How to Choose the Best Tutors for Special Needs Kids

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According to a Department of Education report released earlier this year, the number of students with special needs is on the rise. Not only did the total number of students in need of special education services jump, but these students – representing a variety of needs and abilities – also make up about 13% of the entire U.S. student population.

But that doesn't mean finding a qualified tutor for special needs kids is any easier. At Teacherfindr, parents often wonder how to choose the best tutor for their child's needs and learning style. This quest can become even more difficult for parents who have children with special needs – and who require additional educational support outside of the classroom.

Even certified teachers might not have extensive experience working within special needs populations, which is why we created this guide especially for parents on the hunt for extra support. Here's how to choose the best tutors for special needs kids – including questions you can ask to make sure you're hiring the best fit for your family.

1. Look for Certified Teachers with a Background in Special Education

The very best thing you can do to support your special needs student outside of the classroom is to hire a certified, local teacher. Not only are certified teachers expert educators familiar with your local curriculum, but they're also familiar with the educational laws that govern special education, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

You want someone who feels comfortable navigating the specialized instruction requirements in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), or the accommodations outlined in a 504 Plan. For example, does your student have a learning disability that requires someone else to take notes, or to lead them through instructions? That's certainly the kind of information that your tutor would need to know to be effective — and it's also an accommodation a certified teacher with classroom experience will know how to fold into their tutoring lesson.

Types of questions to ask:

  • What's your experience teaching special needs students in the classroom?
  • What kinds of learning accommodations have you provided for your students in the past?
  • Which specialized instructional methods do you have the most experience with?

What the answers will tell you:

As a parent, you want a certified teacher who is both comfortable and enthusiastic working with and accommodating students who have learning disabilities or other special needs. Tailor your questions to address the specific styles of instruction or accommodation outlined in your student's documentation so you can gauge your tutor's familiarity with these forms of instruction.

2. Ask How Comfortable Your Tutor Is Varying Their Teaching Style

Students with special needs often require a range of teaching strategies – many of these needs can be outlined in an IEP or 504 Plan and shared with a tutor if parents feel this is appropriate.

For example, students who have a specific learning disability, like a disability in math, might require manipulatives for addition or subtraction. Still, other students with speech or language impairments might require visual aids, hearing aids, or sign language instruction. And students with ADHD, dyslexia, or autism will need additional kinds of support.

Aside from the technical skill and expertise of a certified teacher, your tutor must have the ability to change their teaching approach on the fly. Throughout a one-on-one tutoring session, teachers learn what engages and empowers your special needs student and can make changes accordingly. Whether your student needs help taking notes, extra test-taking time, a quiet environment to limit distractions, or visual learning aids, make sure your tutor is familiar with how to provide that specific type of instruction, method, or approach.

Working with a certified teacher is one of the best ways to ensure that your special needs student receives the level of professional support they need to be successful in the classroom, which is why Teacherfindr only hires local, certified teachers from your district.

Types of questions to ask:

  • What type of learning style would you use to engage my child?
  • How would you handle disruptions or other types of negative behavior?
  • How do you decide on the length of each tutoring session?

What the answers will tell you:

Specific, detailed examples will give you a good indication of your tutor's comfort level and experience with students like your child. You'll also get a good sense of your tutor's ability to stay calm, remain patient, assuage your child's frustrations or fears with the learning process, and create a positive learning environment. Have a child with attention issues? Make sure your tutor knows when and how to shorten tutoring sessions – without losing ground in the content area.

3. Gauge Your Tutor's Expectations and Measures for Success

At-home tutoring with a certified teacher is still an extension of your child's day – and that can be difficult for students who need extra help. Talk with your tutor about how to manage expectations around learning, creating a fun, positive teaching environment at home, and varying teaching styles to keep your student engaged and positive.

Make sure you're both on the same page about what success looks like for your special needs student, too. Maybe your child needs a little bit of extra help mastering a specific math concept, or maybe they need extra time to break down study questions or a detailed project assignment.

That's where Teacherfindr's tutoring reports come in handy – you'll be able to review exactly what your child and your tutor accomplished during each lesson, and what they plan to work on in the future. Whatever the specific learning goal for your child is, make sure both you and your tutor know what progress looks like when you see it!

We also help you connect your tutor with your student's teacher, so the experts can chart your student's growth in specific content areas. By letting these two professional educators interact, you'll see bigger and better improvements – and improve the confidence of your special needs child.

Types of questions to ask:

  • What kind of experience do you have measuring the progress of special needs students? How do you define success in tutoring?
  • How would you motivate my student if they felt tired or frustrated?
  • How would you change your teaching methods or approaches if our tutoring plan suggested my student still needs help?

What the answers will tell you:

By walking you through their tutoring success stories, your tutor should be able to demonstrate how they'd give your student positive reinforcement, as well as how they might address challenges or push-back from a tired or frustrated student. You want someone who's enthusiastic, patient, and flexible – and who knows when making even a little progress in a concept or content area should feel like a big win.

And while an at-home tutoring environment isn't designed to measure student success and learning outcomes with the rigor of a public school, your special needs student must still master content areas or show improvement. Assess how comfortable your tutor is with providing detailed tutoring reports, changing course as needed, and working with your child's teacher to achieve greater success.

If you have any question about tutors for special needs kids, you can contact our concierge service or get in touch with us here.

Related Reading:6 Common Learning Challenges Your Tutor Can Help With
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