The Difference Between Learning Disability and Autism

Nicola Martin explains the difference between Autism Spectrum Disorders and Learning Disabilities.

Assessing Autism and Learning Disabilities

For a long time, Autism and Learning Disabilities have been grouped together however, are they the same thing or different from each other?

Autism and Learning Disabilities can occur together but are completely different from one another. You can also have one without the other which makes them exclusive.

The two of them do have similarities to each other:

  • Lifelong conditions
  • Difficulties for both are present from childhood
  • Neither has a cure
  • Significant impact on a person’s life
  • Impacts the way they see the world and others, as well as how they interpret them.


What’s The Difference?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how people process certain types of information. It can affect learning although it is not a Learning Disability. It can affect language skills, both when listening and speaking.

A Learning Disability is a neurological condition that affects how someone learns. This most often occurs in reading, writing, maths and problem solving. A Learning Disability causes people to struggle when making connections between different pieces of incoming information as well as when working to understand and organise the information.

Another difference between the two is how much help and support there is. If you have a Learning Disability you can get a lot of help and support however if you are Autistic and do not have a Learning Disability, there may be less help and support. This is because Autism can be harder to diagnose.


The Importance of Seeing The Individual

Both are lifelong conditions that can cause many struggles, so I believe there should be just as much help and support for those with just Autism as there is for people with a Learning Disability or both. Today, we can make life easier by recognising the exclusiveness of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Learning Disabilities. They are separate, being Autistic doesn’t mean you have a Learning Disability and having a Learning Disability doesn’t mean you have Autism. This could also help provide more people with the right help and support. See us as people, and for the individuals that we are.

By Nicola Martin