Supporting Children, Young People and Adults with Learning Disabilities

In 2022, Learning Disability Week is the week of the 20th of June. In this blog, we explore the purpose of the awareness day, different types of learning disabilities and how we can better support those with learning disabilities.

Learning Disability Week is organised every year by the learning disability charity, Mencap. The purpose of the awareness week is to 

  • Educate and raise awareness about learning disabilities 
  • Smash Stigmas and end discrimination 
  • Fight and campaign for a fair society  

What is a Learning Disability? 

Mencap defines learning disabilities as ‘a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example, household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life. People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people.’ 

Not to be confused with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and dyspraxia; a learning disability is a label given to a group of conditions that are present before the age of 18.  

Research on Mencap’s website shows that there are approximately 351,000 children aged 0-17 with a learning disability in the UK. Learning disabilities come in different forms and can range from mild to moderate, severe or profound. In all cases, learning difficulties will be a lifelong condition. 

Learning difficulties occur when the brain is still developing either before, during or very soon after birth. Before birth learning difficulties can be caused due to injuries to the central nervous system such as the brain or spinal cord, or if the baby develops certain genes. Learning difficulties can occur during birth if the infant does not get enough oxygen, is born too early or has trauma to the head. After birth learning difficulties can be caused by early childhood illnesses, accidents and seizures. 

Some conditions associated with learning disabilities include: 

Disabled Rights  

The UK Government makes it clear that it is against the law for any education provider to discriminate against disabled students or to treat them unfavourably. This includes: 

  • Direct discrimination such as refusing admission to a student, or excluding them because of their disability  
  • Indirect discrimination such as providing application forms that are not accessible  
  • Discrimination arising from a disability 
  • Harassment, which can include shouting at or mocking a disabled student  
  • Victimisation  

All education providers have a duty of care toward disabled students to make reasonable adjustments to ensure these students are not discriminated against. These adjustments could include things like providing extra support in the form of specialist teachers or equipment. 

Special Education Needs and Disabilities - SEND 

All publicly funded pre-schools, nurseries, state schools and local authorities must identify and help access children with learning disabilities. Any children or young people with an education, health and care (EHC) plan or a statement of special educational needs will need to have these reviewed annually. Likewise, from the age of 13, young people will be given a full review to learn what support they will need in preparation for adulthood.  

In higher education, all universities and higher education colleges should have a designated role for disability issues that can offer support to students with learning difficulties. There is also an option to ask for an assessment from social services to help with day-to-day living needs.  

Supporting and communicating with people who have learning disabilities 

It is vital that when communicating with a person who has learning difficulties you remember that communication is not just about talking but also about listening. Think about your tone of voice, body language, facial expressions as well as the words you are using. 

Mencap recommends that in order to communicate effectively you: 

  • Use accessible language 
  • Avoid long difficult words or phases 
  • Be prepared to try different communication methods such as using pictures 
  • Follow the lead of the person you are communicating with 
  • Go at a pace that the person you are communicating with is comfortable 

The UK Government also has a list of top tips for effective communication which include: 

  • Face-to-face, one-to-one communication is often preferred 
  • If you are writing, use a large font and easy-to-read colours 
  • Over the phone or online speak slowly and clearly 
  • Find a good place to communicate without distractions 
  • Check the person has understood what you are saying by getting them to repeat it back 
  • Learn by watching the person's facial expressions and body language for communication ques 


Reach the Mencap Disability helpline by calling 0808 808 1111 or emailing 

Posted Date

20th June 2022

Georgia Latief
Marketing Content Manager

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