Learning Disabilities and Developmental Conditions
A learning disability can be categorised by a reduced intellectual ability and/or a sustained difficulty with everyday activities. Learning disabilities affect the brain’s ability to receive and process information and people are usually affected by the disability for the duration of their lives.
People with a learning disability may take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with other people. Genetic conditions can cause learning disabilities and impact on mental and physical development.
There are developmental conditions that in the past have been categorised as a learning disability but this is not very accurate. People with a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome are often very smart in regard to specific subjects, though may also have a learning disability. The root cause of their condition however, is a developmental difference.
There are also some conditions known as ‘specific learning difficulties”. These can occur in relation to other disabilities but will be specific to a particular task or activity. Someone with average or above average intelligence may well experience this.
Some of the more common conditions are:
Down’s syndrome also referred to as Down syndrome, is a genetic condition that results in some level of learning disability and a particular range of physical characteristics. The condition is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21 in a baby’s cells. Down’s syndrome can be identified during pregnancy by prenatal screening followed by diagnostic testing, or after birth by direct observation and genetic testing. This condition is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans. Around 750 babies are born with the condition each year in the UK. Down’s syndrome typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features.
Most babies born with Down’s syndrome are likely to have reduced muscle tone leading to floppiness, eyes that slant upwards and outward and a below average weight and length when they’re born. The personality and abilities of people with Down’s syndrome varies. Everyone born with Down’s syndrome will have a degree of learning disability. The level of learning disability will be different for each individual. Many children with Down’s syndrome have associated health conditions.
Possible complications include: heart disorders, bowel abnormalities and digestive problems, hearing and vision impairments, thyroid dysfunctions, increased risk of infections and blood disorders. These conditions vary in severity with each individual. Some experience none of them, while others experience several.
Fragile X Syndrome
Fragile X Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by changes in the X chromosome. It has physical, psychological and intellectual implications. Physical symptoms include large extended ears, an elongated face, a higharched palate, double-jointed thumbs, poor muscle tone and flat feet. A person’s intellectual development is also affected and people with Fragile X Syndrome may be afflicted with learning disabilities and intellectual impairment. Fragile X Syndrome can exist alongside autism, leading to more significant language problems and a lower IQ. Fragile X Syndrome can also result in social anxiety and withdrawal. This may range from mild social withdrawal, such as shyness and introversion, to severe social withdrawal, which may be linked to co-existing autism spectrum disorder.
Rett Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental condition that primarily affects females. It is characterised by small hands and feet, stunted head growth, repetitive hand movements, difficulty feeding, difficulty walking, seizures and susceptibility to gastrointestinal disorders. People with Rett Syndrome are unable to communicate verbally. Due to physical and learning disabilities, most people with Rett Syndrome are completely reliant on others for support throughout their lives. Rett Syndrome is present at birth, although it is usually hidden until major regression occurs around the age of one. During the regression, children lose physical and mental skills acquired in their first 12 months. The syndrome is typically diagnosed through genetic testing and observation the above symptoms. There is no known cure although symptoms can be managed and monitored by healthcare professionals.
William’s Syndrome is a neurodegenerative condition with a number of characteristics, including a distinct facial appearance (usually an “elfin” face and a flat nasal bridge) as well as behavioural and developmental characteristics such as a lack of co-ordination and balance. People with the condition are often overly friendly and trusting towards strangers. Often people have some degree of learning disability coupled with high energy levels, over-activity and sensitivity to sound. Despite these symptoms, many people with William’s Syndrome lead full, active and healthy lives. However, it’s important to be aware of potential problems that may arise. Managing William’s Syndrome often includes a multi-disciplinary approach, involving doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists and physiotherapists.
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
This condition is characterised by poor attention and distractibility and/or hyperactive and impulsive behaviour. It is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. Symptoms, which can include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, may continue into adolescence and adulthood. People suffering with ADD or ADHD may be easily distracted, have difficulty maintaining focus on tasks, become bored after a few minutes, have difficulty organising and completing a task and struggle to process information or follow instructions. If left untreated, ADHD can lead to poor performance at school or work, poor social relationships and depression. Treatment often involves a combination of behavioural therapy, life-style changes, counselling and medication.
Autism Incorporating Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome is a neuro-developmental disorder that can be associated with a learning disability, but is often found in people who have average or above average intelligence. For more information [PLEASE VISIT OUR AUTISM PAGE].
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved with processing information in the brain. It often manifests itself as a difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. Dyslexia may become apparent in early childhood and is often characterised by difficulty in assembling words and sentences, as well as difficulty with ordering numbers and days of the week. Toddlers may jumble words and phrases, forget the names of common objects, have problems with rhyming or show delayed speech development. At school, children may lack interest in words and language, find reading and spelling problematic, put letters and figures the wrong way round and exhibit poor concentration.
Dyspraxia, also known as developmental co-ordination disorder, is a neurological disability that affects movement and co-ordination. It is thought to be caused by a disruption in the way messages from the brain are transmitted to the body. Dyspraxia begins in early childhood and affects various areas of development. Symptoms can include difficulties controlling the speech organs, difficulties making speech sounds, difficulty-sequencing sounds within words and sentences, difficulty controlling breathing and slow language development. Motor co-ordination skills are also affected, leading to poor balance, poor posture, poor hand-eye co-ordination and difficulty with typing, handwriting and drawing.
Dyscalculia is a condition whereby people experience difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic. It includes difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers and mathematical facts. Current thinking suggests that dyscalculia is a hereditary condition, caused by the abnormal functioning of a specific area of the brain.
Those suffering with dyscalculia may have difficulty understanding spatial orientation – including left and right – which may result in difficulties following directions or map reading. Other characteristics of the condition include difficulty handling money, telling the time or comprehending various measurements such as speed, time or temperature.
How Keys PCE support people with learning disabilities
Keys PCE offer educational and residential services for young people up to age 19 and support each person as they enrich their lives – educationally, socially and psychologically. We work closely with families and wider support networks to ensure the young person’s transition into adulthood and adult services is as seamless as possible.
We provide children’s services for people with mild, moderate and severe learning disabilities. Our tailored and targeted support is based on individuals’ goals, wishes, needs and aspirations and we look at what people can achieve independently, not just what they need assistance with.
We encourage and motivate each person to increase their independence and confidence and maintain control over their lives.