Skip to content

Learning disabilities

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

It is thought that up to 350,000 people have severe learning disabilities. This figure is increasing. A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe. Some people with a mild learning disability can talk easily and look after themselves, but take a bit longer than usual to learn new skills. Others may not be able to communicate at all and have more than one disability

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 we 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 psychological well-being.

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.

Our related services