A learning disability affects the way an individual learns

Teenage girl on playground

There are many different types of learning disabilities and these can be mild, moderate or severe; however the effects of all learning disabilities are life long. Children with learning disabilities often struggle with their understanding or communication, and can find it hard to express themselves. This can lead to difficulties in making sense of the world around them and processing new information, which can make it harder to do certain tasks that many of us take for granted. Just like everyone else, children with learning disabilities will continue to learn and develop, it simply happens at a slower pace.

Top tips

  • Establish a daily routine: Children respond best if they know what is happening now and next. You might find it helpful to make a picture timetable – e.g. taking photos of different activities to support your child’s understanding.
  • Help your child to understand what you are saying: Simplify your communication by using just the key words and offering visual cues or pictures e.g. if it is time to go out, show your child their coat and say ‘going out’.
  • Keep a behaviour diary: Notice what happened, how your child responds and what happens next. This will help you to identify any patterns or triggers for their behaviour, and help you to make sense of what it may mean.
  • Break tasks down into small achievable parts: Try using one-step instructions such as ‘socks first, then shoes’.
  • Praise and reward appropriate behaviours: This will help your child to understand what is expected of them and increase these positive behaviours.
  • Get moving: Research shows that exercise helps to reduce stress and frustration, as well as increase our feel good chemicals. Ensure your child has plenty of time to play and exercise eg jumping on a trampoline, playing football, swimming, dancing or playing on the swings.
  • Remember to look after you: Having a child with a learning disability isn’t easy, so be sure to take time out to care for yourself too. Have a bath, chill out with a film or chat to a friend: no one can manage alone so ask for help whenever you need it.

Learning disability resources

Local services

  • If you would like further support please speak to your GP, health visitor or school nurse and ask about a referral to your local Child Development Centre.