Introduction to Peer Tutoring


 Mild Mental Disability

What is a mild mental disability?

A mild mental disability is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills.  These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child. They are likely to have trouble learning in school. They will learn but it will take them longer. There may be some things that they can not learn (e.g., higher level math).

As a person grows and learns, his or her ability to get along in the world grows and changes as well. A student with a mild mental disability can do well in school but is likely to need individual help.

As they become adults, most people with a mild mental disability can live independently.  Other people may not even consider them as handicapped.

How is a mild mental disability diagnosed?

Mild mental disabilities are diagnosed by looking at two main things.  These are:

  • the ability of a person's brain to learn, think, solve problems, and make sense of the world (called IQ or intellectual functioning)

  • whether the person has the skills he or she needs to live independently (called adaptive behavior, or adaptive functioning

  • Intellectual functioning, or IQ,  is measured by a test called an IQ test.  The average score on an IQ test is 100.  People scoring on an IQ test between 75 to 50 are thought to have a mild mental disability. 

How can a tutor help?

  • Recognize that you can make an enormous difference in this student's life! Find out what the student's strengths and interests are, and emphasize them.  Praise their successes!

  • Be as concrete as possible.  Demonstrate what you mean rather than just explaining with words.

  • When directions are given orally in a the classroom, write the directions down for the student.  Break the directions down into smaller steps if necessary.

  • Demonstrate the steps to a problem and then have the student do the steps, one at a time. Provide assistance if necessary.

  • Give the student immediate feedback when they finish a problem or assignment.  Assist them with any problems they might be having.

  • Practice, practice, practice!  When finished with daily assignments, review information learned in the class.  Students with mild mental disabilities need more practice and will  take more time to memorize the facts.

  • Read out loud with the student to encourage improvement of reading skills.  Take turns reading with the student you tutor

  • When reading, stop after every section and discuss what you read. Have the student explain the main points to you.  Write them down to assist with studying at a later date.

  • Proofread writing assignments for your student and give them feedback.

  • Assist with note taking if and when necessary.  Students with mild mental disabilities may have difficulty writing notes and listening at the same time. 

  • Be a friend to the student you tutor in the classroom and in environments outside of the classroom.  Your friendship could mean the world to this student.

For information about mild mental disabilities please visit these websites: