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Supporting Students with Learning Differences

On Tuesday, October 9th, North Avenue was thrilled to partner with Amy Romm Lockard, Founder and President of Dovetail College Consulting. Amy is a college admissions expert with over a decade of combined college consulting and high school counseling experience. In her presentation, she discussed how to approach college admissions for teens with a learning difference, mental health condition, or physical disability – and how to find success after admission as well.

Before introducing Amy, I spoke briefly around how my experience working with students with learning differences has informed the teaching philosophy of North Avenue. This blog post is adapted from my presentation.


North Avenue Education’s tutoring method aims to build a community of learners by cultivating critical thinking skills that are relevant not only to success on tests, but to all academic pursuits as students prepare for college. The path students with learning differences take to build these skills might look slightly different, but doing so is just as important. If anything, I’ve observed that students with learning differences are much more self-aware and cognizant of their learning needs than their peers. This academic maturity ought to be paired with a mentor or tutor relationship for best outcomes.

Here are a few key methods we employ when working with students with learning differences.

OBSERVE
By first watching students complete problems in their instinctive way, tutors will better understand each student’s unique reasoning process. In a typical test prep lesson, most of the time is devoted to teaching new topics and test-taking strategies, with less time devoted to practicing these strategies – because students can conduct this reinforcement at home. However, students with learning differences often benefit from more in-session collaboration. By conducting practice problems with a student during the lesson, tutors are in a better position to adapt their lessons and techniques to the specific student’s reasoning style.

PRACTICE
Replicating the procedures learned in a tutoring session on a real, timed test is a key component of test prep. Students who receive accommodations on the SAT or ACT – often 50% extra time or even 100% extra time on an already long exam – will be susceptible to both mental exhaustion and decision fatigue. Ensuring multiple opportunities to practice taking the test under these conditions will help develop stamina and anticipate related issues that need to be addressed in preparation. (Additionally, there are some tech solutions: North Avenue gives all our students an SAT or ACT watch. Practicing self-timing with these watches can help students self-pace to not run out of time or energy.)

INTEGRATE
Parents and tutors must recognize that even with accommodations, standardized tests may not be the best way to showcase a student’s academic competencies. North Avenue encourages families to evaluate a student’s profile holistically so as to mentor them through not only test prep but all aspects of college readiness. Students would do well to remember that keeping their GPA high, writing a killer application essay, and learning self-advocacy, organization, and other beneficial study habits are just as important as achieving strong test scores!

At North Avenue Education, we invite all new students to our office for a free, 30-minute consult with me. During the consult, we can discuss a personalized approach to supporting your student with their individualized goals. If you’d like to discuss how North Avenue can guide your student’s unique reasoning processes to success on standardized tests and beyond, please don’t hesitate to contact us!