Generalized Learning Disabilities

Difficulties with all areas of learning experienced by children with significantly lower than average intelligence

  • Usually becomes apparent in early childhood
  • More common in boys
  • Genetics as a risk factor depends on the cause
  • Lifestyle is not a significant factor

A child with generalized learning disabilities has poor intellectual skills, leading to developmental delay. Generalized learning disabilities can affect speech, language, reading, and writing. Physical development may be affected, causing general clumsiness and poor hand–eye coordination. Behavioural problems may also develop.

There is often no obvious cause for mild generalized learning disabilities, which may not be noticeable until an affected child reaches school age. Severe learning disabilities usually have an obvious cause, such as the genetic disorders Down’s syndrome or fragile X syndrome.

What might be done?

Mild generalized learning disabilities are usually first suspected by parents or teachers when a child fails to develop skills at the same rate as his or her peers or is experiencing difficulties at school. In more severe cases, delays in development are usually detected at an early stage in childhood, often during routine developmental checkups.

If a child is thought to have generalized learning disabilities, the doctor will probably arrange for a full developmental assessment, including hearing tests (see Hearing tests in children) and vision tests (see Vision tests in children). Blood tests to check for evidence of genetic abnormalities may also be performed.

Most affected children have special educational needs and will benefit from attending classes or schools where they can have individual attention. Parents will be supported by a team of specialists, who may provide physiotherapy and speech therapy.

Many children with mild generalized learning disabilities can do well if they receive appropriate education and support. Those who are severely affected usually need lifelong supervision.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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