How is Learning Therapy Different From Tutoring?

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Often by the time a student is suspected of having a learning disability, parents or caregivers have already gone to great lengths to support their child. Many have hired tutors or had teachers spend extra time with their child over the summer to no avail. So often families ask us how academic therapy or dyslexia therapy is different from what they have tried in the past. This is a wonderful and necessary question.

Learning Therapy

  • The key difference is that learning therapy aims to identify the underlying causes of the learning difficulty in order to target those skills with structured tasks and curriculum design in order to support foundational learning elements.

  • Because therapy aims to target the underlying causes of the learning difficulty, a specific intervention plan is provided for the student. This means that the interventionist is not necessarily supporting homework completion with the school-based curriculum, but rather, that a program and materials are being developed to help fix the cause of the difficulty in the classroom. A part of this intervention plan should be well-written goals. Whether you are a parent or an educator, we recommend dowloading this free goal bank so that you know what these goals should look like.

  • Learning therapy uses past educational testing (from an IEP or initial screening) to determine how to create a curriculum specific to the student's needs.

  • Learning therapists or interventionists typically provide the curriculum for the student during the session, the student does not bring work from the classroom. Sometimes as therapy progresses, therapists will work with a child on generalizing the skills they have learned to the classroom assignments.

  • Learning therapy typically has a finite beginning and end (that varies on the learning pace of the student) that follows a systematic order of instructional topics.

  • Because learning therapy is so individualized, targeted, and designed around a student's need, the intervention generally costs more than a traditional tutor.


  • Generally tutors aim to support the "symptoms" of a specific learning disability. Their job is usually to support the student through the curriculum assigned by the school or teacher.

  • Tutors require the student to bring work that they are struggling with in the classroom in order to provide alternative ways or additional one-on-one instruction in order to support specific academic gaps.

  • The target of the instruction can vary from week to week depending on the needs of the student.

  • Because tutors can rely more on worksheets and work brought from the classroom, there is less need for planning ahead of the session and therefore typically traditional tutor rates are lower than that of a learning therapist's rates.

It is important to recognize that there is immense value in both learning therapy and tutoring depending on what your goals are for your child/student. Making the decision on what is right for your child depends on his or her specific needs. Often standardized assessment or consultation with a learning therapist can help to determine which option is the best fit for your child.

It is imperative, especially if you are looking at the therapy route, that the intervention be research-based. This is the only way to gaurentee that your child is recieving quality intervention with scientific support to back it up. Typically, we recommend programs that are based on the Orton-Gillingham method, or, around Structured Literacy. Click here to read “What is Research-Based Reading Intervention” to learn more.