Tutoring Strategies for Working with Students with Learning Disabilities
Before determining what to work on, both you and the student must understand the student's specific strengths and areas for improvement. Your first few sessions together should be spent discussing the student's learning disability, how it may affect her/him in school, and techniques for compensating for it. This is also the time to build trust. We believe this can be accomplished by
Treating the student as an equal. The student may have a learning disability, but she/he also possesses knowledge and talent that others may not have.
Listening to what is important to the student. What areas of learning does he/she want to focus on?
Creating an atmosphere that permits the student to confide in you. It is important to find a location away from peers and teachers, where students with a learning disability can feel comfortable to tackle problems without fear of being embarrassed.
Final determination of what to work on is based on the following factors
The nature and severity of the student's learning disability.
The student's concerns.
The course requirements.
We suggest listing information under each factor. Then use this information to determine priorities for the tutoring program. Some students may just require assistance with papers and reading assigned in their courses. Others also may want to work on supplementary materials. For example, a student planning to take a statistics course may want to review basic algebra concepts and overcome problems understanding fractions. A student with reading comprehension difficulties may want to focus on ways to improve her/his vocabulary.
When working with a college student with a learning disability, it is important to ask what she/he would like to work on each session. The student knows where help is needed. Because of the help the student requests with coursework, in the majority of sessions you may not be able to work specifically on supplementary materials. For example, she/he may need help with learning the difference between "affect" and "effect", with developing an outline for a research paper, or with monitoring an English theme for errors. These items should be dealt with at the beginning of the session. Once the student's immediate concerns are alleviated, you may begin to work on the supplementary materials.
Begin working on supplementary materials by reviewing previously learned material. Periodic review provides necessary reinforcement. If there is satisfactory progress, then the remainder of the session can be used to introduce the new material.