Having a learning disability means people find it harder to learn certain life skills. How this presents itself from person to person varies, but may include aspects such as learning new things, communication, managing money, reading, writing, or personal care. Some people are born with a disability whereas others may develop one as a result of an accident or illness in childhood.
The range of learning disabilities is huge. Someone with mild disabilities may be able to live independently with minimal support, whereas someone with severe and profound disabilities may require 24-hour care, and help with performing most daily living skills.
Some people with learning disabilities have additional physical disabilities and/or sensory impairments, while 60-70% of people who have an autistic spectrum condition also have a learning disability.
Learning disabilities are caused by something affecting the development of the brain. This may occur before birth (prenatally), during birth, or in early childhood. Learning disabilities can be caused by any one of a variety of factors, or by a combination. Sometimes the specific cause isn't known. Possible causes include the following:
- An inherited condition, meaning certain genes passed from the parents affected the brain development, for example Fragile X
- Chromosome abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome or Turner syndrome
- Complications during birth resulting in a lack of oxygen to the brain
- A very premature birth
- Mother’s illness during pregnancy
- The mother drinking during pregnancy, resulting in, for example, foetal alcohol syndrome
- A debilitating illness or injury in early childhood affecting brain development, for example a road traffic accident or child abuse
- Contact with damaging material (like radiation)
- Neglect, and/or a lack of mental stimulation early in life
The Shropshire Transforming Care Partnership (TCP) is working across health and social care to provide coordinated services for people with learning disabilities and autism with behaviours that may challenge.
There are many organisations which offer information and support, training and social activities for those who have a learning disability. Find out more from the links on this page.