Educational Therapy vs. Tutoring: What Parents Should Know

This is a guest post by Asha Jaleel, Lexercise Teletherapy Partner

Note: this blog article is the first in a series about educational therapy and educational therapists and their role in helping struggling learners achieve academic success.

Do these statements describe your child?

  • says he/she is not smart
  • has low self-confidence about school work
  • is discouraged about his/her academic progress
  • hates school and/or resists going to school
  • is unusually tired after school
  • requires much longer than peers to complete homework and school work
  • continues to struggle despite special help and tutoring

If this sound familiar your child might benefit from working with an educational therapist.

Educational therapy is dramatically different from traditional tutoring

  • Tutors typically use the same or very similar education methods as are used in classroom learning.  In contrast, educational therapists use methods that are individualized and unique to the specific learner.
  • Tutors typically focus on current classwork, homework, and tests while educational therapists address the causes of academic struggles.
  • Tutors typically re-teach or review material that has been taught in the classroom whereas educational therapists focus on teaching clear and efficient ways of thinking and remembering that enable efficient learning for all academic subjects (e.g., reading, writing, mathematics).
  • One educational therapist suggested an analogy to a struggling swimmer: Educational therapy teaches a person to swim while tutoring just works on keeping them afloat.

Educational therapists are trained to work with issues like:

  • dyslexia and other reading disorders
  • dysgraphia and other writing disorders
  • dyscalculia and other math disorders
  • attention-deficit /hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)
  • working memory problems
  • auditory and visual processing problems
  • executive functioning (e.g., organization and time management) problems

Educational therapists use the power of a personal relationship to encourage student motivation and to set up a relaxing,  safe, and rewarding learning atmosphere.

Katrina de Hirsch, an early education therapy pioneer,  said that the aim of educational therapy is to develop a “treatment alliance” with the student, fostering the student’s understanding of their learning patterns and teaching them how to manage them.

The next articles in this series will present some examples of how educational therapy has helped children and review some recent research on the effectiveness of educational therapy for specific types of difficulties.


5 Responses to Educational Therapy vs. Tutoring: What Parents Should Know

  • Antonia Canaris commented

    Thank you for this article. I am an educational therapist trained in the Orton-Gillingham multisensory approach, practicing in Sydney, Australia. Many parents tell me that they have seen tutors for years and that the tutors charge a lot less. The tutors, for the most part, are using the same methods that the children failed to grasp at school. An educational therapist builds rapport and shows students how they can learn effectively. As a wonderful lady told me when I was seeking help for my dyslexic son, ” More of the same isn’t going to work”.

    I really love working as an independent therapist with my own practice as compared to my time working in special education in schools where teachers expected me to help children complete their schoolwork when they didn’t know their alphabet. I also get more of a chance to work with the parents who form an important part of learning support.

  • Sherryl Stratford commented

    I am also a tutor training in the Orton Gillingham method of literacy instruction. I really like this article and do all of the things that are suggested here by Asha Jaleel. So I could call myself a therapist rather than a tutor as I have never been in the educational system but teacher trained at CQU for four years. I don’t follow the school curriculum but tailor the needs of the students to fit them and try to work out through observation what their needs would be.

  • Bonnie Haley commented

    This is a great article and something that needs more awareness. I am a parent who wasted years of time and money on educational/academic tutoring for my son who has dyslexia. We found Orton-Gillingham and he made up a 5 year reading gap in one year. To this day (he just graduated from college last May), he still remembers and speaks fondly of his Orton-Gilligham tutor, Alexandra. I’ve seen the power of certified Orton-Gillingham practitioners. Due to my experience as a parent, I have my advanced level Orton-Gillingham certification. My certification contains the words “education in therapy for dyslexia”.

  • Lila commented

    I have an undergrad in SLD and a mastsr’s in socia workl. I have taught and tutored for over 20 years using OG programs. Could I call myself an educational therapist?

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Asha Jaleel

Asha Jaleel is the founder of Academic Therapy Solutions, Inc. a private practice in Jacksonville, Florida that provides both onsite therapy and Lexercise Teletherapy. Dr. Jaleel recently completed her doctorate in Education at Nova Southeastern University. She is now enrolled in the online Education Therapy Certification program at University of California Riverside. Dr. Jaleel has conducted extensive research on educational therapy. Her dissertation focused on using educational therapy as a complementary alternative medicine treatment for children diagnosed with ADHD and low academic achievement.