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Living with a diagnosis

Being diagnosed with a learning disability can come as a shock. It is not always clear what the learning disability is or what caused it.

Some children are late reaching developmental milestones, such as talking or walking. This is usually nothing to worry about.

Developmental difficulties can sometimes have a definite cause, such as a problem with eyesight or hearing, or a condition such as a learning disability or autism.

Speak to your GP if you're worried about your child's development.

The needs of children and adults with disabilities or long-term health conditions are assessed to ensure they get the right care, health treatment, support and, if still at school or college, education or training. Where people have more than one type of assessment, they should be joined up.

Children and young people

Under the Children and Families Act 2014, and other laws, health, education and social care services must assess and plan for the needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) from birth to 25 years old. In some cases, extra help through Education Health and Care Plans must also be provided.

GOV.UK has more information about special educational needs and disability for children and young people.

If you think your child has an undiagnosed condition, your GP should be able to help you get the advice you need. The charity Scope's expert forum includes advice for families who can't get a diagnosis.


Adult social care assessments happen under the Care Act 2014 and other laws.

The assessment establishes the needs of the person with a disability and which services would be best for them. The purpose of the assessment is to draw up a plan of action for the person being assessed.

Each local area should make it clear how to get an assessment and the care that's needed. It's important for people to be assessed as early as possible to help them have the best life outcomes.

Read about how to get your care and support needs assessed.

If you have any concerns, talking about them with family, friends or the staff of an organisation like Mencap may help.

Healthcare providers, social services, schools and colleges all have a duty to make sure people get the right care and support.

There are also many community learning disability organisations who may be able to provide the help and support you need.

Find learning disabilities services near you.

If you're unhappy with the standard of healthcare you receive and are unable to resolve it with the staff or the service, you may want to make a complaint.

NHS England with other organisations also provide further information to help people with a learning disability and families give feedback, raise a concern or make a complaint about any aspect of their healthcare, social care or education support.