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How to Tutor Neurodiverse Students

Tornike Asatiani - Co-founder & COO of Edumentors

If you are a tutor or educator, you already know that every child is unique in how they learn and interact with the world around them. However, when it comes to neurodiverse children those with conditions like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, dyslexia, and other neurological variations the conventional strategies often fall short. Your role isn’t just to teach, it’s to unlock potential, foster understanding, and provide a tailored learning experience that enables these children to excel. This blog aims to equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to do just that. Let’s dive in.

Understanding Neurodiversity in Students

Before delving into specific tutoring strategies, it’s crucial to have a foundational understanding of what neurodiversity entails. The term ‘neurodiversity‘ acknowledges that neurological variations are a natural part of human diversity. This concept moves away from pathologising conditions like ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, and instead focuses on embracing and celebrating cognitive differences.

While 15% of the UK population can be classified as neurodivergent, the complexities surrounding their conditions and thought processes are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. Neurodiverse individuals are not disabled or impaired per se; rather, they simply have alternative ways of processing information, interacting with the world, and applying their unique strengths.

Understanding neurodiversity isn’t just about inclusivity; it’s about reshaping your tutoring approach to make education more accessible and effective for these students. In the following sections, you will find practical strategies and insights to guide you in your work with neurodiverse learners.

Here are some more facts about neurodiversity that might be interesting:

Neurodiversity Statistics

The Importance of a Psychologically Safe Environment When Studying

Tutor Helping Neurodiverse Children Study

Creating a psychologically safe environment is crucial for tutoring neurodiverse students. In this setting, students feel free to express ideas, ask questions, and admit uncertainties without fear of judgement. This fosters self-confidence and well-being, which are vital for effective learning.

Psychological safety goes beyond mere inclusion; it removes barriers hindering participation and learning. Active listening is key—engage with the student, validate their thoughts through body language, and summarise their points to show your investment in their progress. Be patient and open to alternative communication methods like written responses or visual aids.

Online tutoring offers unique benefits for neurodiverse students, such as the comfort of home, which can lower anxiety and sensory overload. The digital platform allows quick access to a variety of resources, enabling real-time adaptability in teaching methods. Recording sessions can also aid in reinforcing learning and provide valuable material for both tutor and student to review later.

Importance of Understanding the Individual Learning Styles

In the context of tutoring neurodiverse children, understanding individual strengths and weaknesses is paramount for creating an effective learning environment. No two students are the same, and this is particularly true for neurodiverse learners, who may have highly specialised skills in one area but find traditional academic tasks to be challenging.

Begin with a comprehensive assessment that includes discussions with parents, consultations with specialists, and insights from the student themselves. This helps in tailoring your teaching approach to amplify their strengths and address challenges.

For example, a student with ADHD may excel in creative tasks but struggle with organisational skills. Use their creativity as an entry point for learning, while also introducing tools and techniques to improve their organisation.

Keep in mind that neurodiverse students may not fit neatly into traditional educational paradigms. Some students may excel in logical reasoning but struggle with verbal communication. Others might have a knack for visual-spatial tasks but find abstract reasoning to be challenging. Being aware of these nuances allows you to adapt your tutoring methods accordingly, which could mean integrating more visual aids for some students or focusing on hands-on activities for others. Learn more about learning styles here.

It’s important to continually review and adapt your methods based on assessments and feedback, as the needs of neurodiverse students can evolve. In essence, effective tutoring comes from recognising these unique cognitive landscapes and modifying your teaching strategies to provide a personalised and impactful learning experience.

Teaching Strategies for Neurodiverse Students

Understanding the neurodiverse spectrum is crucial, but knowing how to adapt your teaching strategies to cater to individual needs is equally important. Here are some techniques and methods that have proven to be effective:

Use Multi-sensory Approaches

Incorporate a variety of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning tools to make your sessions more engaging for neurodiverse students. For example, instead of solely relying on verbal explanations, use visual aids like charts or diagrams, and consider incorporating physical activities or manipulatives.

