What do educational therapists do?
They work intensively with struggling students—from preschoolers to young adults—to help them overcome learning challenges. Unlike academic tutors, who usually focus on mastering academic material, educational therapists are trained to assess and fix any core problems, such as attention issues or language processing problems, that keep someone from learning.
Some educational therapists also offer case management services, making referrals to other professionals and services. Others offer advocacy services to ensure that your child gets all the school supports he or she is entitled to.
How it works:
It’s all about the process. Educational therapists deconstruct each student’s way of learning. Typically, everyone with a learning challenge also has one or more unique strengths. Someone who struggles with attention problems, for example, might have a phenomenal memory. Someone who has trouble with math might be unusually fluent in languages. Educational therapists help students recognize and use their strengths to offset any weaknesses—whether it’s focusing issues, the processing of information, memory skills, or other issues—that get in the way of learning.
Often, by fixing one big problem (say struggles with reading), they solve a lot of related problems (like behavior issues or a lack of motivation) and unleash a stream of positive benefits.
Educational therapists are trained to help kids and young adults with any or all of the following challenges:
- Attention problems, including ADD and ADHD
- Reading and writing difficulties (dysgraphia)
- Math difficulties—making sense of numbers and math concepts (dyscalculia)
- Executive function skills, such as poor organizational and study skills
- Poor social skills
- School and test anxiety
- Language or visual processing problems
- Tourette syndrome
- High-functioning autism
- Low academic self-esteem
- Poor motivation
Expect to pay $60 to $150 or more per hour, depending on where you live and the experience and training of the person you’re hiring. Most health insurance plans do not cover educational therapy.
Many educational therapists also recommend or require an initial assessment, which is usually conducted by a child psychologist specializing in psychoeducational testing—and can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Those services are often covered by insurance, at least in part.
What to look for:
Aim to find someone who has experience working with kids who are the same age and have the same challenges as your child, a background in special education or a related field (such as child development, speech and language therapy, or psychology), as well as an ability to connect with your child.
Since educational therapists aren’t required to be licensed, certification by an organization like the Association of Educational Therapists is a plus. It means they’ve had special training, meet strict requirements, and passed a rigorous exam.
More good things to know or do:
- Interview any candidate you’re considering (1:1 is best, or at least by phone or Skype) to make sure it’s a good match for you and your son or daughter. Key questions to ask:
- What experience do you have working with kids like mine?
- What training do you draw on?
- How would you describe your approach?
- What sort of initial assessment or testing do you require, if any; what do you expect to learn from it—and what’s the estimated cost?
- How, where, and how often do you expect to meet with my child?
- What kind of outcome can I expect?
- Will you likely be making referrals to others? Who?
- What sort of interaction, if any, might you have with the school?
- How will you involve me?
- Can you provide recent client references?
- Not all educational therapists work in private practice. Some work in schools, learning centers, or clinics.
- Tip: Some educational therapists refer to themselves as reading specialists, by other areas they specialize in (such as ADHD coaches or therapists), or simply as tutors.