Choosing the Right Tutor

Many parents across the country are looking to support their child's educational experience in any way they can. Often times, this means hiring a tutor to work one-on-one with your child. There are many reasons for seeking educational support outside the regular school day. Your child may be having a difficult time in one subject area or he could be struggling in all subject areas across the board. Your child may learn best from a specialized means of instruction, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. Many parents hire tutors to maintain their child's academic skills over the summer, or to have a leg up on the upcoming school year. These tips can be used to choose a tutor for a child with any academic or social needs.

Click here to watch a video on ABA therapy.

  • Ask your child's principal to recommend someone on staff. This ensures that the person has a valid state teaching certification and classroom experience. The principal also has a good feel for his or her staff's personalities and may recommend someone who he or she thinks is a good match for your child.
  • Check the potential tutor's credentials. Ask for a resume, even if you know he/she is a classroom teacher. You should look to see if he/she has spent a long time at one school, which signifies he/she has developed good working relationships with staff and students.
  • Ask for references. Anyone who is confident in his/her skills and has had positive relationships with other families will be more than happy to have you speak with past clients.
  • Set up an interview, even if you only have one candidate. You want someone who is articulate and communicates well. He or she will be helping your child with a subject that is challenging - so you want him or her to communicate effectively. There are many bright people with great credentials who have difficulty explaining their area of expertise.
  • Once you've chosen someone, have them work in a common space in your home. Listen to how he or she works with your child. Listen to his/her tone - see if he or she gets frustrated when your child has a difficult time. Staying close-by gives you an opportunity to observe without being intrusive.

Before your child begins working with his new tutor, ask his classroom teacher for specific topics the tutor should cover. Teachers are often grateful to have support reviewing topics at home because of the time constraints in school.

Once the tutoring has begun, check in with the tutor after each session. Ask specific questions, like "What did she have the most trouble with?" or "Is there something I can review with her during the week?" This gives the tutor an opportunity to discuss your child's progress and feel like a part of her educational team.

Give the tutor and your child time to establish a relationship. Keep in mind, this person may be new to your child and it may take time for him to feel comfortable. By the third or fourth session, they should be settling into a routine and working well together. Also remember, this person is working on subjects that are challenging for your child. Your child may not jump for joy when it's tutoring time, but he should sit down willingly.

Finding someone to work with your child at home may feel challenging, but using these tips will speed up the process and ensure you find a good match for your child's needs.

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.