How to Find the Right Tutor for Special Needs Students

finding a tutor

Do you have a child with special needs, and want to find the right tutor to assist him or her with schoolwork? Here, New Milford, NJ tutor Matthew H. offers a few tips for how to find the right tutor…


Children and adults with special needs make up a large spectrum of individuals with unique situations ranging from severe developmental disorders and behavioral issues to mild learning disabilities. Private lessons should be made available for all types of learners, from the most advanced to the most basic of beginners, including those with special needs. However, not every instructor is necessarily equipped with the right skill set to cater to special needs students. Below are some of the things you should look for when trying to find a tutor.

Look Into the Instructor’s Background

Regardless if the student has special needs or not, you should be familiar with the educational history and professional background of whoever will be tutoring you or your child. While a degree in teaching special education may be an added bonus, not every tutor holds a degree in education, nor is that as important as a strong knowledge of the content area he or she will be teaching. However, it is important to know if the instructor has hands-on experience with special needs students, particularly young children. The number-one characteristic of a good teacher, for any student, is patience. This is doubly true when dealing with students who may need considerable attention and time to understand the concepts presented. Definitely make sure the instructor is comfortable and confident prior to booking lessons so that the student will benefit best from the pairing.

Ask About the Instructor’s Teaching Style

Students with special needs are similar to all other students in that everyone learns differently; some benefit from more visual approaches, whereas others are more oral or kinesthetic. With special needs students, it’s even more important that the tutor is able to try a variety of tactics to appeal to what interests the student. A good teacher adapts lessons to fit the student anyway, but often will be required to improvise or go out of his or her comfort zone when working in the moment with a special needs student. In particular, those who have difficulty paying attention or concentrating may need multiple attempts before the instructor can capture the student’s interest in the topic. Having a positive, upbeat attitude is highly important so as to not discourage the student, especially a child. Make sure the instructor is well-equipped by providing all the necessary information about the student upfront. Doing so will ensure a smoother learning process.

Establish Realistic Goals

Most importantly, make sure you and the instructor are on the same page when it comes to what you are hoping to accomplish through the lessons. Do not set yourself or the tutor up for failure by expecting something that just may not be possible given the amount of time, which is also true for all students, regardless of the learning situation and subject matter. This is not to say that you will not be able to push boundaries and work hard as a team to make improvements that exceed what others may expect; a good teacher should always push the student a little bit more than what he or she was able to do last time. Depending on the situation, perhaps more realistic goals would be to divide the learning process in steps with immediate goals of improving aspects of concentration and memory retention, before tackling long-term goals of mastery of a particular subject area.

In short, teaching children and adults with special needs is essentially the same as teaching all other students, only with modified goals, expectancies, and timelines. Before agreeing to begin a lesson plan with an instructor, make sure your tutor is comfortable and familiar with the student  by providing as many details as possible to appeal to the learner’s interests and skills. Similarly, make sure the student is comfortable with the instructor, because the learning process is a collaborative effort. If you follow these tips, you will be pleased with the results that your special needs student is capable of making.

MatthewHMatthew H. teaches a variety of subjects both online and in New Milford, NJ. He recently received his MA from NYU with a background in Sociolinguistics and related research. Learn more about Matthew here! 



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