Finding a Tutor for Your Child

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, and you’ve been trying hard to do everything you can to help your child. You’re working with a therapist, explored or started medication, and you’ve put behavior plans into place at home. You’ve even partnered with your child’s teacher to get extra help in the classroom. And while some things are getting better, your child’s grades are not improving and you’re worried about your child falling behind his or her peers. It might be time to enlist the help of a tutor to give your child the academic boost that he or she needs to succeed. But – how do you know how to find a tutor who will be a good fit? What should you look for in a tutor or a tutoring program when your child has ADHD? Here’s my helpful checklist that will help you evaluate options in your area:

The vibe. Your child’s tutoring experience starts with how he or she will feel about the space and the staff. Is the space warm and inviting? Does it look like a place that your child would be drawn to? How’s the rapport between the staff and students? What does the energy in the room feel like? Trust your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right it’s time to look elsewhere.

Strong staff engagement with your child. It may seem like a no-brainer, but every child in the room should be engaged with a staff member. Some students may be doing individual work, but staff should be overseeing these students and checking in on their progress. You should get the feeling that the staff genuinely care about their students and the work that they are doing. And that the students feel comfortable looking to the staff and teachers for help when they need it.

Challenging activities. Tutoring should not be about a teacher doing work for a student. Instead it should include structured learning activities that are adapted to your child’s specific academic level. These activities should start at a fairly low level of difficulty to help your child get his or her feet wet and build confidence, and then gradually become more challenging as your child develops new skills, strategies, and knowledge. Instructions should always be clear and concise, and even challenging work should be within the child’s reach. The work should never be so challenging that your child is constantly struggling, feeling defeated, or disengaged.

Self-directed work time. No matter the curriculum or teaching strategies that are in place, tutoring should always include some independent work time. During these time-limited periods your child will have the opportunity to complete assignments on his or her own but can also ask for assistance when needed. This helps kids gain confidence, and learn strategies that will carry over to independent work time at school and at home.

Space! Are there individual work areas as well as small group spaces? A solid desk and comfortable chair? Good lighting? Does it feel overcrowded or just right? The space should be clean, well-organized, well-lit and have designated space for activities. There should be a sense of shared care for the space, from the owner all the way down to staff and students.

Specific ADHD training. While there are great tutoring choices out there, you’re looking for one that specifically has the training, knowledge and experience of working with kids with ADHD. While many centers may say they work with students who have ADHD, ask about specific ADHD training that has been provided to the staff and teachers. Learn about the specific strategies that they use for dealing with typical ADHD-related challenges, like having difficulty staying seated, talking too much, or being easily distracted. Look for a combination of positive reinforcement (praise), clear instructions, engaging, structured activities, frequent breaks and a limited use of negative consequences.

Choosing a tutor or a tutoring center can be tough – and time consuming. But ensuring a good fit between you, your child, and the center is the key to success. Tutors with experience and training in working with students who have ADHD can provide the additional support that your child will need in order to reach his or her full academic potential.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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