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Last updated:

September 22, 2023


6 months


This course includes:

6 months

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

6 months


Do you have experience with learning disabilities? Perhaps you have been assessed as having a learning disability yourself, or have a friend or relative who has this label? Maybe you work with people with learning disabilities. Or perhaps it’s something you know little about, and want to know more.


This badged course, Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging, lasts 24 hours and is comprised of eight sessions. You can work through the course at your own pace, so if you have more time one week there is no problem with pushing on to complete a further study session. The eight sessions are linked to ensure a logical flow through the course. They are:
  1. What is a learning disability?
  2. History: different approaches to learning disability over time
  3. Families
  4. Education
  5. Work and employment
  6. Health and well-being
  7. Relationships
  8. Making belonging happen: rights and advocacy
In this course you will meet a number of people, pictured in Figure 1 below, and hear about their experiences.
Figure 1 from left to right (top) Shaun, Dayo, Cian, Charlene (bottom) Terry, Phil, Clare Palmer, Elinor Palmer
Each session should take you around 3 hours. There are a number of activities throughout the course where you are asked to note down your response. A text box is provided for you to do this, however, if you would prefer to record your answers in another way that is fine. At the end of each session, there is also a quiz to help you check your understanding. And, if you want to receive a formal statement of participation, at the end of Sessions 4 and 8 there is a quiz which you need to pass. As you work through the course you may find you want to learn more. There are pointers at the end of each session to get you started. If you work in this field or want to advocate more effectively, this course will give you some of the knowledge and the language to help you do that.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Explain the term 'learning disability'
  • Describe the different ways learning disabilities have been viewed over time 
  • Reflect upon the impact that being labeled as having learning disabilities has on people and their families
  • Explain why it can be difficult for people with learning disabilities and their families to feel like they belong in society
  • Understand some of the barriers to people with learning disabilities and their families enjoying good lives and equal rights. 

Course Curriculum

    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • From the 1700s to the mid-twentieth century 00:30:00
    • The institutions 00:10:00
    • The geography of institutions 00:10:00
    • Life in an institution 00:25:00
    • Life in St Lawrence’s hospital 00:30:00
    • Life in the community 00:25:00
    • The late twentieth and early twenty-first century – things getting better 00:20:00
    • A changing policy landscape 00:30:00
    • The present 00:20:00
    • Introduction 00:10:00
    • Family experiences 00:25:00
    • Disabled by association 00:30:00
    • Change and no change for families 00:30:00
    • Family advocacy and family carers 00:30:00
    • Choice and conflict 01:00:00
    • Introduction 00:10:00
    • From ‘ineducable’ to ‘included’ 00:40:00
    • The role of special education 00:30:00
    • Inclusive education in practice 00:30:00
    • Challenges and benefits of delivering inclusive education 00:30:00
    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • The importance of work 00:20:00
    • Finding a job 00:30:00
    • Supporting people into work 00:10:00
    • Working with other people with learning disabilities 00:30:00
    • The impact of getting a job 00:30:00
    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • What are some of the health risks? 00:20:00
    • As independent as possible? 00:30:00
    • Healthcare 00:20:00
    • Reasonable adjustments 00:20:00
    • Unnecessary deaths 00:40:00
    • When things go well 00:30:00
    • Isolation, loneliness and ill health 01:00:00
    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • Caring relationships 01:00:00
    • Making friends 00:30:00
    • Romantic relationships 01:00:00
    • Managing the risks – avoiding harmful relationships 01:00:00
    • Introduction 00:20:00
    • Upholding people’s rights 00:40:00
    • Self-advocacy and getting to know your rights 00:50:00
    • Family advocacy 00:35:00
    • Changing the system 01:20:00
    • Working with people with learning disabilities 01:00:00

About the instructor

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Open University UK