Learning Disabilities

About learning disabilities

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A learning disability is a permanent condition. It affects a person’s ability to understand information, learn new skills or communicate. It can also affect how they manage daily living. A learning disability can be genetic. It could be due to illness or physical damage to brain development either before or during birth or as a young child.

Learning disabilities can be mild, moderate or severe. Some people with learning disabilities may also have other needs. Other needs may arise from physical disabilities, long-term health conditions, autism or mental health.

A diagnosis is the formal identification of Learning Disability. This is by a health professional such as a clinical psychologist. Having a diagnosis may be helpful for 2 reasons:

  • It helps those with learning disabilities to understand why they may experience some difficulties and what they can do about them.
  • It enables people to access services and support.

Please contact your GP if you would like more information or help with a diagnosis.

Transition to adulthood

    If you are a young person who is currently receiving help from your local authority Children's Services department, you can find useful information about preparing to be an adult and whether you may be eligible for help from Adult Social Care on the pages below:

    For Hampshire County Council residents

    Hampshire Local Offer - Preparation for adulthood
    Adults' Health and Care - Transition to adulthood

    For Southampton residents

    Preparing for adulthood

    For Portsmouth residents

    Portsmouth local offer - Information for young people

    Healthcare and mental health

    People with learning disabilities will need health care in the same way as everyone else.  Some people with a learning disability will have additional health needs. For example, people with a learning disability are more likely to have epilepsy. They may need more support to understand information about their health.  They may need help to communicate symptoms and concerns and to manage their health.

    Anyone who is on their GP's learning disability register can have a free health check once a year. Mencap have information about annual health checks available in Easy Read. You can ask to go on the learning disability register if you think you have a learning disability. Mencap have Easy Read guides which explain how to get support from the doctor at your GP surgery, and how to join the learning disability register.

    The EasyHealth website has over 500 leaflets, and some videos, about physical and mental health for people with learning disabilities It also includes easy read information that health professionals can use. This will help them to help explain health issues and treatments to patients with a learning disability. 

    The Health Swap app is an easy and fun way for people with a learning disability, and their parents or carers, to make positive changes to their lifestyle. It helps you find ways to eat more healthy food and to track activity whilst also improving your digital skills.

    Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust runs learning disability services in Hampshire.

    It is estimated that 40% of adults with a learning disability also have a mental health problem. Mencap can offer information and advice about mental health issues.

    Anxiety UK provides information and advice to anyone suffering from anxiety, or their families or carers. 


    An advocate is a person who supports and helps you to explain things. An advocate helps you say what you want if you find it difficult to do by yourself.
    Advocates can help you:

    • access information and services
    • be involved in decisions about your life
    • explore choices and options
    • defend and promote your rights and responsibilities
    • speak out about issues that matter to you

    Finding an advocate for yourself or someone you know
    The Advocacy People is an independent charity. They provide free, independent advocacy to help sort out issues or concerns you may have. This could be about your health and wellbeing or your health and social care services. They help people to speak out, access their rights and have more control over their lives.
    You may be looking for community advocacy or person-centred planning. Visit the Hampshire Regional Advocacy Group website.  You can look for an advocacy group in your area.

    Staying safe from abuse or harm

    • See the information in our Protecting adults at risk section.
    • Hampshire Safeguarding Adults Board (HSAB) has a website. This has useful information for people who may experience or be at risk of experiencing abuse, their families and carers.  This includes easy read guidance about keeping safe. and mate crime.
    • A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. Mate crime is the exploitation, abuse or theft from any vulnerable person by those they consider to be their friends. Those that commit such abuse or theft are often referred to as 'fake friends'. Mate crime is most prevalent when the victim has a mental disability and is especially common when that disability is Autism or Asperger’s.
    • Hampshire police offer guidance on how to prevent and deal with hate crime or mate crime. You can also report hate crime or hate incidents to a community organisation in your area, if you do not feel comfortable contacting the police.
    • Safe Place to help people with learning disabilities. It is to help if you get lost, scared or upset when you are out on your own. There are safe places around Hampshire.
    • Mencap has advice on how to stay safe online, at school, at work and out and about.

    Relationships and sex

    Care technology

    Care technology - sometimes called Telecare - is equipment that can help to support people who wish to remain independent in their own homes and even when they are out in the community.  It provides them, their carers, family and friends, with the reassurance that help is available to them in an emergency 24 hours a day seven days a week. Care technology solutions are increasingly being used to help adults with learning disabilities.

    See more information about care technology.

    Services, support and information

    Our Community directory has local and national groups, services and activities for people with a learning disability.

    Mencap provides support and information. You can also use their website to search for a Mencap group in Hampshire

    The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities works with people and their families to make their lives better. They have a free guide with tips on how to stay safe in social media and online.

    The British Institute of Learning Disabilities works with people and their families to help them get the support they need to lead their own lives.

    The Down's Syndrome Association helps people with Down’s Syndrome as well as their families and carers.

    Find out about services for adults with learning disabilities provided by Hampshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council.

    Young people in transition from Children's Services are supported by the Independent Futures Team.

    A sunflower lanyard was introduced at major UK airports in 2018 in order to allow passengers with hidden disabilities to indicate discreetly to staff that they may need additional support or help. The use of the lanyard has now spread and is now available from a number of transport providers. You can pick up a free lanyard at Tesco.