What is a Learning Disability?
Having a learning disability (LD) means that you may find it difficult to perform everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, like getting dressed, shopping or making a meal, getting around, having a job, understanding simple instructions or working out problems. You may have speech difficulties, not understand fully what other people are saying, or not be able to speak at all. You may need more time to perform tasks or get very anxious about normal everyday problems like the bus being late, a letter arriving that you can't read, or someone asking you to do something you have never done before.
Different kinds of Learning Disability
Learning disability appears in many different forms in children, often apparent from birth, and sometimes appearing to develop in infancy. Apart from familiar disorders like Down's syndrome, autism, Asperger syndrome and cerebral palsy, learning disability takes many other forms, some mild, some severe, that may be more or less familiar to the public. Physical difficulties and health problems can often co-exist, making a very complex picture when considering needs.
Learning disabilities have no respect for class or income, but families on low incomes living in disadvantaged areas of the town have less resources in terms of energy, opportunity or emotional resilience to help them to access support. Disabilities don't come in carefully delineated packages, they are often complicated, and it is not uncommon for one person to have several disorders co-existing, like Down's syndrome, autism and heart problems, or autism, epilepsy and dyspraxia. Cerebral palsy can have both associated learning and physical disabilities or just the latter. Asperger syndrome can appear with a high IQ, but also with mental-health problems. Support can be required in a range of ways from a little extra help to live independently to full residential 24-hour care.
Effects of Learning Disability
Loneliness, isolation, unemployment and depression are often significant problems for adults with disabilities and, as with the elderly, there is little provision for support. There are estimated to be over 2500 people in Reading with a learning disability, but only around 450 received support in 2013/14 from the local authority.
Only 5% of people with learning disability have a job, even though 65% want to work. It is difficult to have a purpose in life if you have no job, don't feel useful, or have little independence. However, because their hearts are engaged with the need, the voluntary sector excels in providing information, support, activity and leisure services for people with learning disability and their families.