What is a learning disability?

What is a learning disability? 

Our definition of a learning disability was developed in consultation with people with learning disabilities themselves:

A learning disability is significant and lifelong. It starts before adulthood and affects a person’s development. This means that a person with a learning disability will be likely to need help to understand information, learn skills and live a fulfilling life. Some people with learning disabilities will also have healthcare needs and require support to communicate.

Scotland’s Census, 2011, reported 26,349 people to have learning disabilities, which is 0.5% of Scotland’s population. Both evidence from statistics and people’s lived experiences show that people with learning disabilities do not yet enjoy the same life chances as others. 

Find out more about Scotland’s learning disability strategy The keys to life here.

You can read what the General Medical Council says about learning disability here.

Other terms for learning disability

Learning disabilities are sometimes referred to as ‘learning difficulties’. A learning difficulty is a difficulty in processing information; for example dyslexia and dyspraxia are learning difficulties. Learning difficulties do not usually affect a person’s development in the same way as a learning disability.

A person can have both a learning disability and a learning difficulty.

Learning disability is sometimes called ‘intellectual disability’. This term is often used by researchers. It is also used internationally to mean learning disability.