A learning disability affects the way a person learns new things in any area of life, not just at school. It affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate.
Around 1.5m people in the UK have some kind of learning difficulty. This means they can have problems when:
- understanding new or complex information
- learning new skills
- coping independently
A learning disability is not the same as a learning difficulty or mental illness.
Some children with learning disabilities grow up to be quite independent, while others need help with everyday tasks, such as washing or getting dressed, for their whole lives. It depends on their abilities.
Children and young people with a learning disability may also have special educational needs.
Adults with a learning disability may struggles with ordinary tasks of life such as looking after themselves. They may need additional support in all aspects of their lives.
What causes learning disabilities?
A learning disability happens when a person's brain development is affected, either before they are born, during their birth or in early childhood.
Several factors can affect brain development, including:
- the mother becoming ill in pregnancy
- problems during the birth that stop enough oxygen getting to the brain
- the unborn baby developing certain genes
- the parents passing certain genes to the unborn baby that make having a learning disability more likely (known as inherited learning disability)
- illness, such as meningitis, or injury in early childhood
Sometimes there is no known cause for a learning disability.
How the Tavistock and Portman can help
Having a learning disability can make life very challenging
and people with a learning disability often experience a range of psychological
difficulties in relation to their learning disability. People with a learning
disability may experience abuse and discrimination, which further affects their
We work to help people with learning disabilities and additional psychological or mental health difficulties. We work with the people and their network and provide individual, family-based and group-based psychological support. Our services are informed by NICE guidelines and evidence-based practice. We are at the forefront of the development of psychological therapeutic services for people with a learning disability.
We also work closely with education and social care professionals to ensure that the services around the person with a learning disability met the needs of the person.