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What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops before, during or shortly after birth. It is always lifelong and sometimes there's no known cause for a learning disability.

People with learning disabilities need support to develop new skills, understand complex information, and interact with others.

Someone with a learning disability may also have physical disabilities and other medical conditions. They may have complex needs and require high levels of support.

Learning disability is often confused with mental health problems. These can affect anyone at any time and may be fully overcome with treatment; this is not true of a learning disability. However, some people with learning disability can also have mental health problems.


What conditions are related to learning disability?

A lot of people with a learning disability may have more than one diagnosis and have a set of conditions that makes them require person-centred support; which mean unique and tailored to their needs. Conditions associated with learning disability are: Down’s Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, Challenging Behaviour and Global Developmental Delay.


How many people have a learning disability?

According to NHS statistics “Around 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability. It's thought up to 350,000 people have a severe learning disability. This figure is increasing.” The latest NHS data from 2017-18 show that 1 in 215 people, across all ages, have a learning disability.


How can I help someone with a learning disability?

Children and adults with learning disabilities will need some extra support to meet their emotional, behavioural, physical, educational and social needs. They do require lifelong support and the intensity of the support varies according to their needs.

Families, the healthcare system, the educational system, local authorities and service providers usually collaborate together to create a tailored plan of support, which changes during the person’s lifetime. HF Mencap can offer specialised services which can directly support the person with learning disabilities but also their families and carers.