What do you do when you feel like you are working hard, but not attaining the results you want or the results others expect? Students often seek tutoring to learn specific strategies to study for standardized tests, or for specific help troubleshooting a course with a difficult professor. But some students may have a diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disability.
In his book A Mind at a Time, education leader Dr. Mel Levin asserts, “When these children grow up, they will be able to practice their brain’s specialties. In childhood, they will be evaluated ruthlessly on how well they do everything.” Many experts in the field believe that if evaluated closely enough, everyone would have a learning difference of some sort. Some students must read their notes aloud to understand what they write, while others must draw diagrams to understand course material. These differences are what make the world full of creative people; we wouldn’t want everyone to have the same brain, right?
A learning difference becomes a disability when it interferes with academic performance. These students are not necessarily the slackers. While they often work harder than other students, they may receive a C one day and an A the next. Teachers often instruct these students to “apply themselves” or “buckle down.”
An interference with academic performance does not predict a learning disability when a student simply dislikes a teacher or prefers geometry to literature. A learning disability by definition may be present when a student who is of average or above average intelligence is not performing in the classroom in the way that would be indicated by that student’s mental capabilities. Potentially at risk are those students who are assessed in the early grades as highly capable yet receive inconsistent grades or flounder as the work becomes more difficult..
People with learning disabilities are not to be confused with people with low cognitive functioning. When a teacher tells a student to “buckle down,” the teacher assumes that the student is capable. The teacher assumes that if the student works harder, the student’s performance will match his or her potential. In the case of a student who does not have a learning disability, there is less of a discrepancy between potential and achievement. And the student may be capable of only C work.
If students are newly diagnosed with a learning disability, they may feel freaked out by acronyms like IEP, IDEA, and ADA, as well as education nomenclature such as “executive function” and “Attention Deficit Disorder.” In the multi-page cognitive evaluations that are provided upon diagnosis, more often than not the evaluator recommends individualized tutoring. A tutor can demystify learning disabilities by helping a student gain awareness of how he or she learns best. Since there are thousands of subsets of learning disabilities, individualized instruction can be essential in customizing material to meet the needs of students.
Of course, not all students who begin to struggle in school have a learning disability, but inconsistent performance can be an indicator of students who are at risk. A tutor can recommend that a student receive an evaluation and make specific recommendations based on what is observed in tutorials.
Our next few posts will explore specific case studies and how a tutor was integral in the academic success of each student.
- A learning difference only becomes a disability when it interferes with academic performance
- Tutors can help a student’s academic output match their potential with individualized instruction
- A successful tutor build his or her student’s confidence by teaching effective organization and study skills
- Customized study sessions encourage the student to keep moving and creating in a comfortable setting, rather than a classroom with peers
Today’s post was written by Susannah B., MA, a learning specialist, education consultant, and Veritas tutor who specializes in maximizing the success of people with Attention Deficit Disorder and learning disabilities from the elementary to the post-graduate level.