Present Information in Small, Manageable Chunks

For students who may have smaller working memory capacity or who struggle with processing large volumes of information, break down the material into smaller, more digestible pieces. This is especially useful for students with conditions like ADHD or dyslexia. Give them time to absorb each segment before moving on to the next.

Utilise Elaborative Interrogation Techniques

Encourage students to explore the ‘why’ behind concepts. This technique is particularly useful for students who benefit from a logical or analytical approach to learning. Questions like “Why does this method work?” or “How does this concept apply in the real world?” can stimulate deeper understanding.

Also check our blog about: What is an EHC Plan?

Practical Tools and Organisational Aids for Tutoring Neurodiverse Kids

The importance of organisation and structure in a tutoring session cannot be overstated, particularly for neurodiverse students who may struggle with executive functioning skills. Providing them with practical tools and aids can go a long way in helping them manage their learning better.

Digital Calendars and Reminders

In an online tutoring context, the use of digital calendars can help students keep track of their tutoring sessions, assignments, and deadlines. Reminders can be set up to notify students of upcoming commitments, aiding those who may struggle with time management.

Visual Aids

Visual aids like infographics, flow charts, and diagrams can help break down complex ideas into digestible information. This is particularly useful for students who are visual learners or who may struggle with the density of written or spoken information.

Checklists and Organisers

Providing checklists can help students manage tasks in smaller, more achievable steps, reducing the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. This aligns with Rosenshine’s principle of presenting information in small chunks.

Interactive Platforms for Online Tutoring

With the increase in remote learning, the use of interactive platforms can be beneficial, especially for neurodiverse students who may find comfort in learning from their home environment. These platforms can offer various means of interaction, such as chat, video, and interactive whiteboards, allowing students to engage in ways that they find most comfortable.

Adapted Materials

Materials may need to be adapted to meet the individual needs of each student. For example, reading materials can be provided in larger fonts or converted into audio formats for those who have difficulties with traditional text.

Routine and Structure

A set routine can offer predictability, which many neurodiverse students find comforting. This could be in the form of a set agenda for each session or visual timetables that provide a sequence of activities.

Gamified Elements for Engagement

While the tone of tutoring should be serious and focused, incorporating gamified elements can make the learning experience more engaging without diluting the educational content. This can be particularly effective for students with ADHD, as it keeps them engaged for longer periods.

Review and Adapt

The journey of tutoring neurodiverse students is a dynamic one, necessitating ongoing assessments and adaptability. The strategies and tools employed are not static; they must be reviewed and revised to ensure they are meeting the unique needs of each student.

Feedback Loops

Constructive feedback is crucial for all students, but particularly for those who are neurodiverse. Encourage open dialogue where the student feels comfortable sharing what methods are working for them and where they might need further support.

Periodic Assessments

Frequent, low-stakes assessments can provide valuable insights into how well a student is grasping the material and where they may need additional focus. These assessments can be both formal and informal, ranging from quizzes and assignments to verbal check-ins during a session.

Parental Involvement

Parents or guardians can provide essential insights into the student’s behaviours, challenges, and strengths outside the educational setting. Their feedback can be invaluable in adapting strategies and making the learning experience more effective and comfortable for the student.

Self-Review by Tutor

Taking time for self-review allows tutors to reflect on the efficacy of their teaching strategies and materials. This can be done through self-evaluation or by seeking feedback from peers, supervisors, or educational consultants familiar with neurodiversity.


Tutoring neurodiverse children is a rewarding but complex task that requires a multi-faceted approach. By understanding the intricacies of neurodiversity, creating a psychologically safe environment, getting to know individual strengths and weaknesses, employing diverse teaching strategies, fostering a growth mindset, and using practical organisational aids, tutors can make a significant impact. Regular review and adaptability are essential for evolving with the student’s unique needs, especially in the rapidly progressing field of neurodiversity education. Whether in-person or online, a tailored, empathetic, and evidence-based approach can help neurodiverse students thrive academically and personally.


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