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The terms ‘Learning Difficulties’ and ‘Learning Disability’ are often used interchangeably. Many individuals of varying intelligence may have a specific ‘learning difficulty’. A learning difficulty could mean anything from problems recognising the way words look (Dyslexia) to problems with short term memory (making it difficult to process large chunks of information at a time). Having a learning difficulty does not necessarily mean someone will be unable to achieve in academic life or look after themselves independently. Individuals with specific learning difficulties may have an average or higher than average IQ ( an average IQ is between 90-110). However, if a learning difficulty goes undiagnosed throughout childhood and adolescence, it can severely impact on an individuals confidence and ability to achieve their potential.
A Learning Disability is a diagnostic label for individuals who struggle in several areas of life and who would not be able to live independently without significant support or adjustments. Someone with a learning disability experiences both:
- An IQ score of less than 70 (an average IQ score would be 90-110)
- Difficulties coping independently without (age appropriate) support.
Recognition and Diagnosis
Due to financial constraints, cuts to resources and changes to education systems in the UK, learning difficulties and disabilities often go undiagnosed throughout a child’s entire education. This leaves children and young people struggling to fit in in an education system which is increasingly unable to acknowledge or meet their individual needs. An individual with undiagnosed learning difficulties or a learning disability might present with the following difficulties:
- Delay in reaching developmental milestones
- Problems with motor skills or unusual body movements
- Difficulties doing age appropriate tasks independently
- Difficulties achieving in education
- Anxiety about attending school, completing homework or doing exams
- School refusal or poor attendance
- Behaviour problems at home or school
- Frequent exclusions or isolations within school
- Appearing to be vulnerable amongst their peers or easily influenced by others
- Forgetfulness or problems organising oneself
Assessment for learning difficulties and disability should involve a comprehensive assessment by a Clinical Psychologist. This should include a thorough developmental history, liaison with education services and administration of specialist, standardised psychometric tests. There are many conditions which overlap with learning difficulties and the assessing clinician should have a good knowledge of a range of neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health difficulties to be able to offer a useful interpretation of the results of an assessment.
Sometimes it is helpful to include other professionals in the assessment to rule out alternative explanations for a child’s difficulties. This might include referral to a Paediatrician, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Occupational Therapist or Neurologist.
We are able to offer comprehensive assessments and diagnosis for children and young people under 17 who may have learning difficulties or a learning disability. Please see our services and pricing page for more information.