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 1.5 million 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 disability and no two people 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 may be able to communicate, however might need support in securing a job or looking after money. Others with severe learning disabilities may be non-verbal and need full-time support.

Confusingly, conditions such as Autism are often 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 also.

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 multi-task and maintain their concentration. 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 displays behaviour typically described as being hyperactive and/or impulsive but are not easily distracted.

3. Combined

When a person shows signs of 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 do not have any sort of speech delay in their early years of life.

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 that all people with autism face but having autism will also affect each of them 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 often find it difficult to interpret verbal and non-verbal communication such as body language and facial expressions.

• Many people with autism have a very literal understanding of language and 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 left alone to process if in a situation with lots of other people.

• 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. A 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 a change in routine, that the person is prepared 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 commonly 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 heightened senses. But no two people are the same, many people with Fragile X will 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