Use of the term 'learning disabilities' in the United Kingdom: issues for international researchers and practitioners
- Publisher: Learning Disabilities Worldwide
This paper presents a background as to use of the term “learning disabilities” that is widely used in the United Kingdom (UK). The paper also briefly explores how this usage may differ from that of other countries. To contextualize its use, a brief history of learning disabilities in the UK is outlined alongside diagnostic criteria, and epidemiological and etiological aspects of learning disabilities. These are relevant both to the UK and for international comparison. Finally, the practice of diagnosing and assessing learning disabilities in children and adolescents is briefly explored, as well as identifying the health and social care professionals who most commonly provide specialist support to people with learning disabilities in a range of educational, social, and health care settings in the UK. In particular distinction is made between the terms “learning disabilities” and “learning difficulties” – a source of continuing and common confusion amongst researchers, clinicians, and educators from countries outside of the UK. The paper concludes that non-UK international researchers, clinicians, and educators need to be cognizant of the importance of ensuring that the terminology they use is clearly understood. This is particularly relevant within the context of an ever-growing exchange of international ideas, research, and practice concerning people with learning disabilities.