“As I watched my student receive his high school diploma, I felt like he was one of my own. Thanks to Tutor Doctor's unique home school approach, he overcame his learning disability and gained the confidence that comes with knowing he can take on any challenge. It was a moment I will never forget.” – Dr. David Wilson,Tutor, USA
I had plenty of tutoring experience, but had never worked with students with autism. So when I was asked to tutor an autistic high school senior in English and U.S. History, I hesitated – uncertain if I would be able to meet the family's expectations.
Unable to function in an over stimulating environment, the student dropped out of public school and his parents had enrolled him in an online high school. Their goal was clear: if the student could pass both classes with a D or better, he would be allowed to graduate with his high school class.
After meeting with the student and his family, I decided to accept the assignment.
The student and I began working together for one hour, three times a week. The online course syllabi for both classes was rigorous, and it soon became clear that three hours a week was not enough time for him to complete the required assignments. He was easily distracted when it came to learning new material, and focusing his attention on a subject for more than a few minutes was a constant challenge.
However, I discovered that the student had an encyclopedic memory for things he was passionate about. He was obsessed with James Bond movies and knew the smallest details about the directors, writers, actors, and storylines. He also had exceptional space relation recognition and could put together a complex jigsaw puzzle in a few hours.
I decided to harness his unique strengths to ignite his interest in literature and history. As long as he could relate a subject to a James Bond plot, the student could make a connection. For one essay he compared Beowulf to a Bond villain. To help him make sense of Macbeth, I found a connection with a female character that had manipulated Bond. As a reward for a good day's work, we finished the session by working together on one of his puzzles.
Soon we were meeting three hours a day, five days a week, and making tangible progress. It was time to tackle a second hurdle: the test clock.
The final exams were timed, and during practice tests the student became increasingly agitated by the clock ticking at the bottom of his computer screen. I contacted the school counselor, explained the student’s anxiety, and said I was certain he could be successful if he had more time to complete the tests. The school agreed to remove the clock.
After eight arduous months of tutoring, the student took his final exams. He didn't just pass – he earned an A in English and a B+ in U.S. History. It was a proud moment for the student and his family, and for me as well. Taking the student out of a chaotic environment and allowing him to be tutored one-to-one at home helped thrive academically. Combined with my efforts to genuinely connect with the student and find creative ways to help him learn, it was a recipe for success.