What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability that results in difficulty with everyday activities (like household tasks, socialising or managing money). It affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support in developing new skills, understanding complicated information and interacting with other people. With the right support, many people can lead independent lives.

What level of support do people need to live independently?

The level of support needed depends on the individual. For example, someone with a mild learning disability may only need support with things like getting a job. Whereas someone with a severe or profound learning disability may need full time care and support with every aspect of their life. Some people with learning disabilities may also have other sensory or physical disabilities, autism or mental health difficulties.

What other conditions are linked to learning disabilities?

People with certain conditions can also have a learning disability. For example, people with Down’s syndrome and some people with autism.

What’s the difference between learning disabilities and learning difficulties?

Learning disability is often confused with dyslexia and mental health problems. Dyslexia is a “learning difficulty” because, unlike learning disability, it does not affect intellect.

Are mental health problems classed as a learning disability?

Mental health problems are not the same as a learning disability because they can affect anyone at any time and can often be overcome with treatment. This is not true of learning disabilities, which affect the person for their whole lifetime.

Want to know more?

The national Mencap website provides more detailed information on topics such as communicating with someone with a learning disability. It also provides excellent resources for healthcare professionals.

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