Learning Disability – separating fact from fiction

News Page 14th June 2018

What’s true or false about having a learning disability (LD)? Our LD Nursing subject team separate fact from fiction to help bust a few myths.


A learning disability usually develops before or after birth – FACT
A learning disability usually develops before birth and has a lasting effect on a person’s development.

Thanks to medical advances there are fewer people with learning disabilities – MYTH
The opposite is true. Medical advances mean that infants who would have died now survive longer into childhood and adulthood meaning that there is an increase in the number of people with learning disabilities in society. (1)

More boys than girls are diagnosed with learning disabilities – FACT
This is true but there may be an under-diagnosis of girls because of social expectations of their behaviour.

Autism is the same as learning disability – MYTH

A learning disability is briefly defined as a condition in which someone has a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information. Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that impacts the ways in which a person communicates with and relates to people around them. The conditions can overlap: between 48-52% of people with autism have a learning disability. (2)

All people will autism have special abilities – MYTH

Some people with autism can have special talents in music, memory and art but these are exceptional. Like everyone else in society, people with autism are unique individuals and need to be supported in a highly individual way. (2)

Most people with learning disabilities live in the community – FACT

Although up to 70,000 people with learning disabilities once lived in specialist hospitals in the 1970s, the number has declined since then and now stands at approximately 2,500. People with learning disabilities now live in a range of settings which include living in their own house or flat, with others or in small residential homes. (3)

People with learning disabilities have the same rights as anyone else – FACT

Under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 disabled people (including those with learning disabilities) should be treated equally and they should be protected from discrimination in situations such as employment, housing, health care and services.

Society is more tolerant of people with disabilities – MYTH

Although we are seeing many more people on our television screens and in the media who have disabilities, people with learning disabilities are experiencing more hate crime. One survey reported that 73% of people surveyed had experienced hate crime. (5)

The only professional qualification you can take to work with people with learning disabilities is Learning Disability Nursing – FACT

There are many courses that professional and other workers can take to gain more knowledge and skills in learning disability. However, Learning Disability Nursing is still the only professional qualification available in the UK.

Because people with learning disabilities no longer live in hospitals, they don’t need nurses to support them – MYTH

People with learning disabilities are 2 and a half times more likely to have a health condition than the general population. They are more likely to experience barriers to get the healthcare they need in mainstream services. 27% of hospital trusts say they do not employ specialist staff in learning disability (3). Specialist nurses are needed more than ever.

At University of Northampton, we are passionate about caring for others, particularly those with learning disabilities, and want to make a positive difference to the lives of others. With our committed teaching staff who have a many years of experience and the network of wide-ranging placements, we are here to help you become the best LD nurse you can be.

We are also one of only two UK universities that are part of the established, professional European network for Nursing and Midwifery. The Florence Network offers opportunities for future health careers and further professional development for students and staff alike.

There are no jobs for learning disability nurses – MYTH

The vacancy rate for learning disability nurses in health services is currently 16% which is higher than other fields of nursing. (4)

The teaching team here at University of Northampton is smaller than the other nursing disciplines, the advantage of this being that our subject team get to know you personally much quicker and can help develop you into a unique LD professional quicker.

With the excellent work placements we have in Northamptonshire across the NHS, the private sector, special education schools, intensive support teams and community teams, you will be prepared to work practically anywhere, across the board.

For more about LD Nursing at University of Northampton, see our website.

(1)    http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/staff/emersone/FASSWeb/Emerson_08_PWLDinEngland.pdf

(2)    www.autism.org.uk

(3)    https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/learning-disability-services-statistics/learning-disability-statistics-annual-overview-england-2015-2016

(4)    https://www.nursingtimes.net/news/education/gaps-in-nurse-training-on-care-of-learning-disability-patients/7023288.article

(5)    Health Education England 2018

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