By Dan Stock
Some parents have asked us recently why we term what we do in our center as “educational therapy” and not tutoring. Is there a difference, and how can parents decide which is the best approach for their child?
The simple answer is yes, there is a difference, and we do both, and each method of addressing academic deficiencies applies in different situations. Tutoring tends to focus on specific subjects – math, literacy, writing, for example – whereas educational therapies is a general term indicating a broader approach which, in addition to focusing on academic specifics, incorporates learning methods and techniques and is always practiced by experienced professionals.
A child with dyscalculia or math anxiety, for example, would not do well with a tutor, as simply repeating math problems over and over would not address or recognize that the child may be struggling with “number sense”. Children with academic struggles will respond better when underlaying issues are recognized and addressed.
Are the two terms interchangeable? While an educational therapist can (and does) tutor, not all tutors are educational therapists. We hire only education professionals with decades of in-class experience and education with autism, ADD/ADHD, anxiety and learning disorders. We recognize that in-school academics are not always adequate for every student, and we address learning and attention issues.
Here are just a few examples of what therapists may do:
- Help identify behavior issues that may be caused by underlying learning and attention issues
- Teach strategies to improve focus and work habits
- Teach time management and organization skills
- Develop an educational plan by giving assessments, tracking progress and adjusting as needed
- Provide a safe environment for your child to talk about school and learn how to self-advocate
- Act as a link between home and school
In addition, an educational therapist will often act as liaison and advocate in a 504 or IEP meeting, and would be prepared to present data collected during sessions in an ordered and easy-to-understand manner.
Bottom line? Tutors and educational therapists, while similar, are not the same, and parents can expect different results from the two. Putting a tutor in to do the role of an educational therapist could cause unnecessary anxiety and work against a well thought out academic plan presented by an educational therapist. Knowing the difference will save money, time, and be a much better option for most students who struggle with academics.
There’s a great article on understood.org about the difference between the two (https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/therapies/the-difference-between-tutors-and-educational-therapists)