What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops

There are many different types and most develop before a baby is born, during birth or because of a serious illness in early childhood. A learning disability is life long and usually has a significant impact on a person’s life.

Learning disability is not mental illness or dyslexia.

People with a learning disability find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate. People with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) need full-time help with every aspect of their lives – including eating, drinking, washing, dressing and toileting.

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Like all of us, they are individuals who want different things in life and need different levels of support.


A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops – before, during or soon after birth.


People with a learning disability may have other physical and emotional conditions associated with learning disability.

Other useful sources of information and advice:


A national charity offering practical help to families caring for children with conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, developmental delay, traumatic and acquired brain injury and specific learning difficulties such as attention deficits hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and dyspraxia.


A charity set up to help improve the lives of children with brain related conditions through researching, educating and directly supporting children and their carers.

National Autistic Society

Championing the rights and interests of all people with autism.


A charity offering support and advice for people with cerebral palsy, their families and carers.

Disability Direct

An online directory and disability website designed to help you find just the right information, support or equipment you need to live your life.


The British Institute of Learning Disabilities is a national charity committed to working with government agencies and other organisations to help shape UK policy and strategic thinking around learning disabilities.

The Down's Syndrome Association

Offering help and advice for people who have Down's syndrome.

Royal Mencap

A national charity and the 'voice of learning disability'.


support group providing support and information for families and individuals who have a rare chromosomal disorder.

How well do you know learning disability? Take our quiz to find out!

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