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Learning disability


What is it?

Learning Disability may also be referred to as Intellectual Disability.

Learning Disability – is a general term that refers to individuals who find it harder to learn, understand and communicate. Other terms that are used to describe an individual’s situation include complex needs or high support needs.

Internationally three criteria are regarded as requiring to be met before a learning disability can be identified or diagnosed, these are:

  • intellectual impairment (IQ)
  • social or adaptive dysfunction combined with IQ
  • early onset

A diagnosis is the formal identification of Learning Disability, by a health professional such as a clinical psychologist.

Having a diagnosis may be helpful for 2 reasons:

  • It helps people with Learning Disabilities (and their families) to understand why they may experience certain difficulties and what they can do about them.
  • It enables people to access services and support.

Accessing further support

Please contact   your GP  if you would like more information or help with a diagnosis.

Hillingdon social services aim to help people with a disability live as independently as possible in the community, and to ensure that the people who look after them are involved in what help is needed. To request a   social care assessment   contact   Hillingdon Social Care Direct or complete an online social care assessment. You can also read more about   Hillingdon Disability Services.

Young people with special educational needs or disabilities 

If you are looking for information, advice or services relating to a child or young person with a disability you may find it helpful to look on the Hillingdon local offer within the  Family Information Directory  . Knowing what is out there gives you more choice and therefore more control over what support is right for your child.

Types of

What kinds of Learning Disability are there?

Learning disabilities might be categorised into four groups:

  • Mild learning disability IQ 50 -70
  • Moderate learning disability IQ 35 - 50
  • Severe learning disability IQ 20 - 35
  • Profound learning disability IQ Below 20

IQ classification is primarily used by health professionals to assess the presence and degree of learning disability. It should not be seen as the only method of identifying the presence of learning disability and assessment should also include adaptive functioning.

Adaptive functioning refers to how well a person meets community standards of personal independence and social responsibility, in comparison to others of a similar age and socio-cultural background.

Learning Disability is a non-progressive condition, although when it co-occurs with certain genetic disorders (e.g Rett Syndrome) there may be periods of worsening and stabilisation.

The causes include genetic factors, infections before birth, brain injury or damage at birth, brain infections or brain damage after birth. However, for many who are diagnosed with having a general learning disability, the cause remains unknown.

Ways it might affect you

Learning disability is categorised by the presence of both intellectual impairment and adaptive functioning.

Adaptive functions include; communication, eating and drinking, keeping safe, personal care and recognising risks. When thinking about adaptive functioning, it is important to remember that other factors that impact on these. For example; gender, religion, culture, age and ethnicity.

While Learning Disability does not cause any physical symptoms, when associated with a genetic syndrome, there may be a characteristic physical appearance (as in e.g. Down Syndrome).


People with a learning disability have a right to receive good healthcare.  They will need health care in the same way that everyone else will, and some people with a learning disability will have additional health needs (for example, people with a learning disability are more likely to have epilepsy). Often, they need more support to understand information about their health, to communicate symptoms and concerns, and to manage their health.

There are simple things all health practitioners can do to ensure that people with a learning disability get the health care they need:

  • allow longer appointment times
  • communication with the individual (verbal and non-verbal)
  • listening to the knowledge of their families and carers and most important, equally valuing the life of a person with a learning disability.

The   EasyHealth website has guides for professionals in treating people with a learning disability. It also includes easy read information that health professionals can use to help explain health issues and treatments to their patients with a learning disability.

Learning Disability Health Team (LDHT)

This is a specialist service for people with learning disabilities. The team aims to:

  • promote equal access to community and health services,
  • enhance quality of life for people with learning disabilities
  • work together with other professionals to support independence and choice.

The learning disability health team includes:

  • Community Learning Disability Nurses
  • Psychologists
  • Speech and Language Therapists

The LDHT works with people with learning disabilities, their families, or support networks

You can contact the LDHT by through   Hillingdon Social Care Direct

Support available

These organisations offer a range of support and activities to individuals with a learning disability

Rural Activities Garden Centre

Queens Walk Resource Centre



Learning about Intellectual Disabilities and Health

Last reviewed: 16/07/2018

Useful links

While every care has been taken in the compilation of the information on this website, neither Hillingdon Council or PCG Care Solutions will be held responsible for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of using the site and any inaccuracies/errors within these pages.

If you choose to purchase services via the Marketplace, you are advised to refer to the Buyers Guide prior to making a purchase, as well as making your own enquiries and seeking independent advice. This is applicable to Adult services only, as there is no Marketplace for Children's services.