What is a Learning Disability

Learning disabilities are a group of conditions that affect the way a person interacts with the world around them. Tasks such as communicating, living independently and understanding new information can be challenging to a person with a learning disability. Around 1.5million people in the UK are thought to have a learning disability. Out of this 1.5 million, over 23,000 are Jewish.

There are different levels of learning disabilities and the no two person with a learning disability are the same, therefore the level of support is totally dependent on the individual. For example someone with a mild learning disability can communicate however might need support in securing a job or looking after money. Others with severe learning disabilities may be non-verbal and need fulltime support.

There is often confusion that conditions such as Autism are classed as learning disabilities. However this is not the case, autism is not a learning disability but around half of the people diagnosed with Autism have a learning disability.

With the right support and care people with learning disabilities can live a full and happy life.


ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. People with the condition usually find it challenging to stay on top of multiple tasks and stay focused and concentrate. There are three types of ADHD/ADD:

1. Inattentive

This is what is typically referred to when someone uses the term ADD, this can mean the person shows enough signs of inattention but isn’t hyperactive or impulsive.

2. Hyperactive-Impulsive

This is what is typically referred to when someone uses the term ADHD, when a person has traits of being hyperactive and impulsive but not easily distracted.

3. Combined

When a person has inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.


While ADHD/ADD can be challenging, people with the condition can manage the symptoms through medication and strategies.

Asperger’s syndrome

Asperger’s syndrome (AS) is part of the Autistic Spectrum. The main difference between autism and Asperger’s syndrome is that usually people with AS did not have any sort of speech delay in the early years.

People with AS are of above average intelligence and usually do not have learning disabilities that around half of people with autism have. They can still face the same difficulties as explained above.

For more information and support about Autism and Asperger’s syndrome please visit www.autism.org.uk


Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that predominantly affects a person’s communication skills and relationships with other people. It is a spectrum condition meaning that there are similar challenges all people with autism will face but having autism will affect them all differently. Some people with autism also have learning disabilities. Other difficulties that a person with autism could face include the following:


Social Communication

• People with autism find often find it difficult to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication such as body language and reading facial expressions.

• Many people with autism have very literal understanding of language so may find it difficult to absorb things such as jokes and sarcasm

• People with autism may become overloaded with information and need to be alone to process if in a situation with lots of others

• Some people with autism find it difficult to form friendships and relationships due to some of the above points


Any change to a familiar routine

• Many people with autism take comfort in the familiarity of routines, for example eating the same food for lunch every day. Change in routine can be very distressing for some people with autism both emotionally and physically. It is advised that if there needs to be change in routine to prepare the person in advance.


Highly focused interests

• Many people with autism have specialised interests in particular areas for example music or art.


Sensory sensitivity

• People with Autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sensations such as sounds, smells, tastes colour and light.

Down’s syndrome

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition and is caused by an extra chromosome in the cells. The condition isn’t inherited and occurs at the time of conception.

People with Down’s syndrome will have some degree of learning disability and characteristic physical features. Other health issues that are common in people with Down’s syndrome are heart conditions and difficulties with sight and hearing.

Down’s syndrome is a lifelong condition however people with Down’s syndrome are able to leave home, secure work and form relationships just like anybody else.

For more information about Down’s syndrome please visit www.downs-syndrome.org.uk

Fragile X syndrome

Fragile X syndrome is the most common inherited cause of learning disabilities. The name is used to refer to a family of three genetic conditions.

Usually nearly all boys with the conditions will have a learning disability but only a third of the girls with Fragile X will. Fragile X tends to have a more pronounced effect on males than females, but everyone can be differently affected.

Someone with Fragile X might have a short attention span, be easily distracted and feel restless, and have heighted senses but no two people are the same. Many people with Fragile X act in a similar way to a person with autism.

People with Fragile X share some physical features including a long narrow face with prominent jaw bones and ears.

For more support and information about Fragile X syndrome www.fragilex.org.uk

Global Developmental Delay

Global Developmental Delay (GDD) is a term used when a child takes longer to reach different milestones when growing up. These include milestones such as walking, talking or interacting socially. Someone with another condition such as Down’s syndrome may also have GDD.

In some cases the delay in development can be short lived and overcome through therapy, in other cases the delay may persist, indicating they may also have a learning disability.

For more information:

Christine Morreale

Social Worker (North)

0845 600 6562 etx. 1211

Simone Van Sluytman

Head of Admissions & Care

020 8731 1300