Tutoring Students with Learning Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities have learning styles that reflect strength and weaknesses in how they process information. Some students may have trouble recalling lectures or long verbal instructions, others may read slowly or have difficulty retaining what they have read. Before you begin tutoring, ask your student how he or she learns best, then teach using that method.

Teach to the student’s strength

Here are the three major modalities of teaching, with suggestions for each following:


  • Charts/graphs
  • Books
  • Pictures
  • Visualization
  • Drawing
  • Written Instructions Notes/notecards
  • Color Coding


  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • Audio tapes
  • Verbal Instructions

Kinesthetic (Hands on)

  • Acting
  • Drawing
  • Building/models
  • Highlighting
  • Cutting things into pieces (such as essays)

Repeat Information

Students with a learning disability may not recall information they have learned even just a day or two before. Never assume that a student will recall what has been covered previously. ALWAYS review before moving forward. This can be brief (5 minutes) if the student shows good recall, or it can take half the tutoring time. It will depend on how much the student retains.

Teach by example and imitation

Students with a learning disability may benefit by seeing a concept demonstrated and then practicing it themselves several times with supervision. If you are teaching a student math, for example, show how to do a problem type with two or three examples, then ask the student to imitate those examples. Make the problems as similar as possible so your learner can generalize the rules before adding more complications.

Encourage students with praise of correct or promising work. Always begin by telling them what they did well, then discuss mistakes or areas that need improvement.