Some learning disabilities are diagnosed at birth, such as Down's syndrome. Others might not be discovered until the child is old enough to talk or walk.
Once your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, your GP can refer you for any specialist support you may need.
You'll begin to get to know the team of professionals who will be involved in your or your child's care. The right support from professionals helps people with a learning disability to live as full and independent live as possible.
These professionals include GPs, paediatricians (doctors who specialise in treating children), speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, educational and clinical psychologists and social care workers.
What causes learning disabilities?
A learning disability happens when a person's brain development is affected, either before they're born, during their birth or in early childhood.
This can be caused by things such as:
- the mother becoming ill in pregnancy;
- problems during the birth that stop enough oxygen getting to the brain;
- the unborn baby inheriting certain genes from its parents that make having a learning disability more likely – known as inherited learning disability;
- illness, such as meningitis or injury in early childhood.
Sometimes there's no known cause for a learning disability. Some conditions are associated with having a learning disability because people with these conditions are more likely to have one. For example, everyone with Down's syndrome has some kind of learning disability, and so do many people with cerebral palsy.
People with autism may also have learning disabilities, and around 30% of people with epilepsy have a learning disability.
Profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD)
A profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD) is when a person has a severe learning disability and other disabilities that significantly affect their ability to communicate and be independent.
Someone with PMLD may have severe difficulties seeing, hearing, speaking and moving. They may have complex health and social care needs due to these or other conditions.
People with PMLD need a carer or carers to help them with most areas of everyday life, such as eating, washing and going to the toilet. With support, many people can learn to communicate in different ways, be involved in decisions about themselves, do things they enjoy and achieve more independence.
Read more about caring for children with complex needs:
- NHS England: How to care for children with complex needs;
- NHS England: Working together to help children;
- Shropshire Parent And Carer Council (PACC).