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 teams.
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.