A Discussion On Learning Disabilities & Learning Difficulties

When you look at learning difficulties and disabilities, it is quite easy to think these terms are interchangeable. However, that isn’t true since there are differences between persons who have a learning difficulty vs one who has a learning disability. It is quite challenging for a person who is thought to have one of these conditions when in fact, they actually have the other one. As a result, it is important if you’re a caregiver or even a friend to understand the main differences.

To start with, someone with a learning disability has issues with intelligence and learning that impacts their entire life. A person who has a learning difficulty on the other hand has issues with a particular type of learning. However, this doesn’t negatively impact their IQ.
So, once you understand these main differences, you can go on to see how a person who has Downs Syndrome has a learning disability. This is because the condition negatively impacts their entire life such as their life skills, overall health, intelligence etc which is why services such as assisted living for young adults may be beneficial.

If a person has dyslexia, then this is what is known as a learning difficulty. This is due to the fact that it only affects one or a few areas of their lives and not other aspects. A person with dyslexia would have issues with spelling, writing and reading. However, even though they have these issues, they can still function well in life without a caregiver.

The Confusion Between Mental Health Issues & Learning Disabilities

Unfortunately, many people often misunderstand people with learning disabilities and believe that they have a serious mental health issue. Even though a person that has a learning disability may struggle with their mental health, these are two completely different conditions. A person who has a learning disability typically got it in their childhood or they were born with the disability. On the other hand, mental health issues can happen at any point in a person’s life and they can possibly go away.

The way that you’d provide treatment to a person with mental health issues versus a person with a learning disability is quite different. Persons with mental health problems would need psychological help as well as the right medications. Persons who have learning disabilities will require support as oppose to pharmaceutical treatment in order to have good lives.

The support and care for a person with learning disabilities has to be customised to the individual so that it helps them according to their desires. They should feel a sense of empowerment and should make as many of their own decisions as possible.

The seriousness of the learning disability


Learning disabilities have different levels of severity such as moderate, mild or very severe.

There are many people who have a mild learning disability and they can still care for themselves as well as communicate effectively. However, they may require a bit more time in order to learn new things and skills. There are others with more serious learning disabilities that aren’t able to communicate clearly and it is possible that they have various additional medical issues and disabilities.

There are adults who have a learning disability but they still maintain a high level of independence and live on their own. However, there are others with more severe learning disabilities that require daily help and support when it comes to simple things such as bathing, changing clothes, brushing teeth etc for the rest of their lives. In the end, the care a person requires would be dependent on the severity of the person’s disability.

There are young adults and kids that have learning disabilities that would require special education needs which is also known as SEN.

What are the cause of these disabilities?


This can happen when the brain is developing either during childhood or even before birth.

Some of the things that can lead to learning disabilities include:

  • If the mother suffers from illness while being pregnant
  • Issues in childbirth where the child didn’t get sufficient oxygen
  • If the baby inherited specific genes from parents which increased the chances of developing a learning disability. This is called inherited learning disability
  • Injuries or illness in childhood like meningitis
    Do note that there are also unknown causes of learning disabilities.