Some parents express high concern about the education credentials of their soon-to-be tutor for a child with a learning difference. With one exception, we agree with that concern.

Best Tutor QualitiesMan in a suit tutoring a student

A tutor who teaches with empathy is paramount. A talented tutor who won’t attempt to see through the eyes of a struggling student is not helpful enough; that tutor may even be harmful if condescending. It is important to be versatile. A tutor should be able to present material in different ways, so each student can grasp the concept in a way that is comfortable. It is also important to be motivational. The top tutors not only teach the subject, they inspire their student to learn the subject. Finally, consider independence. A gifted tutor will cultivate a student’s independence so the student can work independent of the tutor’s help and make future progress.

A tutor with these credentials is a tremendous asset to the enlisting family. The student is elevated and relies less on parents who might not be able to help. On the other hand, parents are relieved that they have an asset to bring their child academic success and independence.

However, these sublime tutor credentials are rarely learned in school! College and grad school teaching programs offer thick textbooks and esteemed lecturers, but they are devoid of true one-on-one tutoring. Some programs will inject their students into substitute tutor roles. While helpful, this still does not simulate the “I am your tutor” experience.

Learning Disability Specialist Tutors

There are educators who have been through college and grad school education programs who do not make adept tutors. Some will separate themselves, recognizing that tutoring is not the right career fit, but others will not. The good pay that tutors receive impels these individuals to hold onto the position when they are better off in a support or administrative role. For students with disabilities, the “bad fit” is often heightened. The pay is higher, yet the ability to be a deft, empathetic guide for each individual student is more acute. New graduates from education departments have student loans to pay off and lifestyle concerns that keep them from latching on to a distant job working 50 hours a week. Tutoring from their home seems especially appealing.

Thus, the word of caution to the concerned parent is: paper credentials in the tutoring realm are a thin reed on which to base a year-long tutoring enlistment. Irrespective of degree, regardless of major, the tutors who inject themselves into situations where there are unfilled learning needs and truly help the students are the ones to seek out.

Our top older tutors do not have Ivy League pedigrees. We endorse them because of their talent, their experience and the satisfied client feedback. Younger tutors with talent (i.e. empathy, enthusiasm, clarity and high subject knowledge) are worth enlisting, even if lacking a degree in education. They work hard, typically at lower rates, to be the best tutors possible, irrespective of degree or major. Whether enlisting older or younger, the students with learning differences are the best beneficiaries.

By Michelle Ambrosio and Mark Greenstein