Hft | Causes of and diagnosing a learning disability

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Causes of learning disability

Learning disabilities can be caused by a number of different factors that include, but aren’t limited to: –

  • damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth
  • inherited genetic learning disability
  • genetic mutations, or chromosomal abnormalities taking place at or around the point of conception
  • illness, either in the mother during pregnancy, or in the child during early years.

But many people will never be sure of the cause of their learning disability.

‘Diagnosing’ a learning disability

Because some learning disabilities form part of the diagnosis of a particular condition or syndrome, they can often be diagnosed at birth.  For example, people with Down’s Syndrome will have an accompanying learning disability.

Some learning disabilities may take time to become apparent however, meaning that diagnosis does not happen until six months, a year, maybe even four or five years after birth. Rett Syndrome for example, is usually identified in infancy, somewhere between six and 18 months old when symptoms start to present.  As Rett syndrome is genetic, it can be usually be confirmed by blood tests.

Diagnosis of a learning disability is important for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly, the diagnosis can open doors to specialist support designed to ensure that the person involved has every opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • Secondly, some learning disabilities are associated with certain health conditions. Knowledge of this means that the person can be monitored for those particular health conditions, and treated as effectively as possible.
  • Thirdly, where a learning disability is genetic, diagnosis might be important for relatives who may also then consider getting tested to determine whether they also carry the gene-mutation in question.

It’s important to remember that a learning disability is not an illness, or a disease. Improvements in health and social care over the years mean that with appropriate support, people with learning disabilities can live long, fulfilled lives. Find out more about Hft services.