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Being Sensitive to Differences

Students with Special Needs

The open door policy of the community college gives everyone desiring an education the opportunity to obtain one.  The policy also creates a need for more individualized programs to help students ranging from the recent highschool graduate who has had little academic success to the student who has been away from school for a number of years.  The use of tutors in a well-coordinated program is one way community colleges can give individual help to all learners requiring support.

Young Adults

Many of the young adults who have recently graduated from high school are considered "low achievers."  They often did not work at a college preparatory program while in high school and do not have sufficient background for college courses.  Some of these students lack high motivation for continuing their education.  Managing responsibilities is also difficult for young students with families of their own.

Many students both work and go to school full time.  Fatigue and frustration may be a problem.  You might be able to help these students by encouraging them to set personal priorities and assemble a study schedule that will accommodate their busy lives and schedules.

Students frequently lack adequate college preparation such as note and test taking skills.  Recommend that these students attend workshops, review video tapes and other materials on study skills.  

Help students realize they are responsible for their own education.

Some students may have vague long-range goals resulting in inappropriate choices of majors or classes.  You could refer them to career counseling or academic counseling.

Senior Students

Older adults may need more time for their learning tasks due to a possible decline in their learning rate and reaction time.  Longitudinal studies have shown that intelligence does not decline with age, but that the speed of perfomance does.

A decline in visual perception may benefit from the selection of a well lighted space, printing in large letters and extra time for repetitive reading.

Hearing and speed of hearing may decline with age.  Sitting closer while talking, speaking slowly and clearly, and facing the student are helpful suggestions.

Older adults may be reluctant to change. Go slow and refrain from criticism.

Frequently, older adults lack a self-assured attitude.  Positive reinforcement can help increase their self-assured attitude and their self-confidence.

For many older adults, this may be the first time in several years that they have been in a structured learning environment.  "Learning the ropes" and getting oriented to the new routines of college life might be a primary concern for senior students.  Their learning period could be a time of high anxiety and frustration.  You can help by offering encouragement and successful study techniques.  

Women Returning to School

Many students seeking tutorial help are women returning to school after several years absence.  These women usually recognize their own challenges soon and often realize the need to redevelop study habits and become reacquainted with academic procedures.  This can be a difficult task without guidance.  Many of these women have families, and justifying time to study and complete class assignments must be balanced with family and work responsibilities.

You can help by encouraging these students to make a study schedule so they can prioritize their responsibilities.

Many returning women may have test and/or math anxiety.  Recommend attending workshops on anxiety reduction and study skills.  

For those who might experience low self-esteem or self-doubt about academic performance, refer them to a counselor at the Women's Center.

International Students

Many international students are well-educated people and are usually very serious about heir studies.  They are often hard workers, but they may lose confidence because of language barriers, communication problems and the "culture shock" of a new environment.

Their reading and listening vocabulary in English is usually higher than their speaking vocabulary.  Don't judge their knowledge of a textbook or subject matter from their oral communication.

Be tactful in your request for them ot repeat or rephrase statements that you cannot deciper.  Criticism could discourage students who are trying their best to communicate.  Listen intently to them.

Develop a respectful attitude.  Do not judge a foreign student's comprehension based on his or her English speaking skills.  Think of how you might feel attempting to communicate in a language that you were not raised with.

Students with Learning Disabilities

A Learning Disability (LD) is a disorder that affects the way in which individuals receive, retain, retrieve and express information.  The LD may manifest itself in one or more areas, such as: oral expression, listing comprehension, spelling, reading skills, math computation, attention to task, and problem-solving.  In addition, organizational skills, time management and social skills may be affected.  How others react to learning disabled people also affects their performance and self-image.

Students with learning disabilities have a wide range of academic abilities, as well as average to high IQ scores.  Their disorder may originate with the central nervous system and occurs with the processing of information.  For instance and LD student may have memorized a lesson or procedure.  But when the student tries to retieve that information out of his or her "memory bank," the student finds that the "account" containing the information has been moved to an unknown location or that "access is denied" so to speak.

Although learning disorders can be diagnosed, many students may be unaware of their LD condition or learning difference. And even for those students who have been diagnosed with an LD, there are a wide range of skill levels within each group. Tutors are not expected to "diagnose" a learning disability or to be an LD "expert." However, you are expected to treat all students with respect and an open mind, regardless of apparent differences or difficulties in learning.

Being aware of different learning styles such as visual, auditory, tactile (the sense of touch) or a combination styles, will help you to be a better tutor. You may also discover your own preferred learning style. For instance, some students study or write well with a linear (step-by-step) outline going from "A-Z," whereas others do better with index cards or "random" notes.

Often the LD student benefits from multi-sensory modes of learning, such as writing note cards, re-reading each card aloud, marking the textbook with removable tabs, and perhaps recording and playing back notes on a recorder.

When a student identifies him/herself as having an LD, you may refer the student to Ha'awi Kokua (HawCC) or Student Support Services (UH-Hilo). The more you as a tutor can be sensitive to your student's needs, regardless of ability, the more effective and rewarding your tutoring efforts will be.

Students with Physical Disabilities

Physically disabled students may be experiencing an impairment of mobility (such as those in wheelchairs), hearing, vision, speaking, or some other disability that may not be visually obvious such as epileptic seizures, diabetes or a heart condition. Tutors are not expected to be "experts" in tutoring students with disabilities. However, tutors are expected to treat students with disabilities with respect, courtesy and without prejudice.

It is natural to feel some discomfort or awkwardness when first encountering a disabled student. But if you work to overcome or set aside your initial discomfort, you may come to experience a highly rewarding tutoring relationship with your tutee remember that while empathy is helpful, pity is not.

Keep in mind that students in the same category of disability will have different skill levels and preferences. Explore with the student his or her individual level of need, and how you as a tutor can best provide assistance. For instance, do offer to move a chair to give a wheelchair student access to the desk or computer space. Do offer to read aloud an assignment sheet for a hearing or visually impaired student. Do turn your face directly toward a hearing-impaired student and speak clearly (without shouting).

Ask before you help. And be yourself. Your student will appreciate your sensitivity and courtesy.