Sometimes it Takes More Than a Tutor (Part 2)

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

5 Differences Between Tutoring and Cognitive Educational Therapy

Last week we started talking about 5 big differences between tutoring and cognitive educational therapy, and how you know which is right for your child.

#1
Tutoring typically focuses on academic skills or school subjects and cognitive educational therapy addresses the underlying processing or thinking skills that are needed in order for a someone to learn easily in school.

#2
Tutoring typically looks a lot like school.
If a child is having trouble learning phonics for reading, tutors will provide more phonics practice. But more of the same is often more frustrating than helpful.
Current research tells us that the key factor in success or failure in reading is what’s called phonological awareness, or the brain’s ability to think about the sounds and syllables in words. Without this underlying thinking process, you can have the best phonics program and the best phonics teacher, but you’re still going to struggle to learn and use phonics for reading and spelling.
In cognitive educational therapy, we know that we have to teach the brain HOW to think about the sounds – to actually re-train the brain to process the sounds in a more efficient way. Then, the brain can learn to read.

#3
Tutoring is most effective as a solution to a short-term problem. A long term learning problem must be dealt with by getting at the underlying issues.
When our son was in 10th grade, he transferred from a very mediocre high school to a very high achieving high school. He got into an Advanced Placement Algebra 2 class that was way over his head. We got him a tutor, and after 6 or 8 weeks, he began to get things sorted out.
This was a short-term problem with a short-term solution.
That is very different from Katy, a student with a history of difficulty with math. Katy had learned to do math by rote memory and lots of painful effort. But she didn’t really understand how numbers work. She could easily mix up math processes or steps and not realize it. Or she might recognize her error but not know how to fix it.
When Katy got into Algebra, she was lost. And no amount of tutoring was going to clear up the issue. Because Katy did not have the underlying concepts or thinking skills that were absolutely critical to her success.

Go after the real issues getting in the way of
your child’s academic success:
Check out our summer intensive programs at www.learningdisability.com to find out how to make a huge change in underlying processing and academic skills before school starts next year.

Sometimes it Takes More Than a Tutor

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

5 Differences Between Tutoring and Cognitive Educational Therapy

(Part 1)

“Jackson HATES school!  He feels like the dumbest kid in the class.  He gets very frustrated and angry doing homework.”

“As a family, we can’t stand this anymore.  We need to get Jackson a tutor!”

Are you sure?  Will getting a tutor really be enough to solve this problem?

Sometimes, tutoring is exactly what is needed.  But more often, when a child has a learning problem, tutoring is like putting on a band aide.  It covers up some of the symptoms, but doesn’t really solve the problem.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about 5 big differences between tutoring and cognitive educational therapy, and how you know which is right for your situation.

 #1

Tutoring typically focuses on academic skills or school subjects and cognitive educational therapy addresses the underlying processing or thinking skills that are needed in order for a someone to learn easily in school.

Here’s a way you can think about this.  Think of learning like a tree.  When you look at a tree, the most obvious, noticeable part is the top…the branches and leaves.  But without a good root system and trunk, those branches and leaves can’t grow and thrive.  Learning is like that.  The top of the tree is the academic skills – reading, writing, math, history, science…

LearningTreeImage (1)

Growth and learning in these areas is dependent upon a strong root system and trunk. The roots are what we call the underlying processing skills. These are things like memory, attention, processing speed, auditory and visual processing (or how we think about and understand things that we hear or see). If there are problems at the root, or processing skills level, there will be problems at the top.

The trunk is like what we call executive function. This is the part of the brain that takes all the information that comes in through the roots and organizes it for learning. Again, if the student has problems with organization, planning, and reasoning (or executive function skills) it will affect school performance.

Traditional tutoring assumes that these underlying processing and executive function skills are in place and it works at the top of the tree, with the academics.

In most cases learning problems are the result of weak or incompletely developed skills at the root level, so working on the academics without a solid foundation of processing skills may provide short-term support, but will not usually eliminate the problem.

To permanently solve a learning problem, the underlying skills must be developed. The great thing is that we know now, through current brain research, that the brain can be retrained – these skills can be developed – so students don’t have to go through life crippled by their learning challenges.

Join us for a parent information meeting – To understand more about what is keeping your child from learning as easily and independently as he could be and what can be done about it. Go to www.learningdisability.com for dates and location.

What is the Difference Between Stowell Learning Center, Sylvan, and Kumon?

Jill Stowell General Information, Learning Disability

“Reading is a nightmare for my child!  I need to get some tutoring, but there are so many learning centers out there, I don’t know where to turn.”  Sound familiar?

In our area, there are learning centers everywhere and more and more parents are asking us to explain the difference between Stowell Learning Center and Sylvan or Kuman.

The Starting Point

I think the biggest difference is the starting point.

Most learning centers, large or small, provide tutoring, which typically focuses on academic skills or school subjects.  This gives students more practice in areas such as reading and math in which they are either are struggling or want to excel.

Many families seek traditional tutoring when their child is struggling in school. Unfortunately, if tutoring is used to treat a learning or attention problem, it is likely to end up being a never-ending proposition.

In most cases, learning problems are the result of weak or incompletely developed learning skills. Just as a carpenter needs a set of tools to build with, we need a strong set of mental tools, or learning skills, to think and learn with. 

These tools include such things as memory, attention, auditory and visual processing (or being able to accurately think about and make sense of what we see and hear), organization, decision-making, reasoning, and processing speed.

Weaknesses in any of these areas can get in the way of easy, enjoyable learning, causing the learner to have to work too hard and too long, and maybe not “make the grade” anyway.

Traditional tutoring assumes that these underlying learning skills are in place. Working on the academics without a solid foundation of learning/processing skills is like spinning your wheels. It may cause students to wonder what is wrong with them that they always have to have tutoring and can never seem to learn to do the job on their own.

At Stowell Learning Center, our goal is to create comfortable, confident, and independent learners.  The way to do that is to develop the weak underlying skills that are not supporting the learner well enough and then remediate the academic problem areas in reading, writing, spelling, or math.

Whenever possible, we will work on the underlying skills and the academics together, but we know that without a solid foundation of mental tools or learning skills, the academics will not stick or will be far too effortful.

Apples and Oranges

So the answer to the question is apples and oranges.  Most learning centers, including Sylvan and Kuman, provide extra drill and practice in academic skills.  They may help students with homework and may work with a variety of subject areas including high levels of math.

Stowell Learning Centers focus on identifying and developing the weak underlying skills (skills such as memory, attention, auditory and visual processing, processing speed, language, phonological awareness, and executive function), and then remediating the basic academic skills. 

Our focus is not on homework or subject areas such as Science or Calculus, but on providing students the tools they need to be good learners who can function do their homework on their own and work comfortably and independently at grade level or at their potential.

Join us for a parent information meeting- To understand more about what is keeping your child from learning as easily and independently as he could be and what can be done about it.  Go to www.learningdisability.com for dates and location.