Stowell Learning Center

Sometimes it Takes More Than a Tutor (Part 2)

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.

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.

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.

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 to find out how to make a huge change in underlying processing and academic skills before school starts next year.

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