chapter  36
18 Pages

Specific and generalised learning disability

ByQuentin Spender, Judith Barnsley, Alison Davies, Jenny Murphy

A number of different terms are used to describe people with a learning disability, including for instance learning disabilities and impairments, intellectual disabilities, mental handicap, mental retardation, global developmental delay or developmental disabilities. Generalised learning disabilityis usually diagnosed when the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is less than 70. Specific learning disability is usually diagnosed when there is a particular skill deficit in relation to the child’s overall IQ. The medical term mild learning disability corresponds to the educational term moderate learning difficulties (LD). Intellectual functioning in people with mild learning disability is on a continuum with those of normal IQ—since it is the thick part of the tail of the normal distribution. The tapering end of the tail of the normal distribution comprises individuals with moderate-to-profound learning disability. As LD can often be due to a damaged or malformed brain, it may often be associated with impairing medical conditions, such as epilepsy or cerebral palsy.