Learning disabilities​ overview​

Key points

  • Learning disability is a lifelong condition, which impacts on the individuals, educational, social, economic, and life choices
  • There is a high prevalence of communication and swallowing disabilities occurring in this population
  • Communication difficulties are associated with increased prevalence of challenging behaviour

What are learning disabilities?

If you’re a speech and language therapist, please sign up or log in to access the full version of this content.

Learning disability is a lifelong condition and not an illness as such, although it may be accompanied by physical, psychological and psychiatric illness and disability. The term encompasses a range of conditions and levels of severity. Many people with learning disabilities can be integrated into, and make a positive contribution to a wider society.

Role of speech and language therapy for learning disabilities

There are critical periods in the life of a person with a learning disability, where additional speech and language therapy intervention may be needed. For example, primary to secondary school, death of a member of the family, etc.

As part of all service delivery, there is emerging practice and developing roles. Within learning disability, this might include building capacity in other services and the wider community and helping services to make reasonable adjustments.


For further information read our learning disabilities (PDF) fact sheet.

To learn more about Rett Syndrome, see the @GivingVoiceUK Twitter takeover by Rett UK.

For more videos visit the RCSLT YouTube channel.

1 of 5