A learning disability occurs when the brain is still developing - before, during or soon after birth.
- Before birth things can happen to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that can cause a learning disability. A child can be born with a learning disability if the mother has an accident or illness while she is pregnant, or if the unborn baby develops certain genes. Genes are chemicals in our bodies that contain information about us - like how we look.
- A person can be born with a learning disability if he or she does not get enough oxygen during childbirth, or is born too early.
- After birth, a learning disability can be caused by early childhood illnesses.
Getting a diagnosis of learning disability
A learning disability can be diagnosed at any time. A child may be diagnosed at birth, or a parent or professional may notice a difference in their development during early childhood. For some people it may be many years before they receive a diagnosis – while others may never receive a diagnosis at all.
Even with a diagnosis, it is often not possible to say why someone has a learning disability.
We've heard from a lot of parents how difficult the experience of diagnosis can be, especially when there are still so many uncertainties about the future. But there is a lot of support and information available, and lots of reasons to be optimistic about the future.
Although getting a diagnosis can be a very difficult and emotional experience for families, it is often the first step to accessing the care and support they need for the future.
Find out more about getting a diagnosis of learning disability and where to get help and support.