Disability Services at UMass Amherst

Learning Specialists

Learning Specialists are staff trained in disability-related learning issues. They know how to apply unique, specific expertise and knowledge to a disabled student’s academic needs. A Learning Specialist is not a tutor, although some subject-matter related teaching can and does take place during a meeting. Learning Specialists’ seek to match student’s specific disabilities and skills to their specific learning requirements through the use of individualized learning techniques, study skills, reading techniques, organizational techniques and other active learning skills. All of this skill building is taught in a manner that is directly related to whatever course or class the student is taking and struggling with and in addition, is specifically tied to the student’s individual learning style and capability.

Teaching methods utilize organizational skills, test taking skills, self-monitoring, time management, self-management, and responsibility strategies. In addition, Learning Specialists are skilled at developing teaching strategies designed to enhance social skills and life skills and to provide an external structure in order to create automatic integration and accomplishment of daily living activities. Teaching methodologies also include varied instructional tactics to include scaffolding, cubing, webbing, color coding, and other meta-cognitive strategies.

Learning Specialists work on average, one hour per week with each student assigned to them; although more meeting times may be deemed necessary. During a session, the Learning Specialist works with the student to facilitate whatever obstacle is being experienced. For example, a student may have a strong knowledge of Chemistry, but have tremendous difficulty in putting his/her knowledge on paper. The Learning Specialist would work with the student to help retrieve the information and assist them in communicating in an effective way. The Learning Specialist may use editing techniques to help to make written reports more understandable to others.

A Learning Specialist can play a crucial role in providing reasonable accommodations for students’ disabilities. This can consist of engaging in direct accommodations that allow students to level the out-of-class playing field. Learning Specialists enable accommodated students to compete with other non-disabled students in an equitable manner that further facilitates the accurate expression of their learning and knowledge, resulting in academic success.