What is a Child Development Specialist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2018
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A child development specialist is a person who works with children with disabilities and their parents. The specialist assesses and observes children to identify the ways that their disabilities may interfere with learning, motor skills, and other aspects of development. This information is combined into a plan that will be used to provide the child with intervention and attention to help the child learn and develop life skills. A child development specialist career usually requires a master's degree in child development along with clinical practice.

Development specialists can work for school districts and private consulting firms. When an educator or child care provider is concerned that a child may have a developmental or intellectual disability that has not been identified, development specialists may be called in to perform an evaluation. Many educators recognize the importance of identifying disabilities early and development specialists play a key role in this process. Children with known disabilities can also benefit from an assessment by a child development specialist.


Sometimes, a child with a disability simply needs some minor accommodations to learn and grow. Basic steps like providing children with visual instructions as well as written ones, for example, can help those children learn and keep pace with their peers. Accommodations can also include changing the area where a child sits in the classroom, providing students with specialized learning materials, and offering support at home. Assigning an aide may be helpful for some children to assist with daily tasks, help out in the classroom, and provide support that will allow a child to be more independent.

More complex disabilities may require more intensive work with a development specialist. Children with communication disorders, mood disorders, and severe learning disorders may struggle to interact with the people around them and can become disruptions in the classroom. Support at home can help these children develop skills to interact with peers, and, ultimately, provide those children with opportunities to become independent adults. The child development specialist may work with a child for several years, making adjustments to the plan as the child develops.

Development specialists take a community-centered approach. Rather than just focusing on the child, they look at the environment and the people who interact with the child to identify areas where changes can be made. When working with children with disabilities, a child development specialist keeps in mind that disabilities can present in many different ways, and that two children with the same disability can turn out very differently. Helping children find their strengths and develop them is an important part of this work, as is making sure that people who live and work with a child understand how they can provide support.



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