Step one

September 14,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

As part of our vamped up action plan for helping L. out of this terrible downward spiral he's been in so far this fall, we've enrolled him in a tutoring service. This wasn't an easy decision, although teachers at L.'s school have been throwing around the word "tutor" for some time now, as if enlisting the help of one will solve all of our problems. I've been stubborn for awhile about this: if my child isn't getting the individual support and attention he needs at school, why should we then have to pay extra per week in money and time to make up for this? In the end, though, you can only hold out on principle for so long, before you realize that your child is the one paying the price. I'm not sure tutoring will solve all our problems, but it's a step we're hoping will fix some of them; or at least help L. recoup the tremendous loss of self-esteem he's experienced since fifth grade started at the end of July. Once we made the decision to find tutoring help for L., we had to decide how to pick the best service/tutor--a decision that required us to weigh several factors: --Cost --Location --Teaching style --Familiarity with learning issues Cost: What can I say about cost? Tutors are expensive, there's no way around that; you, the parent, have to decide your budget ahead of time, and weigh the costs/benefits. I did look into the "free tutoring" that is supposedly available under No Child Left Behind, but not only is the red tape involved so lengthy and involved and off-putting, but we don't qualify for free tutoring since L. is not in the free and reduced lunch program. Location: Some students do very well having a tutor come to their home for the sessions; others do better going to a physical location, one that is separate from their home, and one they can associate with learning. L. is one of those students. Once he gets home, he cannot bear to have school life intrude on his home life. It's mentally painful for him to bring school back into his safe home zone, and this has been one of the major hurdles we've had to face since L. started elementary school. Teaching style: We needed a tutor with a firm, but friendly tutoring style. L. is a "connections kid" in that he needs to feel invested in his relationship with a teacher-figure. He needs them to treat him as an adult, and he needs to feel that the teacher likes him. A huge part of our problems this year is that his current teachers are holding him at an arm's length. They do not seem comfortable working closely with him beyond the classroom level, and this has affected his ability to form those vital connections with them. Familiarity with learning issues: We also needed to find a tutoring service capable of handling complex learning issues, and working with a child who not only has anxiety but also very poor self-motivation. In the years since L. first started school, we've come to realize that even teachers with a theoretical knowledge of learning issues, AS, and anxiety, often aren't equipped to work on the classroom level with a student like L. Luckily a friend of mine, whose son also has AS, recommended an excellent service that meets all of our criteria. Once we had looked into several tutoring services, we felt confident going with her recommendation. L. goes for his first session on Wednesday, and we'll be keeping our fingers and toes crossed that it goes smoothly. Send some good thoughts our way, will you?