Learning disability is nearly always present from birth, though it is sometimes not recognised until children fail to meet milestones in their development such as sitting up or beginning to talk. It is a permanent condition, not an illness, but with the right kind of support many people can improve their practical and social skills even if it takes a long time.

Like the rest of the population these people have very diverse personalities and characteristics. Their backgrounds and family circumstances also vary and these, together with the nature and degree of disability, will help to determine the level of support they need.

People with a learning disability are usually unable to learn things as quickly or effectively as most people and find it difficult to understand or retain new or complicated information. They also find it harder than others to learn new skills such as practical things like getting dressed or making a cup of tea. Support is often needed to learn social skills and some may not even speak and have to find other ways of communicating with those around them.

People with a profound disability need a great deal of care and support throughout their lives. Others can live or learn to live quite independently with much less assistance.