What is a Learning Disability?

A learning disability is a general umbrella term that explains and covers multiple neurodevelopmental differences that affect people’s ability to learn new information, gain new skills and perform daily tasks. A learning disability can vary in severity, which is why learning disabilities are divided into three groups: mild, moderate and severe. 

Learning disabilities also affect different areas of people’s social and cognitive functioning. Learning disabilities involve difficulties in one or more basic psychological processes like auditory and visual perception, organisation and abstraction, memory, expressive language and motor skills. 

Having constant support from family members, friends, and the community is essential in gaining maximum independence and living a fulfilled life.

Signs of Learning Disabilities

The first signs of a learning disability are usually noticeable during nursery or primary school, but they can also be noticed in adults. For some children, some of the first signs of a learning disability are having difficulty reading, writing or communicating. Still, it is essential to know that experiencing one of these signs doesn’t always imply a learning disability. 

The most common signs of a learning disability include:

  • Speech delays
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts 
  • Difficulty understanding basic concepts 
  • Poor motor skills, e.g. holding pencils, eating utensils
  • Short attention span 
  • Having a hard time understanding other people’s feelings 
  • Finding it stressful to work in a group 

Learning Disability Examples

Different types of learning disabilities impact different parts of the brain and, therefore, influence various segments of cognitive development. For example, some people experience challenges with:

  • Learning new skills 
  • Reading, writing and mathematics
  • Focusing 
  • Communication
  • Planning 
  • Managing time 
  • Maintaining health and social well-being 

Everyone is unique, and it’s important to understand that people with a learning disability may have different skills and challenges.

Learning Disabilities in Children

Children with learning disabilities usually require assistance and clear instructions from specialists, educators and family members. Usually, it’s the specialists who test the child’s intellectual abilities and decide on a care plan or an intervention. The child’s parents and other healthcare professionals work together to find the best referrals, therapy types and supporting activities. For children with a learning disability, it’s best to divide the signs into groups according to age.

For children aged 3-5, the signs of a learning disability include:

  • Trouble finding the right words 
  • Difficulty learning numbers, colours, alphabet, etc
  • Difficulty pronouncing words 
  • Difficulty following directions and routines 
  • Difficulty using the zipper, buttons or tying shoe laces 

For children aged 5-9, the signs of learning disabilities include:

  • Misspelling words 
  • Confusing words when reading 
  • Taking a long time to learn new skills 
  • Difficulty learning the connection between sounds and letters 
  • Difficulty telling the time 
  • Difficulty learning basic math concepts 

For children aged 10-13, the symptoms of learning disabilities include:

  • Difficulty comprehending math and reading 
  • Difficulty solving open-ended test questions 
  • Avoiding reading aloud 
  • Poor organisational skills 
  • Poor handwriting 
  • Difficulty following classroom directions 

It is essential to pay attention to developmental milestones, which is important for early detection and finding the best way to address challenges.

Learning Disabilities in Adults

There are examples of people with a learning disability who were not diagnosed until adulthood. People with an undiagnosed learning disability usually face challenges during school or work, which can result in people developing mental health issues and low self-esteem. 

The signs of a learning disability in adults include:

  • Memory challenges
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Difficulty remaining focused 
  • Difficulty following conversations 
  • Difficulty reading and writing 
  • Difficulty understanding and performing math concepts 
  • Challenges with problem-solving and critical thinking 

What Causes a Learning Disability?

Learning disabilities can be caused by many factors affecting brain development before birth, during birth, or early childhood. Before birth, some causes, like an infection, can affect the central nervous system, which can cause a learning disability. A person can also be born with a learning disability if they didn’t get enough oxygen during childbirth, or were born prematurely. In childhood, people may develop a learning disability due to frequent seizures, medical conditions and even head injuries.

Additionally, some of the causes may be genetic. Genes are chemicals in our bodies filled with the information that makes us who we are, and certain genes can cause a higher likelihood of learning disabilities.

Learning Disability Diagnosis

A learning disability can be diagnosed at any time, even at birth. However, in most cases, a learning disability is diagnosed during early childhood. There are even instances of people receiving a diagnosis in adulthood.

Although getting a diagnosis can be an emotional and challenging experience, it is often the first and best step in accessing the proper care and support essential for the future. Usually, GPs make the diagnosis, but in most cases, parents or teachers are the first to notice that a child is having difficulties in certain areas. The diagnosis can be:

  • Given at a regular developmental check 
  • Given at a psychological check
  • Identified by teachers 
  • Identified by a clinical psychologist 

Receiving a learning disability diagnosis usually means meeting and discussing support options with several health professionals, such as:

  • Clinical psychologists 
  • Developmental psychologists
  • School psychologists
  • GPs

Difference Between Learning Disabilities and Learning Difficulties

There is a big difference between learning difficulties and learning disabilities; understanding them is vital for parents and healthcare professionals in providing adequate care and support. 

Learning difficulties are differences in how people learn and gain new skills, but their intelligence level isn’t affected. Some of the examples of learning difficulties include: 

  • Dysgraphia 
  • Dyslexia 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Dyscalculia 

Learning disabilities impact people’s general learning skills and ability to understand information. However, it is still possible for people to learn new skills through different methods and practices. 

For example, a learning disability affects all areas of people’s lives, like the ability to perform daily activities, social skills, and learning skills. On the other hand, dyslexia as a learning difficulty only affects one area of people’s learning and doesn’t affect other life skills.

What is a Learning Disability Nurse?

A learning disability nurse maintains people’s physical and mental health by providing support towards a maximally independent life and supporting people’s integration into the community. A learning disability nurse assists people with learning disabilities with:

  • Medication management 
  • Personal hygiene 
  • Learning new skills 
  • Completing everyday tasks 
  • Organising community activities 
  • Maintaining relationships 
  • Finding employment 

What are Learning Disability Services?

Learning disability services are created to provide and establish a healthy environment for people where they can reach maximum potential and optimal health.

Access to a tailored service can help people with learning disabilities to work on gaining new skills, improve their self-esteem and become integral parts of the community. As a part of these services, support workers create a friendly, nurturing environment for people to feel encouraged to use their skills and boost their self-reliance.

After getting a diagnosis, finding a trusted health and social care service provider is the next most important step.

Learning Disability Support with Nurseline Community Services

At Nurseline Community Services, providing humanised and holistic care services for people with learning disabilities is our mission. Our dedicated and impact-driven clinicians provide tailored care for children and adults with learning disabilities in the comfort of their own homes.

As a team, we aim to remove the barriers for people with a learning disability and help them achieve a fulfilling life. We prioritise their rights and dignity by carefully outlining a care plan focusing on people’s strengths and needs.

We deliver CQC-regulated care for people with complex care needs across the UK through our offices in Gloucester, Birmingham and Bristol.

Contact us today to see how we can support you.