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Summary of Needs and Disabilities

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to understand information and interact with other people. 

The level of support someone needs depends on the individual. However, someone with a severe or profound learning disability may need full­time support with every aspect of their life – they may also have physical disabilities. People with certain specific conditions can have a learning disability too.

It’s important to remember that with the right support, most people with a learning disability in the UK can lead independent lives.

Please click on the tabs below for further information or to access direct links for specific needs and links.

This page is constantly under review.

ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • a short attention span or being easily distracted
  • restlessness, constant fidgeting or overactivity
  • being impulsive.

ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability, although it is more common in people with learning difficulties. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

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APD - Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a hearing problem where the brain is unable to process sounds in the normal way.

It can affect people of all ages, but often starts in childhood.

APD can affect people in many different ways. A child with APD may appear to have a hearing impairment, but this isn't usually the case and testing often shows their hearing is normal.

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ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It includes Asperger syndrome and childhood autism.

Some people also use the term autism spectrum condition or ‘neurodiverse’ (as opposed to people without autism being ‘neurotypical’).

The main features of ASD typically start to develop in childhood, although the impact of these may not be apparent until there is a significant change in the person’s life, such as a change of school.

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a term used to cover several neurological conditions.

These conditions are caused before, during or shortly after birth as a result of injury to the brain due to any of the following reasons:

  • Limited or interrupted oxygen supply to the brain
  • A bleed within the baby's brain
  • A premature or difficult birth process
  • The mother catching an infection whilst pregnant
  • Changes in genes which affect the development of the brain

Cerebral Palsy can affect muscle control, coordination, and tone, reflexes, posture and balance. Often a person with Cerebral Palsy will display signs of the condition, but the effects can vary greatly from person to person.

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CF - Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited condition that causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. This causes lung infections and problems with digesting food.

In the UK, most cases of cystic fibrosis are picked up at birth using the newborn screening heel prick test.

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Downs Syndrome

Down's syndrome is caused by an extra chromosome in your cells. In the majority of cases it can not be inherited, and occurs by chance at the time of conception.

People with Down's syndrome will typically have some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.

There are some health problems associated with Down’s syndrome, such as heart problems and difficulties with sight and hearing, but these will not affect everyone with the condition.

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Dyscalculia is a brain-based condition that makes it hard to make sense of numbers and math concepts. Some kids with dyscalculia can’t grasp basic number concepts. They work hard to learn and memorize basic number facts. They may know what to do in maths class but don’t understand why they’re doing it. In other words, they miss the logic behind it.

Other kids understand the logic behind the maths but aren’t sure how and when to apply their knowledge to solving problems.

Dyscalculia goes by many names. Some public schools refer to it as a "mathematics learning disability." Doctors sometimes call it a "mathematics disorder." Many kids and parents call it "maths dyslexia."

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Dysgraphia is a neurological condition that impairs writing and memory processing. It belongs to the same family of learning differences as dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

Dysgraphia is a condition that causes problems with written expression. For many children with dysgraphia, holding a pencil and organising letters on a line are difficult. They may also struggle with spelling, and with processing their thoughts and writing them down. They are frequently articulate and lively contributors to discussion but will avoid putting pen to paper.

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Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. People with dyslexia have particular difficulty with:phonological awareness

  • verbal memory
  • rapid serial naming
  • verbal processing speed.

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DCD - Dyspraxia

Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a child to perform less well than expected for his or her age in daily activities and appear to move clumsily.

Early developmental milestones of crawling, walking, self-feeding and dressing may be delayed in young children with DCD, and drawing, writing and performance in sports are usually behind what is expected for their age.

The problem is not due to general delays in development or a learning disability, and is not caused by cerebral palsy or another neurological disorder (conditions affecting the nervous system).

Although signs of the condition are present from an early age, children vary widely in their rate of development and DCD is not usually definitely diagnosed until a child with the condition is around five years old or more.

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Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain. When someone has epilepsy, it means they have a tendency to have epileptic seizures.

Anyone can have a one-off seizure, but this doesn’t always mean they have epilepsy. Epilepsy is usually only diagnosed if someone has had more than one seizure, and doctors think it is likely they could have more.

Epilepsy can start at any age and there are many different types. Some types of epilepsy last for a limited time and the person eventually stops having seizures. But for many people epilepsy is a life-long condition.

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Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X is a genetic condition that affects both boys and girls, although boys are often more severely affected.

It can cause a range of issues with language, emotions, attention, behaviour and social interaction.

Fragile X is the most common inherited cause of learning disability.

Of the people who have Fragile X, nearly all boys will have a learning disability but only a third of girls. The learning disability could be mild, moderate or severe, which will affect the amount of support the person needs day-to-day. 

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GDD - Global Development Delay

The term 'developmental delay' or 'global development delay' is used when a child takes longer to reach certain development milestones than other children their age.

This might include learning to walk or talk, movement skills, learning new things and interacting with others socially and emotionally.

Someone with another condition, like Down’s syndrome or Cerebral palsy, may also have Global developmental delay.

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ODD - Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a disorder where children have disruptive and oppositional behaviour that is particularly directed towards authority figures, such as parents or teachers.

ODD is less severe and more common than conduct disorder.

Children with ODD are constantly defiant, hostile and disobedient. They don’t like responding to instructions or taking orders from others, and they actively refuse simple requests.

Sometimes they eagerly blame others for their own mistakes, can lose their temper easily, and act in an angry, resentful or touchy manner.

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Prader-Willi Syndrome

Prader-Willi syndrome is a rare genetic condition that causes a wide range of physical symptoms, learning difficulties and behavioural problems. It's usually noticed shortly after birth.

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Spina Bifada

Spina bifida can cause a wide range of symptoms, including problems with movement, bladder and bowel problems, and problems associated with hydrocephalus (excess fluid on the brain).

The severity of the symptoms of spina bifida varies considerably, largely depending on the location of the gap in the spine.

A baby is more likely to have learning difficulties if they develop hydrocephalus.

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Tourettes Syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition (affecting the brain and nervous system), characterised by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.

It usually starts during childhood and continues into adulthood. In many cases Tourette's syndrome runs in families and it's often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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