With the new school year comes new student-tutor relationships and new challenges for tutors and learners. Now is a good time for tutors to raise their awareness of learning disabilities and how to spot them. The support and encouragement of a caring tutor can make a big difference in a child’s success.

As you probably know, learning disabilities (sometimes called learning disorders) are not problems with intelligence per se. Often they’re related to how the learner’s brain receives, processes and/or communicates information.

Children with learning disabilities may have trouble processing information in the typical way because they perceive and understand the world differently. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, approximately 15 million children, teens and adults in the US are learning-disabled.

If you’re sensing what seems like a lack of motivation or focus in a student, he or she may have learning challenges. Adults frequently report that learning-disabled students “don’t try hard enough,” “choose not to pay attention,” or lack motivation.

As a tutor, it’s most important to provide emotional and educational support to the best of your ability. The key for tutors is to recognize that learning-disabled kids need your help to learn how to be focused and motivated. How you respond to a child can have a big impact on their learning success.

Among the best ways you can support a struggling student is to show them step-by-step how to deal with learning obstacles. A positive attitude instills confidence, fosters self-esteem and builds hope in a positive outcome. Many famously successful people, such as Walt Disney and Tommy Hilfiger, have coped successfully with learning issues.

Tutors can further support struggling learners through advocacy. Talk with parents and teachers about what you’re seeing. Your observations could be important in getting special help for a child in need.

Teachers, tutors, tutoring companies and schools can also make use of learning analytics in combination with achievement tests or other standardized tests. Learning analytics can help educators gain insight into the learning strengths and weaknesses of students, as well as to develop personalized learning strategies for those with learning challenges.

Of course, it takes considerable knowledge and experience to diagnosing a specific type of learning disability. Kids can have a range of problems with language, math and/or writing, as well as auditory and/or visual information processing.

While many learning disabilities are noticed in elementary school, others (such as some nonverbal learning disabilities or NVLD) might not be spotted until the middle school years. As maturing children are called on to do things like comprehending abstractions and deeper meanings in literature, or navigating larger buildings and campuses on their own, problems they’ve been compensating for can manifest. Middle-school students with NVLD can also have difficulties with their increasingly complex social scene.

Here are some of the more helpful sources I found on the subject of supporting a student who might potentially have a learning disability:

Do you have insights to offer from your work with learning-disabled children? Please comment and share your experiences.

Featured image courtesy of Be Inspire.

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