Guide to learning disability support
Find information about where and how to get support for yourself, or someone else with a learning disability.
On this page:
A learning disability is a lifelong condition that affects the way you learn new things.
If you have a learning disability, you may find it more difficult to:
- understand complicated information
- learn new skills
- carry out everyday activities, like household tasks or interacting with people.
There are different causes of a learning disability. They usually happen when the brain is still developing. This could be before or during birth, or in early childhood.
It’s important that people with a learning disability get the right support. With support, most people with a learning disability in the UK can lead independent lives.
A learning disability is not a mental health problem. But people with learning disabilities may also experience mental health problems. There are lots of different reasons for this.
For example, you may:
- face negative attitudes from other people
- experience negative life events such as abuse.
These attitudes and experiences can affect your mental health.
Sometimes, people with a learning disability struggle to get a diagnosis for a mental health problem. This is because doctors may think your mental health symptoms are part of your learning disability.
The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) website offers practical support. For example, it offers an easy-read resource called Feeling down: looking after my mental health.
People often confuse learning disability with other conditions. Some examples include:
- Autism. Autism is not a learning disability, and it is not a mental health problem. Autism is a developmental disability which affects how you communicate and interact. But some autistic people may also have a learning disability. Autistic people may also experience mental health problems. Find out more about our work on mental health and autism.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is not a learning disability, and it is not a mental health problem. ADHD is a condition which can affect your behaviour. But some people who experience ADHD may also have a learning disability. People with ADHD may also experience mental health problems. For more information, see our page about ADHD and mental health.
It is also possible to have a diagnosis of both ADHD and autism at the same time.
The Mencap website provides further information on conditions associated with learning disability.
Books Beyond Words is a charity providing books for people who don’t like written words, but read through pictures. They share simple messages through stories using coloured pictures. Topics include going to the doctor, bereavement, sexual abuse and depression. Some of the titles are available online.
Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD)
Promotes the rights of people with a learning disability, and their families. FPLD also offer an easy-read online resource to help people with a learning disability to take care of their mental health.
Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.
Support in England and Wales for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs. Services include help with housing, supported living, education and employment.
British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD)
Training services and publications to help organisations to champion rights for people with a learning disability, and to improve support for them.
Norah Fry Research Centre for Disability Studies, University of Bristol
Researches issues affecting the lives of disabled children and adults with learning difficulties and their families.
This information was published in January 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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