General learning disabilities

Acquired at birth, a learning disability is a lifelong intellectual disability which can make everyday tasks harder than they are for others.

  • Positive traits include: reliability, dedication, commitment, positive outlook and friendliness
  • Limited or no literacy and numeracy skills
  • Difficulty in understanding and interpreting situations - slower to process information
  • May have poor motor coordination
  • Difficulty with time management and organisational skills
  • Emotional immaturity
  • Limited ability to articulate or express themselves effectively
  • Low and poor short term concentration.
Potential impact on daily life and employment
  • Often more dependent on others for care and personal support
  • Support is needed to interpret written instructions or read warning signs
  • May need structure in their day and struggle with situations which require flexibility or judgement
  • Reduced confidence in social situations which, in turn, may result in inappropriate behaviour
  • Will take longer to learn new tasks, but once learnt will deliver them to a high standard
  • May misinterpret criticism or take it personally
  • May have some difficulty travelling independently
  • Susceptible to bullying.
Support in the workplace
  • Be clear about the job start and induction process – times, locations, dress standards, personal hygiene etc.
  • Job coaching is recommended to help the individual learn the job
  • Susceptibility to loss of concentration – close supervision is recommended, connect with a workplace buddy
  • Communicate support needs to colleagues as appropriate
  • Be mindful that the individual is unlikely to pick up on team dynamics – due to limited social skills they are unlikely to pick up “vibes”
  • Establish a preferred communication style – avoid lengthy emails or anything that relies too heavily on text
  • Changes in the workplace, such as environment, personalities or work processes, can trigger a behavioural reaction – try to communicate in advance where possible
  • If an individual changes department or job role, they may need to be re-trained on the job, even though their duties are similar to their previous activity. It may be worth considering engaging a job coach
  • Regularly repeat key workplace messages, such as health and safety related rules or procedures
  • Consider how a job can be re-designed to ensure that it plays to the strengths of the individual – eg. has a high degree of structure or routine, instructions are clear and understood
  • Where appropriate, consider inviting in a close friend, advocate or family member to help with difficult or particularly serious conversations.
  • There many other measures that can be put in place to support employees with a learning disability.

Approximately 4% of Australian students have a learning disability. 

Source: Learning Difficulties Australia, 2015.