Learning Disability

Learning Disability

Learning disability affects the way children learn new things, this does not just refer to their ability to learn new things academically but in every aspect of life. It can also affect children’s understanding and functioning of day to day activities.

Learning disability can affect a child’s ability to learn language, speech and communication skills. Children’s speech, language and communication skills may develop at a slower rate than expected developmentally.

Our speech and language therapists can work with a child who has a learning disability to increase their speech, language and communication skills to the best of their ability in order to increase their daily functioning.

What exactly is learning disability?

Learning disability is the term used to describe neurological variances in the brain that affects processing, understanding and using information. This limits a child’s ability to learn and progress in various areas of development. Children with learning disability experience difficulties or delay in one or more areas of development such as cognitive, play, physical, emotional and speech and language development.

The severity of learning disability can range from mild, moderate, severe or profound. Functioning and difficulties experienced by the child can vary according to the severity of the disability. Some children who have a more mild learning disability can grow up to live independent lives with the right support. A child with a profound or multiple learning disability may need help with day to day activities such as eating or getting dressed throughout life.

What causes learning disability?

Learning disability is caused when the brain is affected while is developing this can be before during or after birth while the child is still young.

Some causes are:

  • During pregnancy the mother becomes ill or has an accident.
  • If the child doesn’t receive enough oxygen during pregnancy or while being born.
  • If the child is born premature.
  • Substance abuse by the parent during pregnancy.
  • The unborn child developing certain genes or genes that are passed on from the parents that can cause the child to have a learning disability.
  • A traumatic injury to the brain or development of certain illnesses in early childhood.
  • Sometimes there are other conditions associated with learning disabilities such as, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and Down’s syndrome.
  • Sometimes the cause is unknown.


There are no definitive figures of the prevalence of children with a learning disability living in the United Kingdom as the term used varies between disability and difficulty. Many children go undiagnosed until later stages of childhood. It is estimated that that there are 286,000 children aged 0-17 living in the UK with a learning disability.

Services for Special needs schools

We provide services to special needs schools. Your school will be provided with an enthusiastic speech and language therapist that is able to dedicate part of their time to improving speech, language and communication outcomes for the pupils throughout the special needs setting.

  • Universal approach
  • Therapy based on child's needs
  • Better outcomes for pupils

Symptoms associated with learning disability

The difficulties a child may experience with learning disability is individual to each child. It depends upon how severe their learning disability is, how it affects their functioning and development. Difficulties may not be apparent to parents or professionals until the child is older.

During childhood some early signs to look for are:

Developmental delay in one or more of these areas:

  • Gross motor skills.
  • Fine motor skills.
  • Speech, language and communication.
  • Cognitive ability.
  • Social and emotional skills.
  • Play.

Some speech, language and communication symptoms a child with learning disability may demonstrate are:

  • Receptive language problems - Difficulty understanding what has been said or written.
  • Expressive language problems - Difficulty expressing their thoughts.
  • Speech difficulty - Difficulty producing sounds needed for speech.
  • Attention and listening difficulties - Difficulty paying attention to one task for a prolonged period or listening to someone speaking.
  • Social communication difficulties - Difficulty with understanding and expressing nonverbal communication such as, emotions, body language, tone and volume of voice, choosing appropriate language for the situation and conversational skills.
  • Difficulty with eating drinking and swallowing.

How does learning disability impact upon function?

The impact learning disability has on a child’s daily life varies according to each child. Some children may find some aspects of day to day living easier than other children who have learning disability. Some difficulties a child may experience include:

  • Being able to make friends.
  • Accessing the curriculum.
  • Expressing their thoughts and emotions in an appropriate way.
  • Understanding others around them.
  • Communicating with friends family and peers.
  • Difficulty understanding certain concepts such as time and money.
  • Difficulty with reading and writing.
  • Difficulty with memory.
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills needed in school and around home, such as cutting.

Many of these difficulties can affect the child’s quality of life. Our speech and language therapists can help reduce the levels of difficulties and increase quality of life by assessing the child's needs and producing individualised therapy programmes.

Speech clinic

We are able to help children with any speech, language or communication difficulties and disorders in order to help children achieve their maximum potential.


Speech and language therapy assessments suitable for learning disability

Our speech and language therapists will work on assessing your child’s speech, language and communication skills to see how it affects your child on a day to day basis. Assessments would vary according to your child’s needs and abilities. As each child who has learning disability struggles with different aspects of communication, the therapist will develop the assessment to suit your child. Our speech and language therapists can use both formal and informal assessments to assess your child’s needs these would be chosen upon suitability to your child’s abilities.

Assessments available include:

Speech and language therapy available for learning disability

Children with a learning disability can benefit from speech and language therapy as it can help to increase their function in day to day life. The type of therapy would vary between each child as it is tailored to the child’s needs, abilities, goals and motivators. Our speech and language therapists will work with you, your child, and the school to develop a programme unique to your child’s priorities.

Some children with a learning disability may understand what is being said to them but struggle to answer in an appropriate way that is understood by others. Our speech and language therapists can help them by providing an expressive language programme that works on developing their expressive language skills, such as syntax. Some children with a learning disability may struggle with understanding what is being said. Our speech and language therapists can work on developing the child’s understanding of language by using key word exercises as well as working with parents on how to adjust their language to suit their child’s needs.

Speech and language therapy available for children with a learning disability includes:

  • Receptive language programmes.
  • Expressive language programmes.
  • Speech sound programmes.
  • Social communication programmes.
  • Eating, drinking and swallowing advice.
  • Group therapy.
  • Individual therapy.
  • Support, training and advice for parents, carers, schools and other professionals.

Speech and language therapy can help to increase activity and participation in day to day activities at home, school and in the community for a child with a learning disability. Our speech and language therapists will work with you and your child to create a programme to suit you based on the child’s goals.

Have questions?

If you have any questions about the services that we provide or the difficulties that we are able to help, do not hesitate to contact us.


Next steps

To book an appointment or for more information on the services we provide speak to our speech and language therapists on office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298.

Yellow music note icon

Speech Clinic

Our speech and language therapists provide a range of services for children with speech, language and communication needs.

Visit Clinic
Red speech block icon

Voice Clinic

We provide specialist speech and language therapy services for children with voice difficulties.

Visit Clinic
Green knife icon

Feeding Clinic

Our expert speech and language therapists provide a range of services for children with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties, alongside our professionals multidisciplinary team.

Visit Clinic
Back to top icon Toggle Text to speech