People with learning disabilities have a
significant, lifelong condition that started before adulthood (age
18), that affected their development and which means they may need
They may need help to understand information, learn skills, and
With the right support, people with learning disabilities can
live full and happy lives and make a meaningful contribution to our
What causes learning disability?
It is not always possible to say why someone has a learning
disability. There are many different types of learning disability.
Most learning disabilities are caused by the way the brain develops
- before, during, or soon after birth.
- Things may happen to the central nervous system (the brain and
the spinal cord)
- The mother may have an accident or illness while she is
- A parent may pass on particular genes to the baby
- The genes may develop in a particular way while the unborn baby
- The baby may not get enough oxygen
- The baby may be born prematurely
- The baby may develop an early childhood illness such as
encephalitis or meningitis
- The baby may fall victim to a physical accident
Genetic causes of learning disability
Fragile X syndrome and Down's syndrome are the two most common
genetic causes of learning disability.
Although Fragile X syndrome is the most common genetic cause of
learning disability, not everyone with this condition has a
learning disability. If they do, the learning disability could be
mild, moderate or severe. People with Fragile X syndrome may also
have problems with concentration and communicating with, or
relating to, other people.
About 60,000 people, or one in every 1,000 babies, in the UK have
Down's syndrome. This is caused by the presence of an extra
chromosome. Everyone with Down's syndrome has some kind of learning
Profound and multiple learning disabilities
People with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD)
have a profound learning disability, more than one disability and
great difficulty communicating. They will need full-time support
with every aspect of their lives - including eating, drinking,
washing, dressing, and personal care.
For more information and suport for people with profound and
multiple learning disabilities and their families, visit the PAMIS website.