I’m one of the information and advice officers at Mencap. I’m sorry to hear that your son is struggling.
The term learning disability covers a broad range of individuals, each with different strengths and capabilities, as well as needs… When providing care and support the person should always come first and the label or category second. A person with a learning disability may find it harder to understand, learn and remember new things, meaning they may have problems with a range of things such as communication, being aware of risks or managing everyday tasks.
In the past, diagnosis of a learning disability and understanding of a person’s needs was based on IQ scores. Today the importance of a holistic approach is recognised, and IQ testing should form only one small part of assessing someone’s strengths and needs. Assessments of adaptive function focuses on how people can manage their daily living skills and what support they may need; this form of assessment is considered more useful in assessing the impact of any learning disability on a person than an intelligence test.
People with a mild learning disability have an IQ of 50 to 70 and are usually able to hold a conversation and communicate most of their needs and wishes. They may need some support to understand abstract or complex ideas. People are often independent in caring for themselves and doing many everyday tasks. They usually have some basic reading and writing skills. People with a mild learning disability quite often go undiagnosed – like your son until recently.
I do think it’s important to remember that everyone has individual needs and strengths. For example, when adults are assessed for benefit purposes and for eligibility for support from social services it is how their disability affects them day to day in specific tasks which is considered, rather than a diagnosis alone.
If your son is suffering from anxiety and low self esteem it would be a good idea to visit your GP. You can also talk to the GP about a referral pathway for diagnosis. It can be a good idea to keep a diary of a typical week to show the things your son finds more difficult.
If you aren’t happy with the response from the GP you could go to your local Healthwatch to ask about referral pathways in your area.
There is more information on our website, including videos of what it means to different people to have a learning disability: https://www.mencap.org.uk/learning-disability-explained/what-learning-disability
I hope that helps, but do contact the learning disability helpline on 0808 808 1111 if you need more help.