A learning disability (LD) specialist is an education professional who works to provide services to students with learning disabilities. In addition to working directly with students, an LD specialist will typically liaise with other education professionals, school staff, psychologists, and others to ensure that children with learning disabilities get an education which is tailored to their needs. As a general rule, employment in this field requires a master's degree in special education, in addition to significant amounts of field training.
Children with learning disabilities face a number of unique challenges in the classroom and in the outside world. Historically, students who learned in unconventional ways or struggled with the classroom environment often fell through the cracks. In the late 20th century, however, a growing recognition of learning disabilities led to radical reforms in the way such students are handled. Many educators now recognize that with accommodations and some creative solutions, students with learning disabilities can realize their full potential.
An LD specialist is able to assess individual students to determine their unique needs. Typically this includes the administration and evaluation of tests, along with psychological evaluations. An LD specialist may also talk with parents and family members to learn more about the student, and many have experience in differential diagnosis which allows them to pin down the precise nature of the child's learning disability.
Once a learning disability is recognized and diagnosed, an LD specialist develops an education plan for that student which will accommodate his or her needs. This plan may include everything from state-mandated accommodations for students with learning disabilities, like more time for test-taking, to creative approaches in the classroom to keep the student focused and interested in learning.
Often, an LD specialist acts as an advocate for a student with disabilities, and may work to establish positive relationships with teachers, school administrators, and other education professionals to ensure that students who need help get services promptly. LD specialists can also work in a policy capacity, helping to formulate laws to protect students with learning disabilities, and promoting an inclusive school environment.
Someone who wants to work as an LD specialist should have a genuine interest in education, and in learning disabilities. He or she should be prepared for extensive training in the education field with a focus on the unique needs of students with learning disabilities, which may include education in far-flung fields like genetics along with field work in classrooms with actual students.