Disability Toolkit – cognitive or learning difficulties

What are cognitive or learning difficulties?

Learning difficulties occur at the level of the central nervous system and involve peculiarities or idiosyncrasies in perceiving, understanding and using verbal or nonverbal information. Cognitive difficulties generally refer to all disabilities affecting mental processes.

Estimates suggest that over 10% of people are affected by a cognitive or learning difficulties and yet no two individuals with these are exactly alike, and conditions such as Dyslexia, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Dyscalculia, Autism and Dysgraphia exist on a wide-spectrum. There is also Dyspraxia, a motor-skills difficulty that can affect a learner’s ability to write by hand and may affect planning skills.

Adults with a learning disability face many challenges. Adjustments must be made in work, education, daily routines and social interactions. They also often have to deal with secondary emotional issues such as frustration and low self-esteem.

What is the difference between ‘learning difficulties’ and ‘learning disabilities’?

The differentiation between learning disabilities and learning difficulties is often a confusing one. My Life provide a very succinct explanation as to the marked difference between an individual with learning difficulties and one with learning disabilities.  

MentalHealth.org differentiates between the two as follows:

  • a learning disability constitutes a condition which affects learning and intelligence across all areas of life
  • a learning difficulty constitutes a condition which creates an obstacle to a specific form of learning, but does not affect the overall IQ of an individual
Read more about these differences as explained by My Life in addition to a detailed definition provided by Mencap.