Learning disability is a lifelong disorder diagnosed in childhood. Around 4 in 10 autistic people have a learning disability. 

A learning disability affects people in different ways. 

Common difficulties include:

  • adapting behaviour to different situations
  • interacting with others
  • controlling behaviour

Scientists have found genetic differences in both autism and learning disability making it likely that the two conditions are related.

Learning disability affects intellect and is sometimes referred to as intellectual disability. It is often confused with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, which do not affect intellect.

Common symptoms of learning disability in autism

Around 1 in 100 people have an IQ below 70 which means they have a learning disability. 

Ability is measured using a person’s IQ (intelligence quotient). IQ measures the ability to problem solve, exercise judgement and learn. Most people score between 70 and 130. 

A clinical assessment is needed to diagnose learning disability. 

The following behaviours and conditions are more common in autistic people with a learning disability

  • stereotyped behaviours, such as body rocking
  • self-injury
  • epilepsy

I've never had a conversation with Tim, but I know he understands more than he can say. He's an adult now but we make sure he keeps learning, I think that's really important

Michael, Parent

What you can do about learning disability

Jump to: See your doctor Join the Intellectual Disability Register Co-occurring conditions

See your doctor

If you believe you or your child has a learning disability you can visit your doctor to talk about seeking a diagnosis.

Read our advice about seeing your doctor.

Join the Intellectual Disability Register

If you or your child have a learning disability you can join a register at your doctor’s surgery. 

This helps healthcare professionals make reasonable adjustments to the care they provide to you, including

  • how they tell you about appointments
  • how they tell you about test results
  • where you have to wait for your appointment
  • where you are seen by the doctor or nurse

Co-occurring conditions

Autism is related to many other conditions. Find out more about co-occurring conditions like anxiety, ADHD and epilepsy.