A general learning disability is not a mental
illness. However, children with learning disability are more likely
to develop mental health problems, for example anxiety, or have
additional developmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum
Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) than
Recognising difficulties in learning
It is important to recognise, as soon as
possible, that a child is learning and developing slowly. It is
only when the problem is recognised that the child and their family
can be offered the help and support they need. The health visitor
plays an important role in recognising slow development in the
years before school.
Child Development Team
As the child gets older, a number of people
can help with the child’s particular needs. They will often work
together in a group known as the Child Development
Team. This team includes specialists such as community
paediatricians, nurses, psychologists and speech therapists. It
sometimes includes a child psychiatrist or other members of the
child and adolescent mental health service
(CAMHS). In some areas, there are special services for children
with learning disabilities (Community Learning Disability Team). If
necessary, a GP can refer the child to one of these specialist
School can be a particular challenge for
children with learning disabilities because of both the learning
and social demands. Local education departments can make special
arrangements to meet the educational needs of each child.
However, there is an expectation that most
children will receive their education in a mainstream inclusive
environment. For example, children who are able to cope comfortably
with other people are likely to attend an ordinary school, but have
special forms of teaching. On the other hand, a child with a more
severe disability may go to a special school.
For some children, a Statement of
Special Educational Needs will need to be prepared.
This sets out what special help the child needs, and takes into
account the views and wishes of the child and their parents.
All educational authorities have a Parent
Partnership Scheme to advise parents on educational provision.
In most areas, there are also other services.
Respite care and holiday play schemes can extend the learning and
social opportunities for the child. Parent support groups can put
families in touch with other people who are coping with similar
problems. The local social services department will be able to
advise, both on these opportunities and on the benefits to which
parents are entitled.
Disability does not stop a child from having a
full and enjoyable life. The aim of all the specialist services is
to help children with a general learning disability to have lives
that are as enjoyable and fulfilling as those of other people.