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Learning disability

Someone with a learning disability (or an intellectual disability) has a reduced intellectual ability. This can make it challenging for them to independently carry out everyday activities – for example household tasks, social interactions or managing money. It can be measured by doing an IQ test. It’s important though to take into account how well they manage in their daily lives.

Autistic and/or ADHD children and young people may also have a learning disability, but not all do.

A learning disability is different to learning difficulty. A learning difficulty is when a person finds it challenging to learn certain things. A learning difficulty does not mean that you cannot learn and does not necessarily mean a reduced level of intelligence. Examples of learning difficulties include Dyslexia and Dyscalculia.

If you feel that you/your child may have a learning disability, you should speak to school in the first instance. Educational settings must legally support students with special educational needs and disabilities; this means that settings must put reasonable adjustments in place to support them (Section 1.34 SEND Code of Practice).

Students DO NOT need a formal diagnosis for school to put specialist support in place.

An individualised, needs-led is taken in Leeds where every child and young person can get the educational support they need whether they have a formal diagnosis or not.  This approach may be enough to support a child/young person to thrive without a formal diagnosis.

This needs-led approach is supported by the Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) Graduated Approach to support in schools. The Graduated Approach is a repeated and ongoing process, including 4 stages:

  1. Assessmentof your child’s strengths and challenges, with the support of the Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo) in the setting.
  2. Plan– make a plan of specific support to meet your child’s needs and agree progress deadlines.
  3. Do– provide the extra support in the plan and measure progress.
  4. Review– your child’s progress and decide the next steps with you and your child.

If a setting has taken every possible action to identify and meet the child or young person’s needs but they are still not making expected progress, it may then be appropriate to request specialist assessment and support from outside agencies. This may lead to additional funding to support the child, applying for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or specialist diagnosis.

See further information about the different support available in schools in our Education section.


More information about Learning Disability can be found on the Mencap website. Mencap is the national Learning Disability charity

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Leeds Mencap

Leeds Mencap offer local support and activities for people with Learning Disabilities and their families.

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If your child’s difficulties persist after accessing this support, you may wish to refer to Leeds CAMHS’ Learning Disability Service. This is done through MindMate SPA. You need to have tried the Early Help support offered by school in order to be referred to CAMHS’ Learning Disability Service.

Leeds CAMHS’ Learning Disability team consists of Learning Disability nurses and doctors. Learning Disability nurses are trained in Learning Disability and provide specialist care and support. If your child cannot manage in a mainstream educational setting, you may wish to consider Specialist Inclusion Learning Centres (SILCs).

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