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What is a learning disability?

You might have been shown this resource because:

  • you have been for learning disability assessment
  • you are going for a learning disability assessment
  • you have been told you have a learning disability by a psychologist

You might be okay reading this resource on your own. You might want someone to read it with you.

What is a learning disability?

  • It might take you longer to learn than others.
  • You might need some support to learn everyday tasks.
  • People have learning disabilities when they are born and for all their life.

Illustration of person looking thoughtful with a question mark above their head

A learning disability is not:

  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • a mental health condition
  • a physical illness

It is possible to have any of these and a learning disability.

How do I know if I have a learning disability?

To find out if you have a learning disability, you will do some puzzles with a Psychologist. Your parents will also give lots of information about your skills.

Illustration of child, parents and psychologist together

If you are told that you have a learning disability

  • You are still you. You do not change at all.
  • There is nothing wrong with you.
  • You may feel angry, sad, worried or have other feelings. This is okay.
  • You might feel happy to know why some things are hard.
  • Talking to someone about what you think and how you feel may help.

Illustration of a confused face, a smiley face, and an unhappy face

What causes a learning disability?

  • Most of the time, we do not know why someone has a learning disability.
  • Sometimes it runs in a family, meaning other people in your family may have a learning disability too. Sometimes it comes from how you grew before you were born, or things that happened during your birth.
  • Having a learning disability is not your fault or your parents’ or carers’ fault.

Living a full life

You can still do lots of things with a learning disability. You will still be able to be independent and make choices about your life by yourself such as where you live and what you do as an adult. You can still have friends and have interesting things to do in the day.

Illustration of 3 young people sitting together as friends

More support

  • Having a learning disability may mean others do more to help you.
  • You might get more help at school. Others might make things easier for you to understand.
  • You can get more help when you are an adult.
  • You can get learning disability annual health checks when you become 14 years old.

Illustration of a child with a school teaching assistant helping them

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

Contact us


Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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