The terms “learning disability” and “learning difficulty” are used interchangeably and it is often thought that they have the same meaning. This can cause a lot of confusion as to what the definition of each is and blurs the line between them. Whilst both learning difficulties and learning disabilities present challenges to the sufferer, these challenges come with a completely different set of characteristics and implications.
In this article, we will explore the differences between learning disabilities and learning difficulties and explain how to differentiate between the two to ensure that people are offered the right level of support and intervention.
A learning difficulty does not affect a person’s general intelligence but can affect the way that they process certain types of information and how they learn. Learning difficulties are life-long and there is no known cause but most people are able to manage their difficulties.
Support for people who live with a learning difficulty must be individual and specialised to tailor to the way they learn. It is important to mention that people suffering from learning difficulties often live independently and do not require additional help to carry out everyday tasks.
Some common learning difficulties include:
Learning difficulties are often diagnosed in childhood but symptoms can be difficult to identify as they could sometimes be confused for personality traits. This makes it easy for people to slip under the radar. Some adults may have been dismissed as having low intelligence or being badly behaved when they were younger so have never received a diagnosis or the correct level of support. Symptoms of a learning difficulty include:
For adults who are undiagnosed but believe they may have a learning difficulty, there are diagnostic assessments available to explore this further and potentially get a diagnosis. This assessment would need to be conducted upon referral from a GP and will help the person understand the problems they face and whether a learning difficulty is the reason for them.
Although most adults who live with a learning difficulty manage to live independently and complete everyday tasks, many will still require a level of support to help them with things like getting a job, socialising or managing their money.
A learning disability is a neurological condition causing reduced intelligence and problems with completing everyday tasks. Most people suffering from learning disabilities would struggle to live independently and require a variable level of care. They often struggle to understand complicated information and have issues learning new skills without the correct intervention.
Learning disabilities are often found alongside associated conditions and neurological disorders such as:
It is not always clear what causes a learning disability but it can be caused by the following:
If a concern is raised about whether someone may be suffering from a learning disability, there are assessments available to determine if they have one and what support they would benefit from.
Support for adults with learning disabilities is essential to help them live as independently as possible and enjoy life to its fullest. If you have cared for a loved one you will know how to support someone with a learning disability, however, sometimes you might need some external help.
The need for help will differ for each individual but some common support services are:
Finding and keeping employment when you have a learning disability can be very difficult. Mencap supports people in finding work experience placements and paid jobs.
Support groups can provide a sense of community with like-minded people who are all experiencing similar challenges.
A helpline can be a valuable resource for people suffering from learning disabilities or the people who are helping care for them.
Some people living with a learning disability may be able to manage with the support of family but this is not always the case. If you are looking for some additional help for someone you love, there are a range of care services available including:
Read our blog for a more in depth guide: What support is available for individuals with a learning disability
At Butterfly’s Care Group, we pride ourselves on giving all of our clients an outstanding level of support. Every person living with a disability should be treated individually, so for our clients with learning disabilities in Essex, we put together a tailor-made care plan for each of our clients based on their needs.
If you would like to speak to us about our care services, contact us today.