Communicating with people with learning disabilities
In this part of our series on communication, Keri-Michèle Lodge looks at the problems facing people with learning difficulties
“I hate doctors,” says Jim with his electronic Lightwriter communication aid. Jim is 23 years old and has severe learning disabilities, dysarthria, and an overwhelming dislike of doctors.
There are about 210 000 people with severe learning disabilities like Jim in the United Kingdom.1 Another 1.2 million have mild or moderate learning disabilities.1 Learning disabilities decrease a person's abilities to understand, remember, or express information or to learn new skills, affecting their intellectual and social development throughout life.2 People with learning disabilities may have difficulties with spoken and written language, coordination, attention, or self control.3 Often, learning disabilities coexist with other conditions, including physical impairments, sensory impairments, or behavioural disorders.
People with learning disabilities are a vulnerable and socially excluded group. David Congdon, head of external relations for Mencap, a UK charity working with people with learning disabilities, says that people with a learning disability have worse health than people