What You'll Learn
- How do I know what kind of help my child needs?
- If my child isn’t getting the help they need in school, where can they get it?
- What is the difference between a tutor, a homework helper and an educational therapist?
Kids may struggle with learning for several reasons. Some might have difficulty with reading or math. Some have trouble processing instructions. Others have trouble organizing their thoughts and the steps it takes to get homework done. And the parents of these kids struggle with how to get them the best kind of help.
Sometimes specialists at school can help, either in the classroom or in special sessions. But many parents end up looking for help for their kids after school. And they don’t always know what to look for.
If your child is just having trouble with one subject, a tutor may be the best way to go. They give the extra help and support your child’s teacher might not be able to give in a classroom. If the issue is breaking down tasks and organization, a homework helper may be the right choice. They can give your child structure and help them get organized.
But if your child has serious learning issues, they may need to see an educational therapist. They are experts who can help your child get better at the skills they need to keep up at school. Some have backgrounds in special education or in speech and language development or even in psychology. They will determine what kind of learning issue your child has. Then they will work with them to build on your child’s strengths and shore up weaknesses so that they can improve at school in general. Educational therapists also help to build up the confidence of kids who are discouraged or anxious because they’ve been falling behind.
Wherever there is a child struggling in school, the odds are there are parents struggling to figure out how to find the most effective help for that child.
Some kids find themselves falling behind their peers, despite a lot of effort, because they are frustrated by learning disorders. Some fall behind because they have a hard time focusing on learning, or making an organized effort to get homework done.
Some of the kids who are struggling will get the support they need to succeed from specialists at school, in the classroom or in sessions outside of class. But many, many parents each year find themselves looking for help after school.
If your youngster is failing in one particular subject, a tutor might be the way to go. It’s easy to understand what a tutor is and does: she is knowledgeable in a particular subject area, and she can bolster a child’s success in that subject by filling in background information your child might have missed, and offering more explanation and practice to help the student acquire the necessary skills.
If your child’s challenge isn’t a particular subject, but trouble settling down and tackling the work itself, a homework helper might be the ticket. A homework helper does just that: help with homework by providing structure and support. Many, if not most, parents fill that role for their kids, being present and providing back-up when kids get confused or unfocused.
But when children have unusual difficulty with the work, and homework becomes a major area of conflict, having a professional homework helper on the case can be a big relief for both parents and kids. It’s not a form of therapy, notes Matthew Cruger, PhD, senior director of the Child Mind Institute’s Learning and Development Center, but the result can be therapeutic: Helping a child succeed at homework without involving mom or dad can remove a lot of stress from the whole family’s evening.
For a child who has serious learning issues, an educational therapist works with him not so much to get the homework done as to strengthen the skills he needs to be able to keep up. Educational therapists come to the task with a range of professional backgrounds, from special education to speech and language therapy to psychology. What they have in common is that they come to understand an individual child’s learning style, and then help him develop skills and strategies that will enable him to build on strengths and compensate for weaknesses.
For a child with dyslexia, for instance, that would mean help with reading, as well as strategies for compensating for that difficulty with reading. For a child whose challenge is focusing on learning, the therapist would help with strategies for getting started, for organizing a project, for remembering information, for practicing skills. Educational therapists recognize that kids who have been falling behind in school are often discouraged and anxious, so their mission is to build a child’s confidence along with her skills.