Learning disability

The terms learning disability (LD) and learning difficulties are now used in preference to older ones such as mental handicap, mental retardation, or mental subnor-mality. Sometimes, patients with LD need to be admitted to hospital compulsorily under the Mental Health Act 1983; if so, the grounds are 'abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct', and mental impairment is the term used.

For practical purposes, LD is defined in terms not only of low IQ (intelligence quotient) test results, but also difficulty in coping independently and/or behavioural problems. Below 70 is the most frequently used marker for LD. Corresponding IQ levels are about 50-69 for mild cases, and below 49 for severe ones, but many people with IQs below 70 lead independent lives and do not need special medical or social care.

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