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, 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 childbirth 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.

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

Page last updated on July 23rd, 2012