Learning difficulties

How we can help people with learning difficulties

A learning difficulty is the result of a brain development pattern which has not happened as it should. This then affects how the brain receives and processes information. There are a variety of different types of learning disability, and most occur before birth, during early development or after a serious illness in the early stages of life. A learning disability will be permanent and will vary in severity.

Speech and language therapy can help to improve and support the communication and swallowing of an individual with learning difficulties. The speech and language therapist will explore different options of communication to help maximise the individual’s ability to communicate to their full potential.

What is a learning difficulty?

A learning difficulty can range from mild to severe and can affect people in different ways. Generally, people who have a learning difficulty, find it harder to communicate and understand. This can then affect how a person learns. Some people have what is known as a Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD) which means they need assistance with everything in their day to day life, including washing and dressing.

What causes learning difficulties?

A learning difficulty is the result of the brain not developing as it should and leading to a disruption in how it receives and processes information. This can happen, before, after or during birth.

Before birth as the baby is developing, is when a learning disability may occur. This could be through the mother getting ill, or after the baby has developed certain genes. Lack of oxygen during birth can be a contributing factor and lead to learning difficulties, as well as being premature. A childhood illness such as meningitis can also cause learning difficulties.

What problems caused by learning difficulties can SLT UK help with?

There are many different aspects of a learning disability which speech and language therapy will help with. Speech and language therapy may target an individual's attention and listening, comprehension or expression, speech sounds, communication, social communication or voice problems. This will depend on the individual's needs and abilities.

The speech and language therapist will discuss different aspects of therapy which are best suited to the individual’s needs and abilities. This approach will determine what areas are most important for the individual to work on.

How does speech and language therapy help individuals with learning difficulties?

Speech and language therapy can be beneficial to people with learning difficulties to enable them to communicate to the best of their ability. Speech and language therapists will be able to develop and implement an individual therapy programme whilst working together with an individual’s family as well as them, aiming to reduce the communication difficulties faced on a daily basis. This may include implementing new ways of communicating through the use of signing, symbols and communication aids. This will hopefully lead to a new way of communicating and make the individual feel more confident about communicating with others.

What would speech and language therapy treatment for an individual with learning difficulties Involve?

The speech and language therapist will carry out an initial assessment to evaluate the individual’s speech, language, communication and swallowing abilities. The speech and language therapist will then use this information to create an individualised treatment plan. This treatment plan will be tailored to the individual’s specific needs and abilities. The speech and language therapist will focus on the positive aspects of an individual’s communication and use this to help them to communicate to their full potential.

After an initial appointment, speech and language therapy may include assessments, reports, reviews, therapy programmes, support groups, training, advice and education.

Specific therapy approaches which might be used for individuals with learning difficulties include:

An initial assessment will be carried out by one of our speech and language therapists. This will highlight any worries and difficulties concerning communication and speech. It will also provide a chance for you to share any concerns you may have, and allow you to discuss what you would like to work on and improve.


A learning difficulty can range from mild to severe and produce different difficulties depending upon the individual and the extent of damage to the brain. Speech and language therapy can be beneficial for anyone suffering from a learning disability and can produce new ways for someone to communicate as well developing skills gained already.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 088 5643.

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