General Learning Disabilities

Deep down, John is a sensitive and caring young man. … I think that John is tired of being different. I also believe that the labels that have been placed on John have made it difficult for him to succeed. John has learned to see himself as different. He is not different, he just has his own abilities and needs.

(Taken from ‘My Brother’s Learning Disability: My Family’s Struggle’ by Kristen Harkness in Journal of Leisurability, vol. 22, no. 3, Summer 1995

Photo of boy and teacher looking over the letters of the alphabet

Mild General Learning Disability

Moderate General Learning Disability

Severe/Profound Learning Disability

The Report of the Special Education Review Committee (SERC) (1993) referred to 'general learning disabilities' as 'mental handicap' and adopted the classification system used by The World Health Organisation to indicate specific levels of disability. The Department of Education and Science (DES) continues to adopt The World Health Organisation classification system, but uses the term 'general learning disability' to refer to the special educational needs of students.

It is important to be aware of the significance of the differences internationally in definitions of learning disabilities. Moderate learning difficulties in the UK are broadly comparable with moderate to mild intellectual disabilities (Australia/New Zealand), mild mental retardation or educable mentally retarded (US/Canada) and mild general learning disabilities in Ireland. In the UK, severe learning difficulties are broadly comparable with moderate intellectual disabilities (Australia/New Zealand), moderate to severe mental retardation or trainable mentally retarded (US/Canada) and moderate to severe general learning disabilities in Ireland. Profound and multiple learning difficulties in the UK are broadly comparable to severe intellectual disabilities (Australia/New Zealand), severe to profound mental retardation (US/Canada) and profound general learning disabilities in Ireland.


Fact-Sheets on General Learning Disability

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