In general, a learning disability constitutes a condition which affects learning and intelligence across all areas of life, whereas a learning difficulty constitutes a condition which creates an obstacle to a specific form of learning but does not affect the overall IQ of an individual.
The distinction between disabilities and differences continues to be a subject for debate and they are often seen as interchangeable, but it is accepted that there is a difference.
Those with learning difficulties have problems in acquiring knowledge and skills to the normal level expected of those of the same age.
A learning difficulty affects the learning ability of a person, their capacity to process, retain information and how they communicate. They often have problems understanding new or complex information, learning new skills and coping independently. There are many different levels of learning difficulties ranging from borderline mild, mild, moderate to severe/profound.
A person with a moderate learning difficulty has a much greater difficulty than their peers in acquiring basic literacy and numeracy and in understanding concepts. They may also have associated speech and language delay, low self-esteem, low levels of concentration and underdeveloped social skills. They can experience difficulties with household tasks, socialising or managing money, it can have an impact on their whole life as it doesn’t go away and it isn’t outgrown.
There is no cure, but with early intervention, appropriate teaching styles and strategies for the individuals, they can develop skills that can make a difference to their lives.
If the individual has capacity it is possible to empower them to develop skills which could improve their quality of life and level of understanding.
A person is referred by their GP to a psychologist, who will assess the learning ability. When doing this they take in a number of different matters, including the persons age, ability to use and understand language, cope with ordinary everyday tasks, make friends and to take part in games and other activities. The assessment also covers tasks of intelligence, reading and numeracy.
A label of any kind does not capture the person as a whole, it only identifies one aspect of the person.
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