As a developmental specialist, you’ll provide early-intervention services to infants and children who are delayed developmentally or who need help taking care of themselves. You’ll also work with a child’s parents to make sure they understand how to best support their child’s progress. You can provide these services in inpatient and outpatient settings as well as in clients' homes.
After assessing the services a client needs, you’ll develop an individualized plan and share this information with your client’s parents. Following this plan, you’ll help your client and her parents learn necessary skills. For example, if you’re working with a child who has moderate hearing loss, you may teach her parents the importance of talking to her from her good hearing side. You may also practice making sounds or responding to verbal cues with the child. You’ll need to document your interactions with your client as well as her progress.
For clients who need services in addition to those you provide, you can refer them to other agencies or service providers. You may also work closely with these other service providers to make sure your clients continue to make progress. An employer may require you to attend staff or treatment-team meetings and also conferences and in-service trainings.
Education and Experience
Having a bachelor’s degree in human services or a related field, such as childhood development, special education or psychology, will qualify you for most developmental specialist jobs. Most employers also want you to have at least one or two years' experience working with the population you’d serve. For example, developmental specialists at Bay Cove, which provides services to individuals and families in Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, must have previous experience working with people with mental retardation or other developmental disabilities. Developmental specialists at All Children’s Hospital, located in St. Petersburg, Fla., need at least one year of experience offering early-intervention services to infants and young children.
Certification and Licensure
Whether or not you need certification or licensure will vary by employer. Bay Cove, for example, prefers its developmental specialists be certified as nurses' aides, while All Children’s Hospital only considers applicants who have additional licensure and certification, such as in elementary education, clinical social work or mental health counseling. Some employers also require you to have a driver’s license or CPR certification. A prospective employer will tell you about any certifications or licensure you need.
Having basic computer skills, such as in word-processing or spreadsheet programs, will come in handy as will being able to physically lift and carry items and also help clients and patients who have physical impairments. You must also be able to identify and resolve problems, work well on your own and also with others and be able to work well under pressure. Being bilingual may also help you succeed as a developmental specialist.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.