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Health, Social Care and Education use different terms to describe the needs people have; Learning Disability, Learning Difficulty and Developmental Delay.

What is a Learning Disability?

A person has a learning disability when they have:

  • Cognitive impairment meaning a reduced ability to understand new or complex information, with an IQ below 70.
  • Impairment in day-to-day functioning and the ability to cope independently
  • Present before the age of 18 years.

A general learning difficulty often describes people who’s functioning is in the borderline range between 70 and 80. They might need support during their time at school but can usually live independently with little or no support.

A specific learning difficulty means that someone might have difficulties only in one area, such as with dyslexia. These difficulties exist without any cognitive impairment.

What is Developmental Delay?

Developmental Delay is a term used to describe children who do not meet their developmental milestones within the expected range. Children can have a specific delay, such as a delay in language skills, but otherwise be developing as expected or a general delay in most or all of their developmental milestones.

A child with developmental delay and no learning disability, will continue to develop and the gap between themselves and their peers will reduce. However, when a child has a learning disability, their development will tend to slow down and the gap between themselves and their peers will widen.

Page updated: 04/05/2021 Page updated by: GCC

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