The History of Learning Disability

‘The history of disability was to hide it,’ but Waltham students bring it to light

Boston Globe

19 June 2018

OU History of Learning Disability

Open University Social History of Learning Disability

Timeline of learning disability history


General sites on Learning Disability

Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

Understanding Intellectual Disability and Health

Learning Disability Coalition

The Rix Centre: Innovation for Learning Disability

History@Kingston Blog Mar 15

History@Kingston Blog

A Social History of Learning Disability: Langdon Down Museum

History@Kingston is a multi-authored blog written by staff, students, alumni and public historians who contribute to the study of history at Kingston University and the town’s rich local heritage.

History of Learning Disability. This new site offers a range of resources as well as principles, e-texts and discussion forums on the often neglected area of the history of learning disability, intellectual disability or developmental disability.  Site authors Chris Goodey, Patrick McDonagh, Lynn Rose, Murray Simpson and Tim Stainton are recognized pioneers in this small but growing area of research.  While there is much for academics on the site, we are also committed to ensuring the lessons of history are applied in real world contexts and in support of furthering inclusion, ordinary lives and citizenship. See History of Learning Disability

Dr David Wright, Professor of the History of Medicine at McGill University discussing Down’s syndrome on CBC Radio on Saturday November 19, 2011. See audio.

All the King’s Fools: The fools of the early Tudor court were likely to have been people with learning disabilities as a new project demonstrates, says Suzannah Lipscomb. See article in History Today Volume: 61 Issue: 8 2011

Penn Museum. Expedition Volume 16, Number 4 Summer 1974.
See Jaguar Cult–Down’s Syndrome–Were-Jaguar Roberto Gonzalo and George Milton

What is a learning disability?

The following definition is reproduced from the Mencap website

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complex information and interact with other people.

The level of support someone needs depends on individual factors, including the severity of their learning disability. For example, someone with a mild learning disability may only need support with things like getting a job. However, someone with a severe or profound learning disability may need full-time care and support with every aspect of their life – they may also have physical disabilities.

People with certain specific conditions can have a learning disability too. For example, people with Down’s syndrome and some people with autism have a learning disability.

Learning disability is often confused with dyslexia and mental health problems. Mencap describes dyslexia as a “learning difficulty” because, unlike learning disability, it does not affect intellect. Mental health problems can affect anyone at any time and may be overcome with treatment, which is not true of learning disability.

It’s important to remember that with the right support, most people with a learning disability in the UK can lead independent lives.