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Learning disabilities

A learning disability affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate. This means they can have difficulty:

  • understanding new or complex information
  • learning new skills
  • coping independently
  • with their ability to read or write

Some other skills are impacted such as:

  • timekeeping
  • organisation
  • abstract reasoning
  • attention
  • short-term and long-term memory

These difficulties may vary depending on the severity of the learning disability. They can be mild, moderate, or severe. Depending on the level of learning disability, a person may need support with daily living activities, being involved in social activities and keeping safe.

Profound and multiple learning disability

A profound and multiple learning disability (PMLD) is when a person has a severe learning disability and other disabilities that significantly affect their ability to communicate and be independent. Someone with PMLD may have severe difficulties seeing, hearing, speaking, and moving. They may have complex health and social care needs due to these or other conditions. A person with a moderate learning disability may also need support in these areas, but not definitely.

Your health

People with a learning disability may have poorer physical and mental health than other people. An annual health check can help you stay well by talking to a doctor or nurse about your health and finding any problems early. You do not have to be ill to have a health check.

If you are worried or nervous about seeing a doctor, or if there is anything that they could do to make you feel more comfortable in your appointment, let the doctor or nurse know. They can make changes to help you, called reasonable adjustments.

Ask your doctor if you need any reasonable adjustments, such as:

  • using pictures, large print, or simpler words to say what's happening
  • booking longer appointments or having a carer with you
  • putting an appointment at the beginning or end of the day, if you find it hard to be in a busy waiting room

The reasonable adjustments you need should be written down in a health profile or health action plan that the doctor or nurse can use.

The GP will check lots of things and give you a ‘Health Action Plan’.

Learning disabilities - Annual health checks - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

You can get easy-read health information on the Easy health website:

Easy Health | Home

My Health Guide

My Health Guide is a specially designed app for people with learning disabilities to help manage their daily lives. It provides a simple to use system that can be accessed by carers, friends and health and social care professionals to support individuals in a range of health and community settings.

My Health Guide can be used to store information about an individual and lets carers, health professionals and community providers develop services based on the information that is stored. This means that the person will receive a consistent service no matter who is supporting them or where they are.

Hear Me Now (myhealthguideapp.com)

Support

The right support from professionals helps people with a learning disability live as full and independent a life as possible. Professionals include:

  • GPs
  • paediatricians (doctors who specialise in treating children)
  • speech and language therapists
  • physiotherapists
  • educational and clinical psychologists
  • social care

You can get support information from the following websites.

Access Learning Disability Advice and Support | Mencap

Learning disabilities - Living with a diagnosis - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Find Learning disabilities services - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Refer yourself, a friend or a family member for care and support with Kent County Council's Adult Social Care

If you refer yourself to Kent County Council, you may be eligible for support from the Kent Pathway Service. Watch this video to find out more.

Last updated: 09/03/2022