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Learning Disabilities

What does it mean?

 

This is difficult question to find answers for, as there are a lot of different opinions, terminology and definitons. We have done some research on the subject and the following is a collection of the 'best bits' from around the internet which might provide some help for adults with learning disabilities and their families and carers in understanding the term. Where possible we have included links to the websites for you to get some more information; saving you the time of searching yourself. 

 

The term learning disability covers a broad range of individuals, each with different strengths and capabilities, as well as needs. Knowing the degree of intellectual impairment a person has tells you very little about who they are, but these terms may help the person and those who support them in understanding the needs they may have, and the kinds of support they may require. When providing care and support the person should always come first and the label or category second.

 

People can often find the term ‘learning disability’ confusing because there are several different explanations about what a learning disability is. Learning disability and learning difficulties are terms that are commonly used in the UK.

 

These two terms are often interchangeable when used in the context of health and social care for adults. Some people with learning disabilities prefer the term learning difficulties.

 

In the UK we have used the terms profound, severe, moderate and mild to describe people with learning disabilities, but there are no clear dividing lines between the groups. Furthermore, there is no clear cut off point between people with mild learning disabilities and the general population and you may hear the term borderline learning disability being used. 

 

BILD Definitions of learning disability and learning difficulties www.bild.org.uk

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

 

Learning disability support

 

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. 

 

Mancap, A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life. 

 

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. 

 

Mencap, https://www.mencap.org.uk/learning-disability-explained/what-learning-disability

 

You can find details of our learning disability support programmes here.

 

Valuing People describes Learning disability as including the presence of:

  • A significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with;
  • A reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

 

This definition encompasses people with a broad range of disabilities. The presence of a low intelligence quotient, for example an IQ below 70, is not, of itself, a sufficient reason for deciding whether an individual should be provided with additional health and social care support. An assessment of social functioning and communication skills should also be taken into account when determinin need. Many people with learning disabilities also have physical and/or sensory impairments. 

 

The definition covers adults with autism who also have learning disabilities, but not those with a higher level autistic spectrum disorder who may be of average or even above average intelligence – such as some people with Asperger’s Syndrome.

 

Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century, Published 28 March 2001 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/valuing-people-a-new-strategy-for-learning-disability-for-the-21st-century

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities, with onset in childhood. The term general learning disability is now used in the UK instead of terms such as mental handicap or mental retardation. The degree of disability can vary greatly, being classified as mild, moderate, severe or profound.

 

Children with a general learning disability find it more difficult to learn, understand and do things compared with other children of the same age. Children and adults with intellectual disabilities have an increased prevalence of health problems and their health needs are often unrecognised and unmet. They are also more likely to experience abuse and less likely to access health and other support services successfully.

 

General learning disability differs from specific learning difficulty, where the person has difficulty in one area - such as in reading, writing or understanding - but has no problem with learning in other areas. Specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, do not affect intellectual ability.

 

Learning disability/intellectual impairment which arise in adulthood (eg, due to head injury) may raise similar health and social care issues but do not fall under the definition of generalised learning disabilities.

 

Definitions of learning disability vary but say broadly the same thing. Generalised learning disability is defined by three core criteria:

 

  • Lower intellectual ability (usually an IQ of less than 70).
  • Significant impairment of social or adaptive functioning.
  • Onset in childhood.

 

Although the term 'intellectual disability' is becoming accepted internationally, 'learning disability' is the most widely used and accepted term in the UK.

 

The 2001 White Paper on the health and social care of people with learning disabilities, included the following definition of learning disabilities[4]:

Learning disability includes the presence of:

 

  • significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, or to learn new skills impaired intelligence with;
  • a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

 

A classification of mild, moderate, severe and profound has been used to describe the degree of learning disability. IQ measurement has traditionally been used to define severity:

 

  • A person with an IQ of less than 20 would be described as having a profound learning disability.
  • A person with an IQ of 20-34, a severe learning disability
  • A person with an IQ of 35-49, moderate learning disability
  • A person with an IQ of 50-70, mild learning disability.

 

Patient https://patient.info/doctor/general-learning-disability

The following conditions often include some type of learning disability:

 

  • Down’s syndrome – caused by a chromosomal abnormality, this may lead to delays in development and some varied level of learning disability
  • Williams syndrome – rare in the UK, and caused by genes, this leads to delays in movement, communication and social skills. For more information on this condition, visit the Williams Syndrome Foundation website
  • Autism – a common condition that causes a person to see and experience the world differently, which may occur alongside learning disability in some people. For more information on autism, visit the National Autistic Society website
  • Asperger syndrome – a milder form of autism, which affects communication, learning and social skills and which sometimes involves learning disability. For more information on Asperger syndrome, visit the Asperger’s Syndrome Foundation website
  • Fragile X syndrome – a rare condition that is caused by genetic mutation, which causes autistic-like symptoms and learning disability, the latter being most common in boys with the condition. For more information, visit the Fragile X Society website
  • Cerebral palsy – a condition caused by brain injury during or soon after birth, which sometimes causes learning disability as well as physical disability. For more information on cerebral palsy, visit the Scope website

 

NRS Healthcare, https://www.nrshealthcare.co.uk/articles/condition/learning-disability

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