There are one and a half million people in Britain with a learning disability, caused by the way the brain develops before birth, or by an accident or illness at birth or in early childhood. Sometimes the condition has a genetic basis, and is inherited. Down’s syndrome and Fragile X are the two most common inherited conditions that cause a learning disability. Autism can also bring a learning disability, though not always.
A learning disability is not the same as learning difficulties, which include conditions like dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia. Although there is no formally agreed definition, learning difficulties may be regarded as obstacles which make it more difficult for someone to learn and/or interact with other people, while learning disabilities have a significant impact on the person’s development, and mean that they need help in order to understand information, acquire skills and manage independently.
Profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) mean that the person needs help with every aspect of their life, including daily activities such as eating, washing, getting dressed and going to the toilet. Information about aids to help with all aspects of daily living can be found by following the links at the bottom of this page to the appropriate sections.
Sadly, people with learning disabilities face prejudice and discrimination, experiencing worse healthcare, and inconsistent treatment with regard to education, training and employment. Less than 20% of learning disabled people work, many of those in part-time and poorly paid jobs, although two thirds of them want to work. At least half the adults with learning disabilities still live with their parents, without the opportunities to learn independent living skills and make choices about how they live their lives.
With the right support, there is no reason why the great majority of people with a learning disability should not enjoy living independently, working at a proper job, having a social life.