What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities - for example household tasks, socialising or managing money - which affects a person for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people.

There are approximately 70,000 people with a learning disability in Wales, with family members, carers and friends connected to them.

However, only 1 in 4 people with a learning disability in Wales are known to social services.

Conditions and learning disability

People with certain specific conditions can have a learning disability too. For example, people with Down syndrome and some people with autism can have a learning disability.

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Conditions associated with learning disability

As well as having a learning disability, a lot of people have other physical or emotional conditions, and may receive more than one diagnosis. 

This could have an impact on the kind of support they and their families need in their day-to-day life. You can find out more about some of the conditions that are closely associated with learning disability below.

Find out more

What support do people with a learning disability need?

The level of support someone with a learning disability needs depends on the individual. 

For example, a person with a mild learning disability may only need support with things like getting a job. However, someone with a severe or profound learning disability may need full time care and support with every aspect of their life - they may also have physical disabilities.

It’s important to remember that with the right support, most people with a learning disability can lead independent lives.

Young boy playing with paints in nursery

Learning disability explained

Find out more about learning disability in our Learning disability explained section on the main Mencap website .

Here you will find details of specific conditions as well as resources for healthcare professionals and employers.

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