What is a learning disability?

BY: Ciaran Willis


A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability to understand new and complex information and to carry out everyday activities – such as socialising, doing household tasks or managing money – which lasts for life.

People with a learning disability often find it difficult to do things on their own, learn new skills and look after themselves.

But everyone is different and learning disabilities can vary hugely from person to person.

Learning disabilities can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. If you have a mild learning disability you may be quite independent and only need help to find a job or filling in complicated forms.

On the other hand, people with severe or profound learning disabilities often need 24-hour support and help with every aspect of their life. Some may also have physical disabilities.

People with certain health conditions, including Down’s Syndrome and some people with autism, often have a learning disability as well.

It’s important to remember that learning disability does not properly describe a person fully. People who have learning disabilities are whole human beings, with different personalities and interests. They are family members, friends, sportspeople, artists, activists, gardeners, gamers, comedians and much more. Everyone is different and unique.

At LDN London, we listen to people, respect them as individuals, and help them to live safe, happy, and healthy lives.

Types of learning disabilities

Learning disabilities and their effects can be different for each person. There are some things that people often have in common though.

People with mild learning disabilities may be able to do most things for themselves, including socialising and communicating well with others. However, they might need support to find a job or for other areas of life they find difficult.

People with a severe or profound learning disability can have big difficulties in understanding and communicating information, as well as learning new things.  They often need extensive, 24-hour care and support to live their daily lives. People with severe learning disabilities often have other disabilities as well.


What health conditions are connected to learning disabilities?

If a person has certain health conditions, they might be more likely to have a learning disability:

What causes a learning disability?

Learning disabilities can be caused by an issue that changes how someone’s brain develops. This may happen before a person is born, in childbirth or in childhood.

The reason for this might be:
– A mother getting ill during pregnancy
– Problems during birth that stops enough oxygen from getting to the brain
– An illness, such as meningitis, or injury in childhood

A learning disability is also more likely if certain genes are passed on from your parents. (Genes are the biological information you get from your parents).

There are also some health conditions where you may be more likely to have a learning disability, such as Down’s Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.

Some people with epilepsy also have a learning disability and so do many people with autism.

How to support a person with a learning disability?

We make sure that our support is person-centred, and we carefully consider someone’s unique needs. We have values which we follow when we support people.

Here are some general tips to follow when providing support:

Mencap have an invaluable list of resources, with information from many organisations, on their website: https://www.mencap.org.uk/learning-disability-explained/resources-healthcare-professionals


How can you help?

Support us

Donate to fund our new community hub. The hub will help people with learning disabilities learn new skills and enable them to play a greater role in their community. https://www.ldnlondon.org/harrow-road-project/

Join an event:

Take part in a fundraising event and challenge yourself, while raising money to create a better world for people with learning disabilities. https://www.ldnlondon.org/get-involved/organise-a-fundraiser/

Become a support worker:

We are always looking for caring individuals who want to make a difference to other people’s lives. Consider joining LDN London as a support worker, where you get to make a difference every day. https://www.ldnlondon.org/work-for-us/



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