Learning Disabilities Screening Tool

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS

Using the tool

The aim of this screening checklist is to provide a simple way of providing you with information and beginning to identify parents to be/parents that may have a Learning Disability so appropriate support can be provided.


Step 1 will help you decide if you need to use this tool or not. Please pay attention to the distinction between Learning disability and a Learning difficulty.

Some Definitions to help you better understand the difference

The terms Learning Disability and Learning Difficulty are often used interchangeably. Please see the table below to see the difference:

Learning Disability

  • Has an impact on most areas of a person's life and skills.
  • Significant reduced ability to understand new and complex information ( impaired intelligence).
  • Reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning). i.e. everyday skills such as travelling, budgeting, domestic skills etc.
  • Both reduced abilities started in early childhood and have a life long impact.
  • These difficulties started in early childhood and have a lifelong effect on development.
  • Cannot be cured.

Learning Difficulty

  • Has a specific effect on one area of a person's life (reading, writing, counting, coordination, speech).
  • Specific difficulty in learning often given in an educational context:
    1. Dyslexia (difficulties with reading).
    2. Dyspraxia (difficulties with planning, executing and coordinating movement (person can be viewed as clumsy).
    3. Dyscalculia (difficulties in learning and comprehending numbers).
    4. Other linguistic difficulties.
  • It's remediable or can be improved with intensive teaching and support.


There is a potential for certain life circumstances to alter the way in which an individual's ability is perceived. Recent trauma, mental ill health, English being a second language and use of certain medications may all have an impact on communication and understanding. It is important that these factors are checked before an assumption of learning disability is made.

Exclusion criteria:

People cannot be identified as having a learning disability if they are able to: Have a GCSE or an NVQ above level 2; drive a car; have attended normal educational without additional support; have completed complex purchases without help (Mortgage); have had normal development until head injury or accident when in adulthood (this is then classes as Head Injuries); have had normal development until Chronic Mental health develops (this is than classed as Mental Health). Impairment is a result of drug or alcohol abuse, or the disability is caused by hearing or sight impairment.

Step 2 - History

By ascertaining someone's history we are better equipped to understand why someone may be presenting in a certain way. Important information to acquire:
  • Has the person attended special school? They must have a Statement of Special Education highlighting that they have a Learning Disability.
  • Has the person had previous assessments by clinical psychologists, educational psychologists or psychiatrists indicating that the person has a Learning disability?
  • Have you have checked with GP if the person is registered as someone with a learning disability (On E3 code or Learning Disability register).
  • Is the person is receiving services from other Learning Disability professionals.

Step 3 - Exploring signs of a learning disability

Here are some prompt questions that could be used to ascertain the information requested on step 3 of the screening form.

Do not to ask all the questions to a person. This would be overwhelming.

You need to read them before, so you have an idea of what else to ask, should the question on the form not be enough or appropriate.

The person has problems using public transport or getting to appointments.

Possible prompt questions/areas:

  • Can the person describe their journey to the clinic appointment?
  • Can the person travel to local and familiar places independently?
  • Can the person travel to new/unfamiliar places independently?