This term is used to describe childhood development that is significantly behind that of the peer group. Developmental milestones may be used for guidance. Many children have a learning disability. The impairment may be seen on its own or with additional problems such as hearing or vision impairment, epilepsy, or physical movement difficulties. A learning disability is a lifelong condition but much can be done to maximise the child's potential. In the early years the child may be described as showing global or developmental delay, or having special needs.
Some children are recognised very early on as being likely to have a learning disability because they have the signs of a particular syndrome (such as Down's Syndrome) which is known to affect global development and learning skills. Prader-Willi Syndrome and Fragile-X Syndrome are also associated with communication difficulties. For many, however, the cause of the learning disability is unknown.
As learning disability persists throughout a person's life, communication problems may also occur for adults. These can be very significant in certain scenarios such as medical treatment, crime (either as perpetrator or victim), and social situations. Therapists working with adults with learning disability aim to promote communication skills for independence, choice, inclusion and rights. They often work with carers to improve awareness and information. They also give training on communication skills and techniques.
Some characteristics of learning disability:
Speech and language therapists are often involved with multi-professional teams working with learning disability. Therapy may begin well before school entry (e.g. in liaison with the Portage Service) and continue into the school years. The children may attend mainstream nurseries and schools, or specialist units. Some will have a Statement of Special Educational Needs. The following may form part of the speech and language therapist's input for children with learning disability:
Some points you may wish to discuss with any therapist you contact:
Many therapists with a general paediatric practice will regularly work with children with mild or moderate learning disability. Click here to search for Speech Therapists in your area.
Click here to search for Speech Therapists in your area with Learning Disability as a specialty.