What Is a Child Development Specialist

child development specialist

If you have a child with special needs, you may be a child development specialist. A child development specialist provides services to those with disorders and disabilities as well as individuals and families. Child development specialists specialize in assessments, prevention, and treatment of disorders and disabilities in children.

Special education teachers, physical therapists, psychologists, and teachers also are child development specialists. Some child development specialists attend a four-year college and get a bachelor’s degree. Others get their bachelor’s degree on an on-the-job basis after two years of college. A majority of child development specialists who attend four-year colleges go on to become doctoral candidates. Some pursue postgraduate studies at a university or school of medicine. There are a few child development specialists who chose to get their doctorate on the job by attending college and working in a child development center.

Variety Of Services

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A child development specialist provides a variety of services to individuals and families with developmental disabilities. Most specialize in applied psychology, providing psychological evaluations and counseling to families who need help with their children. Specialists also work with educators and other professionals such as school counselors, special education instructors, licensed child care providers, and childcare staff. They also perform developmental screenings for families that do not have any children with developmental disorders. Child development specialists work in school settings, daycare centers, hospitals, children’s clinics, private homes, and other educational and healthcare facilities.

Children with autism, cerebral palsy, and other mental or physical disabilities learn through play, interaction, and communication with others. It is up to the child development specialist to determine what form of therapy will help these children develop their abilities so they can live normal and successful lives. A child development specialist helps parents and caretakers implement new strategies and techniques to help the child learn new skills. The specialist helps to provide stimulation and structure for the child’s environment. These professionals are also trained to assist with emotional, physical, and mental development.

Have Great Demand

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The Social Services Programs of each State requires child development specialists to be licensed to provide these services. These specialists must take an oath of office and have an approved plan in place to serve the community. Child development specialists perform specific functions in each State. For example, those in Texas must have been certified in Early Childhood Development before working in this state. Child development specialists may work in child care centers and other social services programs, or they may work in public institutions such as hospitals and daycare centers.

A child development specialist helps families who have children with special needs meet State and federal government requirements for child development services. This may include meeting with legal guardians, teachers, college and university representatives, concerned parties in the child’s life, and anyone else who has a stake in the child’s development. Specialists evaluate these needs and develop an action plan that will help these families meet their needs. They will also implement the plan and assist those who need ongoing support.

Assist Better In All Ways

Those who become a specialist focus on early childhood education and development, working with teachers and educators to establish a child’s academic and emotional needs. They also help parents and caretakers of special needs children understand the assessment processes used to determine what supports a particular family needs. A development specialist can be instrumental in the development of an individual’s education or they can work to support the education of the whole family. A specialist can work in conjunction with parents, educators, coaches, teachers, and any other person who has a stake in a child’s educational success. Specialists are especially valuable for organizations that work with severely mentally and physically challenged youth.


Aspiring development specialists can begin their careers by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology. Those who earn a four-year degree can pursue a career as a school social worker or an occupational therapist. There is a shortage of school social workers and occupational therapists in many states, so these positions often require training to qualify. Those who are passionate about serving youth and have a graduate degree in applied psychology may find that they can find employment in both fields.

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