A learning disability is not the same as a mental health issue, but some young people are affected by both. Read on to learn more about what learning disabilities are and how they can be linked to mental health.
A learning disability is something that affects the way someone learns new things throughout their life. There are many types of learning disability; these can be described as mild, moderate, severe, or profound. A learning disability often occurs when the brain is still developing or could develop due to an injury or condition in later life.
Although one person may have the ‘same’ type of learning disability as another person, this doesn’t mean they will experience it in the same way. Remember: all human beings are unique, and we all think, feel, and behave in different ways.
Read on to learn more about learning disabilities and how they can be experienced!
There are around 1.5 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 351,000 of them are young people. However, there is still stigma attached to learning disabilities, and some people can wrongly assume that having a learning disability means being ‘incapable’ or ‘unintelligent’.
Having a learning disability does not mean being unable to cope with day-to-day life; young people with learning disabilities may need different levels of support, depending on their individual needs. Many people with learning disabilities are able to live independently, achieve qualifications, and have a regular job. Meanwhile, some people may need more support, such as with day-to-day activities, or at school or college.
Young people with learning disabilities and difficulties can sometimes benefit from extra support. Everyone has different strengths, as well as things they need more help with, and that’s what makes us all unique! Watch this video to hear from the Mencap Myth Busters about why difference should be celebrated.
Read on to learn more about some common learning disabilities, and how young people can experience these.
You may have heard of the term learning difficulty before, and this is different to a learning disability. Sometimes it is assumed that these are the same, which can be confusing!
Someone with a learning difficulty can find specific aspects of learning (for example, reading or writing) more challenging, while someone with a learning disability can often find day-to-day activities (for example, moving or speaking) more difficult.
While learning disabilities and learning difficulties are different things, they can be experienced together. For example, it is common for a neurodivergent person to have a learning disability as well as a learning difficulty.
You can find out more about Neurodiversity by checking out e-wellbeing’s module here and scroll down to learn more about how young people can experience learning disabilities!
Down’s Syndrome is a common learning disability that is caused by having an extra chromosome at birth. While everyone is different some young people with downs syndrome might:
The cause of autism is still unknown, but we know a lot of young people have autism. Here are some things that young people with autism might experience:
Cerebral Palsy is a name of a group of conditions that affect people around the time of their birth. Cerebral refers to the brain and palsy describes a difficulty in using muscles. Here are some ways that young people may experience cerebral palsy:
While some are more common than others there are other learning disabilities that affect young people. Here are some ways these other conditions can affect young people:
To find out more about different types of learning disabilities and how these can be experienced, you can go to the NHS website.
Having a learning disability doesn’t always mean someone has mental health difficulties, but sometimes they are linked. Read on to find out about the relationship between learning disability and mental health.
Having a learning disability can affect a young person’s mental health in a variety of ways. They may feel isolated or misunderstood or frustrated about having to rely on others. This could lead to feelings of anger, low mood, or anxiety. If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone; you can find more support on our Feelings page.
It is important that young people with learning disabilities, or those caring for another person, can access the right support for them. A key part of choosing the right support includes making sure the decision keeps the person safe while respects their personal choice.
Scroll down to learn more about how mental health conditions can be experienced, tips for looking after your mental health, and different ways to find support.
A learning disability is not the same as a mental health condition. Just like everyone else, young people with learning disabilities can have mental health difficulties, or they might not!
Those that do experience mental health difficulties can struggle to get a diagnosis, as their feelings may be mistaken for being part of their learning disability. This can be difficult and frustrating, and may result in the young person’s mental health getting worse because they don’t feel supported.
If you are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone. Help is out there, and your feelings are valid! There are lots of ways to access support, and it’s important to do what feels right for you.
You may find it helpful to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust, such as a family member or your teacher. If you’re not sure who to talk to, you can find general mental health support in your local area here, or scroll down to find specific services that may be helpful.
It can be difficult for young carers supporting or living with someone who has a learning disability. They might feel that they’re not able to join in with other things that their friends are doing or that they’re unable to attend education because of their caring role. If you’re a young carer it’s important to get support for yourself too. Here are some organisations you can speak to:
Celebrating and supporting other young people with learning disabilities helps keep our world inclusive and accessible to everyone! Read on for some useful tips about how you can support young people who have learning disabilities.
It’s important to respect how people like to be referred to, and this can differ from person to person. For example, if you are a young person with a learning disability you may like to be described as ‘part of the disabled community’, or you might prefer to not be referred to as ‘disabled’ at all.
It’s OK to feel either way and nobody should feel that they must like being called something they don’t feel comfortable with. By respecting each other’s differences, we can help to create an inclusive world that celebrates diversity and the qualities that make us human!
The way we communicate about and with other people can have a big impact on wellbeing. Using inclusive language helps us all feel safe and accepted for who we are, so it’s important to educate ourselves about learning disabilities and appropriate language to use to describe these!
Here are some tips for inclusive communication:
Young people with disabilities have rightly said that they are not disabled but instead the world around them disables them. Although awareness and understanding of disabilities is improving, there are still lots of things in day-to-day life that have been designed in ways that excludes people’s accessibility needs.
For example, doorways are often too narrow for electric wheelchairs to go through, and many schools lack suitable quiet spaces for people who may be overwhelmed in busy environments.
While we may not be able to change the physical spaces around us, we can encourage change together! When you next plan a social activity, think about the following:
When we help to create inclusive spaces, the whole environment becomes more enjoyable for everyone!
If you or someone close to you has a learning disability and it’s affecting your mental health, it’s OK to ask for help.
You can also check out the rest of our Feelings page here, which covers lots of different feelings and how to manage them.