As the parent of a child with learning or attention problems, you’ve probably become an expert at motivating, organizing, guiding, cheer-leading, and just generally being available to help your child manage the daily challenges of school and life.

Kids with learning and attention issues often need repeated instruction and extra practice – beyond what school and a reasonable amount of homework time can provide – to master academic content and skills. They usually require more time than other kids to organize and complete their school assignments, as well. As a result, no matter how dedicated you are, there are bound to be times when your schedule, your patience, or your skills just don’t allow you to provide all the help your child needs. Before you or your child reach “overload,” consider hiring a tutor.

The generic label of “tutor” covers a span of people with very different levels of training, skills, and experience. Before you search for someone to help your child, you will want to figure out very specifically and concretely both what you expect this person to help your child accomplish, and what your child’s current strengths and challenges are. That will determine the kind of tutor you’ll look for. For example, if your child with a language-based learning disability (LD) needs to master writing an organized, coherent paragraph, you may need to hire a tutor with skills in both writing instruction and in remedial work with kids with LD.

Before you contact a tutor, ask yourself such questions as:

  • What do I expect this person to do – help my child complete homework, build skills, provide enrichment, teach learning strategies, improve her grades?
  • What information about my child – as a learner and as a person – would be useful to a tutor? What are her strengths and accomplishments, and what are her challenges? What personality and temperament traits do we need to take into account in a tutoring situation?
  • How will the work with a tutor relate to my child’s school program?

What Kind of Tutor Can Provide the Help My Child Needs?

Type of Tutor Skills They Bring How They Can Help
High school and college students
Retired adults
Next door neighbor
Patience, warmth, interest in children, ability to encourage kids to plan, start, and finish a task. Can give you a break by helping your child with homework, listening to her read, taking her to the library to do research, and other activities.
Credentialed teachers Trained in specific content areas of the general education curriculum. Can help your child improve her knowledge and skills in a particular academic subject, such as math, science, or writing.
Credentialed special education teachers Specifically trained to work with kids with learning disabilities, and to implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for kids in public schools. Can assess learning strengths and weaknesses, teach academic skills and strategies, and help identify classroom accommodations to support your child’s learning; may work with school staff.
Members of the Association of Educational Therapists
(There are professional organizations of educational therapists in 38 states.)
Different levels and types of education, training, and supervised clinical hours are required for various types of educational therapy certification. Can assess learning strengths and weaknesses, teach academic skills and strategies, help identify classroom accommodations, and work with staff at your child’s school.

Tutors are also employed by commercial programs that offer reading instruction, academic skill building, test preparation, and other services. Many commercial programs do not specifically address the special needs of children with learning disabilities or attention problems. Before signing up for such services, ask for information about staff credentials, training, and experience, and decide whether they are a good match for your child’s needs. Don’t be afraid to ask specifically if the staff person who would be assigned to your child is trained to work with children with learning disabilities or attention problems.

One of the best ways to find a tutor who’s a good match for your child is to ask for recommendations from school staff and parents you know. Just as important as credentials is the tutor’s ability to establish a good rapport with your child and family. To help you collect and organize information about the tutors you contact, you may want to use our “Questions to Ask Tutors” worksheet. It may take some time, but the effort you invest in finding a tutor is likely to benefit your child’s learning, as well as reduce family stress.

While we are pleased to present information and resources, it is against our policy to recommend or endorse any one specific individual, product, organization, or website. Because parents know their child best, they are the ones who determine the appropriateness of a school or provider based on a match of their child’s needs, their own preferences, and the program or services offered. These questions are intended only as guidelines in the decision-making process.