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The Surprising Value of Learning Interventions

Written By Geoff Nixon . April 17, 2022

Treat Causes or Instruct?

Is your child feeling overwhelmed by the amount of school-related work that they have to deal with, day in and day out? Do they seem to live a crazy busy life, packed with school commitments, sports practice, and extracurricular activities?

While good education, exercise, and socialization are extremely important in the development of a healthy, happy, and successful child, they should never come at the expense of other vital aspects of their lives – such as addressing (and treating) an underlying cognitive or learning issue.

Instruction vs Intervention

You have two choices: instruction or a learning intervention. 

Instruction is incremental, working around the underlying problem.  It’s a slow process, but there is almost always at least some progress.  Most frustratingly, instruction – tutoring, most reading software – does not change the underlying picture for your child. The sources of delay are not addressed by instruction.

Learning learning interventions are a different approach. They have exciting potential – fast acting, often transformational if the underlying cause is properly identified and addressed, but the outcomes are less predictable.

This article explains.

What Is a Learning Intervention?

The word “intervention” is widely used in many educational environments, and it usually refers to the provision of ad-hoc, focused, and personalized teaching sessions. Often, these sessions are aimed at preparing a child (or children) for their next test, or helping them fill a very specific gap in their knowledge.

These interventions, normally, take place outside standard school hours, and are delivered in a one-to-one or small group setting.
Generally, these interventions put the emphasis on strengthening a child’s knowledge or learning of specific concepts or topics that they have shown difficulties with – not on supporting a child in a longer-term, more continuous, and more holistic way.

However, learning interventions are much more valuable when they also work on reinforcing a child’s underlying cognitive abilities, too, as opposed to purely offering more focused learning support in view of a pre-established target or milestone.

This is particularly crucial because, often, learning difficulties go hand in hand with other issues, such as concerning behaviors and cognitive problems, that might not be immediately obvious.

Examples of Learning Interventions

To better understand what learning interventions look like in practice, it can be helpful to identify some of the main types of learning interventions.  The focus here is interventions at home, not programs at school like IEPs.

Behavioral Interventions

During this type of intervention, a child who is showing some concerning behavior is offered specialized support to address, tackle, challenge, and change that behavior – both in class and outside.

Group Academic Interventions

These common types of interventions occur in a classroom-based setting, where a teacher offers academic support to small groups of children who are all displaying difficulties with a specific topic or subject.

Individual Academic Interventions

Similar to the group academic interventions, these, though, happen in a one-to-one setting in which a teacher or teaching assistant addresses the challenges of an individual student and helps them to overcome those challenges in view of an upcoming test or exam.
Individual Psychological Interventions

When a child goes through some trauma or loss, their academic performance might plummet. For this reason, children who are experiencing psychological difficulties might benefit from learning interventions that enable them to process their trauma and find adequate mental health support.

Gemm Learning – for Reading and Learning

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord software, a reading and learning intervention software.  Children work at home for 30-50 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week with consistent Gemm Learning monitoring and coaching.

Metalearning Interventions

These are the most complete, and also the most valuable, types of interventions that you can offer your child. Through these, a child can express their individual learning difficulties – both with a specific topic and in general – as well as find support to address and solve their challenging behavior or their learning difficulties.

The Value of Learning Interventions

Learning interventions have a wide array of advantages, because they attempt to remove impediments and change the way a child learns or behaves.  The benefits of learning interventions include:

  • Fast acting – it is always faster to treat underlying causes than work around them
  • Lasting gains – by targeting the cause of difficulty, learning interventions can make a permanent change.
  • Profound change improves mental health, self-confidence, and motivation
  • Improved quality of life – if an intervention can get your child off the tutoring treadmill, out of the resource room and/or interested in reading, your child’s life is much enhanced.

But how can you ensure that you are creating the best possible intervention for your child?

Ideas to Support Interventions

Gemm Learning provides intensive learning and reading interventions that targets the cognitive, language and reading skills needed to build reading automaticity and reading comprehension.  Here are some aspects to consider before taking on an intervention like Gemm Learning.

Assess Your Child’s Needs

Gemm Learning and in fact most interventions are individualized, they adapt to each student. And so there is no need to worry about where your child fits on a learning continuum.  Learning interventions tend to zero in on a child’s level and build from there.

However, there is a consideration.  Does your child need this?  A learning intervention is a commitment.  Almost by definition, they are intense as they target deep-seated difficulties, learning abilities that challenge your child. Working on those learning vulnerabilities takes a major effort from your child.

Yes, the value of learning interventions is that they can often dramatic and life-changing results, but there are no free lunches. Those benefits only come with effort.  We are biased, but we would say that if the alternative is more tutoring, then yes, a learning intervention is worth it. Breaking the cycle of learning frustration once and for all can be life changing for your child.

Make the Sessions Enjoyable

Make your child part of the intervention design, get buy in and then make it as enjoyable as possible.

Gemm Learning provides setup advice and designs the program based our our pre-start testing.  All you need to do is get your child into a routine of doing the program – at least 4 days a week for 30 minutes.

Start out by discussing it with your child.  Review your decision to do it, and how it will help your child.  Gemm Learning has a pledge it encourages children to sign, and I want to be a better reader pledge.

And then, try to make it enjoyable for your child.  This can come from a stress-free routine where your child does not feel overloaded. You can help your child here by taking things out of your child’s schedule to create this room. That might be negotiating with the school over homework – doing less while on the program – or dropping other activities, such as tutors for a few months.A

Another way to add enjoyment is to add rewards. Gemm Learning’s Fast ForWord program is gamified, it has scores and success celebrations.  We have Gemm City, a rewards site or we can recommend other ideas to keep your child motivated.

Keep the Sessions Consistent

Life doesn’t always go to plan, but children thrive on routine and predictability – particularly, children with neurological or cognitive difficulties.

For this reason, try to keep your intervention sessions as consistent as you can. That means the same time each day or if the schedule does not allow for that, at least a consistent weekly routine.


Learning interventions can have  a profound impact on your child’s life. Not only academics, but also self-esteem and socially.  So much of a child’s life is easier and more enjoyable if school is going well.  Because of these profound gains, in almost all cases, interventions are worth exploring and represent a better option that tutoring, which is more of the same and where nothing changes.

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