A learning disability specialist typically works with school age children to diagnose and treat learning disabilities. In some cases, they also work with college students. They also interact with teachers and parents to develop plans to help children work through learning disabilities and to accommodate those disabilities as much as possible. In many cases, a learning disability specialist works in a school or school district.
Typically, a learning disability specialist has spent many years earning an advanced degree. Most have completed a high school, bachelor's, and master's degree in education, educational psychology, or other related field. They may also have experience working with students with disabilities, either as a special education instructor or as a social worker.
After completing their education, learning disability specialists are often employed by a school, school district or a regional government department. They may be responsible for students with learning disabilities in multiple schools. They are often the only expert in their region, so their workload can be quite burdensome at times.
An individual who works as a learning disability specialist must also have a firm grasp of the laws concerning students with disabilities. The rights of children with disabilities to public school and additional accommodations have been a controversial topic, and many laws have been written to describe and enforce the rights of these children. The specialist must always act within the guidelines of the law, so it is important to understands it fully.
The process of diagnosing a child with a learning disability usually begins with a teacher or parent voicing a concern about a child's development. In many cases, the learning disability is not universal throughout all subjects, but manifests in a particular area. Parents must decide if it is serious enough for professional consultation, or if it can be mitigated through other means, such as extra help in a subject or alternative methods of education.
If parents or the teacher realize that there is a problem, they will often consult a learning disability specialist to assess the child. Assessments can take place through pen and pencil exams, interactive interviews, or simply through observation. In many cases, the specialist will request to see examples of the student's work and talk to the parents and teachers to understand why they believe the child has a disability.
The specialist must carefully review the assessment and file an official report. After he or she makes a recommendation, it is usually up to the parents to decide how to proceed. If the parents agree, the parents, teacher, and specialist work together to form a plan to accommodate the child's learning disabilities and to help the child work through them. This may take the form of alternative school work assignments, allowing extra time for school assessments, special equipment to aid in learning, and many other types of considerations.
Disability specialists may follow up with children and parents from time to time, and often, the child's progress monitored. In severe cases, the child may not improve. If this is the case, the specialist may recommend a change in school environment or even a specialized type of school created especially for children with learning disabilities.