What is the difference between Learning Disabilities and Learning Difficulties?
Written on 12th Jul 2017 by Alex Lowery
As you may know, I have created a new speech on autism and co-occurring conditions that I’m hoping to deliver. There is a workshop we’re God willing going to run with this talk. Here is the link if you’re interested. Anyway, today I’m speaking about two types of conditions that are both very common among autistic people, but neither of them are apparent in all people on the spectrum. The two I’m talking about are Learning Difficulties and Learning Disabilities. I’m going to speak about the difference between the two.
I’ve come to find that many, many people seem to think that both Leaning Difficulties and Learning Disabilities are two names for the same thing. I don’t blame anyone for not knowing the difference. I didn’t even know myself at one point, but it’s something I’d really like to raise understanding of, because there really does seem to be a large amount who think they’re the same thing and there isn’t all that much information which says otherwise. But the fact to the matter is that both of them are different. The difference seems to be a bit complicated, since the definitions seem to mean different things depending on what country you live in, but from the information I’ve gathered; the following is what I understand the main difference as being. You could say that a Learning Disabled person has ‘Learning Difficulties’, but not all people with any form of Learning Difficulty are automatically Learning Disabled.
A Learning Disability refers to someone who has an IQ lower than 70, who are intellectually delayed in every aspect of his or her life. Learning Disabilities can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. People with mild Learning Disabilities may be able to live reasonably independent lives whereas people with Profound Learning Disabilities will likely require 24-hour care. Learning Disabilities are said to always be global and affect every aspect of the person’s ability to function at the same level all round. This is very different from an autistic person (unless there’s an accompanying Learning Disability) who will more than likely have some things that he or she is brilliant at, and other things that he or she really struggles with.
A Learning Difficulty normally refers to a difficulty in learning that’s more specific and not global. Conditions like Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Dysgraphia are all considered ‘Learning Difficulties’, but they wouldn’t normally be considered ‘Learning Disabilities’, because they’re not global and instead only affect the ability to learn in specific areas, and they wouldn’t normally affect a person’s overall intelligence. I myself have ‘Learning Difficulties’ in specific areas, but they’re not across the board so I wouldn’t be classed as having a Learning Disability, even though as a child, my overall IQ was barely over 70. However, IQs aren’t really a great way of measuring an autistic person’s intelligence, but that’s a good topic for another time.
What makes the difference between the two forms of LD particularly confusing, is that in the USA; the term ‘Learning Disability’ also seems to mean a specific Learning Difficulty. It seems that a lot of people in the USA still use the term ‘Mental Retardation’ to describe a person with an IQ lower than 70. Either that, or they’ll use the term ‘Intellectual Disability’, which I tend to use more often myself now, because it makes a more clear distinction from specific Learning Difficulties.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned at least something from it.
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