I’d like to welcome back guest writer, Nils Skudra. Nils is a freelance writer searching for a full-time position as a research historian, reference librarian, archivist, or collections curator. He has a professional background working at various libraries, museums, and historic sites.
In this short article, Nils reflects on tutoring students with disabilities. Thank you Nils!
Throughout my academic career, I have tutored a wide variety of students with both physical and developmental disabilities, which has given me a unique sensitivity toward the importance of ensuring inclusivity and equitable treatment for all students as a teaching professional. These students have included individuals with autism, ADHD, or other learning disabilities, and I have found that working with them requires a particularly significant degree of patience and empathy since they can sometimes take a slower time to process information and require extra assistance with the assigned coursework. I always bring patience and emotional intelligence to my work with students, and I take a hands-on approach in which I carefully walk them through the steps of their assignments. This has been particularly important for working with students with disabilities, and I always strive to make their experience a meaningful and enjoyable one in which they can thrive academically and enhance their critical thinking skills.
Sometimes tutoring can be more challenging when working with students on the autism spectrum because of the varying degrees that they display. While some autistic individuals are very high-functioning and can perform very effectively, particularly in their areas of specialization, others who are on the lower-functioning range may have significant difficulties with critical thinking and thus be inclined to simply write down what the tutor is saying. I have observed this through my personal experience working with certain autistic students who have significant learning disabilities, and I have had to remind them several times that my purpose is not to give them the answers but to help them develop ideas so that they can acquire the skills necessary for completing the coursework on their own. Admittedly, I have sometimes found this to be a frustrating ordeal, but one of the important takeaways that I have gained from this experience is that patience, empathy, and encouragement are essential to helping students with autism succeed academically. By employing these skills as part of their pedagogical approach, tutors can help students with autism and other disabilities to become effective independent learners, guaranteeing a more inclusive academic environment.