FAQs about People with Learning Disabilities or Autism Read the answers to the most frequently asked questions about people with learning disabilities or autism, according to Google. What is the definition of a learning disability? A learning disability is a condition that causes a reduced intellectual ability. How does a learning disability affect a person? A learning disability can affect a person in a variety of ways and to different degrees. Some of the main ways is through understanding information and how they communicate. They will also struggle with most of life’s skills, like money management, personal care, cooking or getting a job. Are learning disabilities permanent? Learning disabilities will affect people their entire life, but people can find ways to lessen the impact on their life by learning new life skills, gaining independence and being supported well by others. How do people with learning disabilities act? Just like someone without a learning disability, everyone with a learning disability will act differently depending on their personality. Some may be shy, others may be outgoing - it completely depends on the person. Why do people have learning disabilities? A learning disability is caused when the brain is damaged before it has chance to develop properly. This can happen before the person is born, during birth or in early childhood. The damage may be caused by a physical injury to the brain, or by an inherited condition (like Fragile X syndrome), or by chance genetic changes when the baby is conceived (like Down's Syndrome). What is the politically correct term for special needs? Some people don’t like the term ‘special needs’ as they think it encourages people to treat them differently. Everyone will vary with how they self-identify, but in both social and health contexts, people usually say they have a learning disability. Is a learning disability a mental illness? No, a learning disability and a mental illness are two separate things. A learning disability is permanent and affects the way a person understands information and communicates. A mental illness or a mental health problem can be temporary or long-lasting, and affects a person’s emotions or their ability to perceive reality. Someone with a learning disability might also have a mental illness or mental health problem. What is the definition of autism? The autism spectrum is a range of conditions that affect a person’s social interactions, interests, behaviour and communication. It can also cause sensory processing issues. Is autism a learning disability? Autism is not the same as a learning disability. Some people with a learning disability do also have autism, but the intellectual ability of many people with an autism diagnosis is unaffected by their condition. Is autism a new condition? Autism was first described by Leo Kanner in 1943, and since then, there has been an increased awareness of autism which has led to an increase in diagnoses. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that autism is a new condition. Is autism a disease? No, autism is not a disease, it’s a condition that affects the way a person interacts with others. Someone with autism might also be in good physical and mental health.