Written by: Katie Chin and Jessica Hung, FCSN Voices Youth Reporters
Graphics by: Katherine Geng, FCSN Voices Graphic Artist
SN Tutoring connects FCSN volunteers with special needs individuals, allowing them to build valuable relationships through online 1:1 tutoring sessions. Students can choose to study any subject while the tutor and parent work together to create a flexible curriculum suited for the student’s needs. In the SN Tutoring Program Spotlight series, FCSN Voices highlights outstanding tutors nominated by parents of participating students.
Parent Ms. Liu recently thanked Tutor Alison Ding for her sharp insight, patience, and open-mindedness while teaching. “Alison is not only willing to help special needs kids with extra patience, but she also takes the effort to adjust her way to meet the kid’s level of ability. Not all professionals in the special education field can do that, but Alison does. She quickly builds the bond with her student and keeps open communication with the parents so that both of us can work together as a team. In summary, she is a great tutor!”
Originally, Alison was paired up with her student for dance lessons. After experimenting with many different subjects such as art, they ultimately decided to focus on practicing communicational and speech skills with each other. Their lessons take place online, and they usually meet once a week. Alison and her student both enjoy doing similar things, which helped them connect with each other faster.
Before each lesson, Alison eases her student into a conversation by letting her student share any fun things that happened since they last met. She also incorporates topics that her student is struggling on into the conversation and corrects her student with the appropriate phrases.
“I have to kind of calibrate myself to what [my student] is thinking, since she has a unique way of thinking and expressing herself,” Alison says. “So I have to figure out what she’s actually trying to say.”
Alison and her student had a chance to meet in-person, and she discovered that visual aids allowed her student to communicate better. As a result, she started to use a new method to teach her student. They would share pictures in class and describe them, while Alison corrected her student’s grammar. This meeting was a memorable moment for both and greatly strengthened their connection.
Ms. Liu found that the program and Alison’s individualized curriculum and teaching style has greatly benefited and improved her child’s communication skills and her desire to interact with people. Cooperation between parent and tutor plays an important role in creating the best learning environment for the student; at the beginning and end of each session, they discuss any adjustments needed to better accommodate the student’s current mood as well as plans for the next class.
“Alison is very open to my suggestions and feedback, and she’s also very open to [my child],” Ms. Liu said. “We made a lot of adjustments as [my child’s] interest and focus shifted over time.”
Ms. Liu considers an important part of Alison’s tutoring sessions with her child to be the day-to-day conversation they practice and engage in. Alison helps her student build the bridge between what she learns from her speech therapist and how she can apply those lessons to communicate with typical people.
Patience and understanding play a key role in the cooperation between Alison and her student. “Over the course of the program, I saw Alison show great patience with [my child],” Ms. Liu said. “She not only tries her best to detect what [my child] really means, but she’s also eager to learn new skills to better help my child. In addition, the way Alison interacts with my child sets a role model for her.”
Alison and Ms. Liu strongly encourage volunteers and special needs individuals to join this program, as it is a very rewarding experience to take part in.
“Just keep your mind open,” Ms. Liu concludes.