A learning disability is caused by the way the brain develops – before, during or soon after birth

Before birth, things can happen to the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) that can cause a learning disability. A child can be born with a learning disability if the mother has an accident or illness while she is pregnant, or if the unborn baby develops certain genes. Genes are chemicals in our bodies that contain information about us – like how we look.

A person can be born with a learning disability if he or she does not get enough oxygen during child birth or is born too early.

After birth, a learning disability can be caused by early childhood illnesses.

A child can also be born with a learning disability if certain genes are passed on by a parent. This is called inherited learning disability. The two most common causes of inherited learning disability are Fragile X syndrome and Down’s syndrome. Fragile X syndrome and Down’s syndrome are not learning disabilities, but people who have either condition are likely to have a learning disability too.

Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common cause of inherited learning disability, but not all people with Fragile X syndrome have a learning disability. The level of disability can range from a learning disability to more severe cognitive or intellectual disabilities. FXS is the most common known cause of autism or ‘autistic-like’ behaviours. Symptoms also can include characteristic physical and behavioural features and delays in speech and language development.

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome in a person’s cells – all living things are made up of ‘cells’. Chromosomes are parts of cells. All people who have Down’s syndrome have some kind of learning disability.

It is important to remember that often it is not possible to say why someone has a learning disability

Source: Mencap

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