Recently, there was an article in the local newspaper talking about the increase in tutoring services in our area. This subject is obviously something that is very near and dear to my heart. How do parents determine which service will meet their child’s needs? How do they know if all their child needs is tutoring, or if there is something more going on that is causing the difficulty in the first place?
At the Learning Enhancement Centers, we often use the analogy of a tree to help parents understand how we are different than a typical tutoring place. Starting from the bottom of the tree, we think of the roots. If you saw a tree dying, you would assume it isn’t getting enough nutrients from its roots. The same is true academically; if a student is struggling, it is usually due to weak underlying skills. These skills are the mental tools necessary to succeed. They are things like memory, attention, visual and auditory processing, and processing speed. If a student hasn’t acquired these foundational skills, school will always be a struggle.
The second part of the tree is the trunk or the stem. Its job is to take the nutrients from the roots up to the leaves and the branches. Academically, we correlate this to executive function skills. Executive function skills are the mental management skills, which impact things like time management, organization, and study skills.
The third part of the tree is the leaves and branches. We associate this part of the tree to the academic subjects such as reading, writing, math, and spelling. This is where most tutoring centers and schools focus. However, if there is anything wrong with the roots (processing skills) or trunk (executive function skills), tutoring might help for a while, but it won’t correct the problem for the long term. School will continue to be a struggle. You can try to support the leaves and branches, but the tree is still going to die.
Here is the bad news. Weaknesses in processing skills (the roots) or executive functioning skills (the trunk) don’t correct themselves. They often get worse as the academic subjects become progressively more complex. Schools and regular tutoring centers don’t address problems in these fundamental areas. They assume that the underlying skills are in place. Many of the evaluations done by a typical tutoring center will report that a student doesn’t know his blends or certain vowel sounds, or his math facts. But that is still the academics (the leaves and branches). Rather, my question is why hasn’t the student gotten it yet? Where is it breaking down in the brain, and how do we fix it?
The good news is that building those underlying learning skills takes some very specific attention, but it can be done. The current research on the brain’s plasticity – the ability to change throughout life – is the basis of our clinically proven programs.
Trying to decide if we are the right place for your child? Want to know more about how we help? Come out to our next Parent Information Night on Thursday, June 25. We will explain what is keeping your child from learning as easily as he should, how we are different than traditional tutoring, and options for getting your child started. Meanwhile, if you want to read more about our services and programs, review our Services page.
By the way, if we feel that we aren’t the right place for you, we will tell you. We will even help you decide what other services may benefit your child.