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Ask the Experts

How Can I Afford a Tutor for My Child in Special Ed?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My son is in special education. I would like for him to have tutoring services, but I cannot afford them. What do you recommend I do, because tutoring would really help him?


For the tutoring to be geared to the special education needs of your child, I suggest that you begin with your son's special education teacher or teachers.

They should be able to identify what type of tutoring best meets his needs. Tutoring may need to be specialized depending on his challenges. It is often difficult to find free tutoring, but you may be able to find tutors who work on a sliding scale.

The teachers may be a good resource for you with that as well. You can also try your school district to see if there are after-school programs for which your son is eligible. These programs are not considered day care, but more comprehensive programs that offer tutoring as one of their curriculum options.

Some schools contract with outside agencies that provide these programs free to families who are receiving government assistance or have other financial constraints. The Beacon Center is one such nationwide program that may be in your area. Facilities become qualified as a Beacon Center and are listed independently. You can do an online search for "beacon center" and your city to see if there is a center near you.

You might also try your school counselor or principal for referrals to outside educational centers that may have tutoring at reduced fees. A local university may have college students who tutor children with special needs as part of their curriculum.

I have also known parents of special education students to form parent support groups to share resources and advocate for their children in their schools. Organizing with others may be a good option for both you and your son. This helps everyone feel less isolated and it helps navigate the complex resources with more support.

Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have found that many of the High Schools, i.e. Latin and Lincoln Park require their students to earn community service points. Therefore, I found out what my son needed and contacted the school and receive free tutoring from the High School Kids in exchange for their community service points."
"My 15 year old child has a problem holding her pencial. What should i do?"
"Why is the parent of a special education parent, in other words, a child with an individualized education plan (IEP), being advised to seek outside tutoring when the school district is required under state and federal law to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to this child. If this child needs additional educational services, then the parent needs to bring this to the attention of the IEP team."
"In an ideal world, going to the special ed teacher would be a good step. However, based on my work with families across my state, I have found that very often, special educators are not the best sources of advice. Since teachers work for the district, they have an inherent conflict: Do what is right for the child (even if this demands great resources), or protect the resources/culture/status quo of the school. Secondly, not all special educators are skilled in the child's specific area of need. For instance, a special ed teacher can hold a state teaching liscence, but may not have the training and experience to instruct using research based programs required by the student. This lack of knowledge and experience limits the quality of their advice. If a child is in Special Ed and is not progressing, I would recommend an outside evaluation by a neuropsychologist specializing in learning disabilities. He or she will be about to gather the data (teacher interviews, work samples, observations and testing) to determine the strengths, challenges and skill level of the student. They will be able to prioritize key skill areas and interventions - including specialized instruction and other supports. This information will help the parents work the school who under the federal special education law (IDEA) is charged with providing the child with a FREE and APPRIOPRIATE public education (FAPE). The parent can request tutoring for the child during the school day and during extended breaks if this is what is needed. In an ideal world, the school district will provide the child with the proper instruction and the parents do not have to worry about paying. If the parents are unsuccessful in securing the proper instruction from their school district, they can exersise their legal rights. If they decide to go for private tutoring, the private evluation and evaluator should help them locate a good tutor and program."
"What do i do if my child is not in a special ed class but gets pulled out to do work with a specialities one on one.. But even with that help he is not getting any better???"