
What Tutors Do
Tutors help kids improve their grades. They usually focus on a particular subject, such as math or social studies. Tutors come from a variety of professional backgrounds. They may or may not have experience working with kids who have learning and attention issues.
Tutors work with kids on time management and study skills, and on how to complete tasks. Tutoring tends to focus on academic skills that have already been covered in class. But some tutors may pre-teach skills and concepts so the student is familiar with the material before it’s covered in class. (Read about tutoring options for kids with dyslexia and dyscalculia.)
Tutors might meet with a child once a week. But you can arrange to have meetings more often.
There are different types of tutoring, including:
- Private tutoring: This is the most common option. Private tutors work one-on-one with kids. This can be beneficial for those with learning and attention issues. Private tutors may be college students, part-time teachers, full-time teachers or retired teachers. Sessions might be held at the child’s home or school, or another location, such as the public library.
- Tutoring centers: You can also explore tutoring companies. They tend to hold tutoring sessions in an office building during afterschool hours. Centers might use standardized materials or methods. Some tutoring centers offer group sessions, which may be less expensive than one-on-one sessions.
- Online tutoring: Some companies offer one-on-one online tutoring. This allows a child to work with a teacher in real time on the Internet, typically through video conferencing. Online tutoring is usually for math and reading. This is a good option if you can’t find a tutor in your area.
- Tutoring software: These are computer programs that offer worksheets and educational games. Some tutoring software is free; some is not. Since there’s no one-on-one tutoring with software, it might require more discipline and supervision on your part. Tutoring software can also be used in combination with private tutoring.
What Educational Therapists Do
Educational therapists are trained to help kids with learning and attention issues improve their academic skills. They also address behavioral issues. Rather than preparing your child for an upcoming test, they address particular issues (for example, dyslexia). They use strategies called targeted interventions.
A child with dyslexia might find spelling an obstacle. An educational therapist might come up with suggestions for workarounds. Plus she’ll offer strategies for dealing with the frustration that comes from spelling words incorrectly.
Like tutors, educational therapists come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They may have taught general or special education. Or they may have a background in counseling. To become board-certified by the Association of Educational Therapists, a therapist must hold a master’s degree and must complete continuing education classes in the field.
Educational therapists might be in private practice or work in schools, learning centers or clinics. They tend to specialize in certain areas of learning, such as multisensory reading instruction. They also might work with certain ages, such as elementary school students. A child may meet with an educational therapist once a week or more often.
Tutor vs. Educational Therapist: How to Decide
If your child struggles with a specific school subject or skill, such as time management, one-on-one tutoring might be a good place to start.
You may be able to get a tutor for free. Some schools, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, have free or discounted tutoring programs for students. Your local church or community center may also provide tutoring.
Ask your child’s school about what's available. Even if the school doesn’t provide free tutoring, it may have a list of available tutors. The school may also be able to point you to other programs in your community.
If you’re unsure what your child’s specific learning issues are, an educational therapist may be a better option. Educational therapists are trained to recognize learning issues and how they affect academics and behavior. They can also share strategies to use in the future, such as techniques to improve reading comprehension.
If you’ve already tried tutoring and it didn’t help your child, educational therapy may be worth trying. However, educational therapists tend to be more expensive because of their additional training. They specialize in working with kids who have learning and attention issues.
Either way, it’s important to meet the person and check references. Both options can boost your child’s self-confidence and help your child succeed in school. Learn more about tutoring pros and cons, including questions to ask when hiring a tutor. And explore what to look for in an educational therapist.