Having a child with a learning disability

Finding out that your child has a learning disability can be a confusing and emotional time for parents. While some may receive a specific diagnosis, others may be told their child has global developmental delay, or in some cases may never receive a specific diagnosis at all.

As well as dealing with your own emotions and concerns for the future, you may also need to offer support and advice to other family members such as partners, children and grandparents. You will come into contact with a number of different professionals during this time, and at some stage will want to find out more about your child's condition and learning disability itself.

This information has been written for parents to give them an introduction to learning disability and receiving a diagnosis. It provides information about supporting other family members and planning for the future, and a guide to some of the professionals you may come into contact with.

These pages also contain lots of information on action you can take. Look for the ‘What next?' sign for things you can do.

This information is also available to download as a PDF.


What is a learning disability?

For many parents, learning disability can be a difficult subject to understand and explain to others.

What causes a learning disability

There are many possible causes of learning disability, which can occur before, during or soon after birth.

Receiving a diagnosis

Parents who have a child with a learning disability may receive a diagnosis at any time.

Getting the right support after a diagnosis

Being told that your child has a learning disability can be a distressing experience for parents.

How will I cope with a child with a learning disability?

Every parent wants to give their child the best they can. However, this can be harder for parents who have a child with a learning disability.

Thinking about the future

Parents have told Mencap that one of their biggest concerns is thinking about the future for their child.

Will my other children have a learning disability?

Some genetic conditions are passed on in families – Down's syndrome is one example of a condition associated with learning disability that could be passed on to more than one of your children.

Support for brothers and sisters

Siblings growing up with a disabled brother or sister often develop a very special relationship, and demonstrate affection, understanding and sensitivity towards them.

Support for fathers

Many fathers play an important role in caring for their child with a learning disability, combining household tasks with the pressures of work and supporting other family members.

Support for grandparents

For grandparents, hearing that their grandchild has a learning disability can also be a difficult experience.

Telling friends and relations

Telling friends and family members about your child's diagnosis can be daunting, but for many parents it is a relief to let others know about the situation.

Parents and relationships

Having a child with a learning disability brings many families closer together, and brings with it many rewards.

Which professionals will I come into contact with?

See a list of some of the professionals you may come into contact with if your child receives a diagnosis of learning disability.

Further help

Find out where to get further help after a diagnosis of learning disability for your son or daughter.