Non-Dyslexia Focused Tutoring

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I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in saying that tutoring is a big challenge in our community.  The various aspects of dyslexia, combined with executive functioning and other co-morbid diagnoses makes learning a challenge in almost every sense of the word.

I believe that typically too, we spend an enormous amount of time focusing on our dyslexic’s inability to read, that the need to support the other subjects can be challenging.  We’re all already tired from the day and all the dyslexia tutoring (another post on this coming soon) and working on reading, that to realize there’s also math homework and other subjects to focus on can be overwhelming.

Why overwhelming?  Well, let’s focus on math for a moment.

A typical aspect of dyslexia is to be strong mathematically speaking, but to struggle with lower level math (memorizing multiplication tables and simple division) yet be gifted at higher level math (physics).

Now complicate that further if your child has dyscalculia.  Here are a few helpful links regarding dyscalculia, but also math struggles when dyscalculia isn’t present but other learning challenges are:

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/understanding-dyscalculia

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/signs-symptoms/could-your-child-have/signs-of-dyscalculia-in-children

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/the-difference-between-dyslexia-and-dyscalculia

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/signs-symptoms/could-your-child-have/im-concerned-my-child-might-have-dyscalculia-now-what

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/math-anxiety-vs-dyscalculia-comparing-the-signs

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/math-issues/how-various-learning-and-attention-issues-can-cause-trouble-with-math

So whether or not dyscalculia is present in regards to math, struggling with other subjects can be expected and the issue(s) with those other subjects can stretch beyond the reading concerns.

As I always do, I’ll use my son’s struggles as my example.

My son is almost gifted in spatial reasoning.  Math has always been incredibly simple for him from the very beginning.  Even before we learned that our son couldn’t read at all, we were fully aware that his classmates were looking to him for the answers to their math questions on their morning work.

Also as always, this journey is an evolution.  With each passing year I learn more about what he needs and where he’s struggling.  Having just finished 3rd grade, I’m realizing where we had breakdowns in his education this past school year.

What I mean by this is he has his own personal teacher’s aide for 30 minutes per class per day for a total of 150 minutes per week per class.  With 5 classes that’s 750 minutes per week of what is supposed to be 1:1 instruction.  Now the primary reason this was provided to me is because my son’s school insists he’s ADHD and is constantly trying to force me to get a formal diagnosis and drug him, but that’s an article for another day.  He requires a lot of reassurance that he’s doing the work well; he asks a lot of questions because he has a low working memory and can only remember a few steps / instructions at a time; so the school offered the aide to benefit the teacher and relieve them from his constant need for their attention which does keep them from assisting the other children in their class.

Late in the year they had a Geometry segment in their math class.  Per the usual, my son said, “I’ve got this and I don’t need help.”  We knew this wasn’t true when there was a test prep assignment due right before the test.  It was 9 pages of insanity (again another article) and it took 2 days for my husband and son to work their way through the prep.  My husband was furious that our son was essentially given a 5″ x 7″ note card only printed on one side as “the guide” to everything he needed to know to do the prep and ace the test.  My husband, who is neither dyslexic nor does he struggle with any other learning disabilities, was the salutatorian of his high school class, and has a bachelor’s degree, had to Google most of the answers for the prep.  He was very concerned about how our son would do on the test and lo and behold our son made a 52, which is the worst math grade he’s ever received, considering that up to the 2nd half of 3rd grade, he’d always received A’s.

Because our son is dyslexic with an IEP, he was retested a week later.  This time my husband sat down with our son the night before and TAUGHT him Geometry.  What he figured out was the way the material was explained to our son didn’t make any sense to him so naturally he couldn’t do it.  Our son even said to his dad that if the teacher had explained it to him the same way his dad just had, he never would have been confused.  He took the test the next day and made an 84.  Sadly the rule for retests in our district means the greatest grade he could receive was a 70.

Hindsight being what it is, I have realized we have a major opportunity here that we’ve not adequately defined to our best advantage.  The school’s purpose of the teacher’s aide is to relieve the “burden that is our son” off of his teacher, but what it should be is someone who reviews the material with our son to ensure he understands, in the manner in which HE learns.  That person needs to ensure his comprehension and do everything in their ability to bridge any gaps.

Of course the issue is the aide will almost never be trained in dyslexia or any other learning difference, so effectively achieving this will be a challenge I’ll have to find a way to overcome or give it up.

That leads us back to the parent.  Maybe you have an IEP offering you additional in-class support, maybe you don’t.  Either way, the question then exists of is the aide truly bridging the learning gaps your child may have.  There’s no way to estimate the probability of that actually happening since there are too many variables to consider.  The facts are that in dealing with the issues with all subjects, you either become a master tutor for your own child, or you need to reach out for assistance.

This reality leads us back to my original premise about tutors because there’s a fundamental question that will be asked, how do I find a tutor that can actually assist my child given their learning differences and individual style of learning?

The answer to this question is not one I’ve yet discovered.  I believe this is a fundamental issue within our community.  Either we help and tutor our children ourselves which requires a great deal of work on our own to be able to effectively teach them ourselves in the manner in which they learn, or we need a way to find empathetic tutors who have the appropriate training for the various learning differences impacting our children.

Either way the challenge is real.  If you feel you’ve solved this conundrum, please comment and share what you’ve learned.  I’d love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Non-Dyslexia Focused Tutoring

  1. I think it’s of the utmost importance to visit frequently with the tutor on objectives for tutoring. Goals and objectives should be fluid depending on needs that arise. (Speaking here about private tutoring.)
    I am amazed at how much reading there is in math now as in comparison to when my children were in school. It’s incredible. I also think schools do a massive disservice to students when a person with zero or very little training in learning differences is meant to be a “classroom tutor.” I think that could even do more harm than good.
    Yes. A lot falls into the laps of parents of dyslexics. Two of my three children have dyslexia and both of them have Bachelor’s degrees – proof that all the effort pays off.

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    1. Erin, I completely agree with you, and I’ve always done that with my son’s dyslexia tutors. I believe too it’s important to do so with the team at school. I’ll write on this soon, but they’ve not as of yet, been receptive to my questions and desire for feedback, but now that we have an IEP in place and we’re seeing the benefit of IDEA being followed so closely, there’s a lot I intend to pursue in this coming school year. You’ve spoken a lot of truth in your comment and I’m so grateful for sharing your children’s success with me. The effort does indeed pay off, with dividends.

      Like

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