Hearing the news: getting a diagnosis

Hearing the news that your child has a learning disability is a huge shock for any parent, and brings new emotions and challenges.

At whatever stage you receive a diagnosis you are suddenly faced with new emotions and challenges, from grief and confusion to concern about the future.

When you receive a diagnosis, you will probably receive a lot of information all in one go, and you may find this too much to take in. In fact, it may be weeks or even months before you feel able to find out more about your child's condition. Try to deal with the information piece by piece as you need it, and don't be afraid to ask the people working with your child to go back through any of the details you might have missed.

After a diagnosis it is important to make sure you and your family get the right support, as you start to come to terms with your child's needs and the adjustments you have to make as a family.

I wish I'd known at the time that life would go on, that things would be different but that didn't mean they still couldn't be great.

Many parents have told Mencap that talking to other people in a similar situation can be a big help. You can contact other families via a local support group, or through the Mencap parents forum. You can also get in touch with Contact a Family, who offer advice, information and support to the parents of disabled children and enable them to contact other families locally and nationally.

Having a child with a learning disability has an impact on the whole family, and other relatives may also need support to deal with their feelings. Coping with unsympathetic relatives can be a stressful experience, but helping them to access information and support can allow them to come to terms with the situation in their own time. 


Tests during pregnancy

In some cases, a learning disability may develop before birth.

Diagnosis after birth

Some parents will receive a diagnosis after their child's birth.

Help and support

During this time, parents will need time to talk about their feelings and any decisions they are going to make.

A parent's story: hearing the news

I was not offered any tests when I was pregnant with my first child. I did request an ultrasound after a threatened miscarriage at 12 weeks because I was concerned there might be a problem, but the request was refused.

Getting the right support after a diagnosis

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