Tutors versus Cognitive Trainers
One of the most common questions prospective clients ask us here at Pathfinders is, “Are you like a tutoring service?” There are many large differences between what we do at Pathfinders and what a traditional tutor offers. However, we are both trying to accomplish the same thing: to help your child. Let’s take a closer look at five differences between tutoring and cognitive training.
1. Tutors only address academics.
Tutors provide extra support to make sure their student keeps up with their lessons at school. They are only interested in the subjects taught at school and will primarily be working with the student at a desk.
Cognitive trainers address the underlying processing skills that support academic learning. The skills targeted include things like working memory, attention, visual processing, and body awareness. Much of a Cognitive Training session is spent away from a desk working on a variety of skills in novel, engaging ways.
2. Tutors teach content.
A tutor’s job is to impart knowledge to their students and teach them to use this knowledge independently. An English tutor will teach them about prepositions, what they are and why we use them. She’ll then make sure the student understands this information enough to correctly identify and use prepositions in their writing.
A cognitive trainer very rarely deals with academics directly. She is working on the underlying processing skills that make the student able to read the word “preposition”, comprehend the meaning of that word, and then remember that information for later use. She is also focused on the child’s attention skills and body control, which allows the student to sit quietly at a desk and focus for periods of time.
3. Tutors look at one topic.
Most tutors are subject specific. They feel confident tutoring in mathematics, or they tutor primarily social studies, etc.
Cognitive trainers take a holistic approach to their students. They target primitive reflexes and body awareness, auditory and visual processing, decoding skills, spelling, memory, attention awareness, organization, reasoning and self-regulation skills. A trainer is constantly changing the content of her student’s session to provide variety and target all the difficulties her student struggles with.
4. Tutors are interested in what you know.
A tutor wants to know what you know and then teaches information to fill in any gaps. Once the student has all the knowledge his class requires, the tutor’s job is done.
A cognitive trainer is interested in what your child doesn’t know. If an activity is easy, it is not effecting change in the brain. Only when an activity is difficult for the child can the trainer target those weaker skills and improve them. A trainer constantly challenges her student, adding complexity to keep those brain changes evolving.
5. Tutors impart knowledge in the hopes of easing frustration.
A tutor is tasked with teaching a specific subject; let’s say, long division. If the tutor achieves her goal, she will teach her student long division so the student can do their homework with less frustration. Then, that student will be better able to pass tests containing long division. Hooray!
However, next year, when the student is struggling with algebra, he will have to get another tutor to help him with that topic as well. And so on through high school and even college.
A cognitive trainer directly targets that frustration. From sound therapy to self-awareness to brain breaks, the trainer works with the child to manage their frustration no matter when and why it occurs. She trains her student to notice when frustration is creeping in and what to do to decrease that frustration before it becomes unmanageable. And, since cognitive training targets underlying processing skills, that training will help the student with all subjects at school, across all grade levels. It will even help the child socially, emotionally, and physically. After cognitive training, the student will be able to use those newly developed skills for all school subjects, during sports, at home and later in life with their career.
When your child is struggling academically, knowing the root cause of the struggle will help you determine how best to aid your child. Does your child just need extra time being taught the material? Does she need the lesson explained a different way? Or, are there underlying processing issues that impede her from achieving in the classroom?
If you have a hunch it might be the latter, tutoring will be a band-aid fix, at best. Cognitive training will interact directly with the root of the problem and help your child build a renewed foundation of skills needed in the classroom, at home and out in the real world.