The World Health Organisation (WHO) define a learning disability as "a state of arrested or incomplete development of the mind".

In the UK, learning disability refers to people who find it harder to learn, communicate or understand and who may also be described as having complex or high support needs. Some people described as having a learning disability prefer to say they have a learning difficulty. Examples of learning disability include Autism, Fragile X and Down's syndrome. Outside of the UK the more common term for learning disability is intellectual disability. 

Learning difficulty is also often used to describe people who have specific problems with learning as a result of medical, emotional or language problems. This includes people who would be described as having Specific Learning Difficulties or differences, another term for which is Neurodiversity. 

Neurodiversity refers to a range of conditions causing people to process information differently to others and includes ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and Asperger's syndrome.

From an educational and health viewpoint learning difficulties are categorised depending on their severity as having mild, moderate (MLD), severe (SLD) or profound multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). These are often determined by their intelligence quotient (IQ) score, combined with an assessment of social or adaptive dysfunction and consideration of the early onset of the condition, either from birth or following an accident.

As regards employment, the Equality Act 2010 defines a person as being disabled if they "have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities". This means the condition is going to or is likely to last more than 12 months or is terminal.

As an organisation we prefer to describe a disabled person as someone with an impairment who experiences disability.

It has been estimated that there are roughly 2% of people in England with a learning disability and that approximately only 6.4% of those with MLD, SLD or PMLD are in paid employment*. 

A lot of adults have never considered they may have an impairment or been formally diagnosed due to the stigma associated with having any condition relating to a learning disability, difficulty or difference. People with hidden impairments can present challenging issues for employers though the benefits in most cases of having highly motivated loyal and trustworthy individuals, some with exceptional levels of intelligence, working for an organisation can outweigh the adjustments needed.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you support you and existing employees deal with issues arising at work as a result of disability or neurodiversity, or how and where you can identify new recruits in to your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact us. Further information on a range of the conditions and related issues are available to read on this website. 

*British Institute of Learning Disabilities et al