About the Learning Disabilities Elf

The Learning Disabilities Elf aims to bring you the latest learning disabilities evidence that is published each week.

We scan the most important websites, databases and journals and select evidence that is relevant to health and social care professionals with an interest in learning disabilities.

Our daily posts include summarised published evidence, policy guidance, reports and links to primary sources.

Our team of expert contributors

  1. Rachel Allan, Practice Leader working for The Royal Mencap Society.
  2. Sian Anderson, Sessional lecturer and researcher, Living with Disability Research Group at LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
  3. Paul Barnard, Senior Community Support Worker
  4. Christine Burke, Senior Development Manager for the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
  5. Nick Burton, Regional Operations Manager, The Royal Mencap Society
  6. Reed Cappleman, Clinical Psychologist in Wakefield’s Community Learning Disability services
  7. Brant Cebulla, Former Development Director for the Vitamin D Council
  8. Tom Crossland, Clinical Psychologist
  9. Alix Dixon, Assistant Psychologist with Community Learning Disabilities CAMHS Team
  10. Kate van Dooren, Postdoctoral fellow at the Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability.
  11. Alison Giraud-Saunders, Independent Consultant.
  12. Michelle Gregory,  Clinical Psychologist working in a Community Team for People with Learning Disabilities
  13. Fawn Harrad, Support worker and Research Assistant at University of Leicester
  14. Angela Hassiotis, Professor of Psychiatry at the UCL Division of Psychiatry
  15. Angela Henderson, Deputy Director of the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory (SLDO)
  16. Pauline Heslop, Senior Research Fellow, Norah Fry Research Centre.
  17. Rosalyn Hithersay, Learning Disability Researcher at University College London
  18. Matt Hoghton, GP in North Somerset and a Visiting Fellow in Social and Community Medicine at Bristol University.
  19. Paula Hopes, Senior Lecturer in the Learning Disability Team at Teesside University
  20. Jill Hughes, Advanced Social Work Professional in the Young Adults Team in Worcestershire
  21. Sam Jee, Research Associate at the University of Manchester
  22. Mandy Johnson, Team Manager Disabled Children’s Short Breaks Activities Programme, and Children’s Occupational Therapists, Hampshire
  23. Emma Langley, Doctoral Researcher, University of Warwick
  24. Alex Leeder, Social Worker Community Learning Disabilities Team
  25. Silvana Mengoni, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire
  26. Nikki Newhouse, Researcher at Health Experiences Research Group, University of Oxford
  27. Ruth Northway, Professor of Learning Disability Nursing at the University of South Wales
  28. John Northfield, Former Chief Blogger for the Learning Disabilities Elf, having started the website in 2011
  29. Louise Phillips, PhD candidate, Living with Disability Research Group at LaTrobe University in Melbourne Australia.
  30. Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo (AFBPsS), Chartered Counselling Psychologist
  31. Sarah Richardson, Lecturer and Course Director for the BSc Learning Disabilities Nursing Programme at the University of East Anglia
  32. Katherine Runswick-Cole, Senior Research Fellow in Disability Studies and Psychology at the Research Institute for Health and Social Change, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
  33. Anne Marie Scott, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Community Mental Health Team, Dublin
  34. Rory Sheehan, Clinical Research Fellow, UCL
  35. Victoria Smillie, PhD student, University of Glasgow
  36. André Tomlin, Information Scientist and Chief Blogger for the Mental Elf.
  37. Rose Tomlins, Research Assistant, Community Learning Disability Team
  38. Leen Vereenooghe, PhD student, University of East Anglia
  39. Russell Woolgar, Team manager, Learning Disability Outreach Team
  40. Genevieve Young-Southward, PhD student, University of Glasgow

Learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities: a note about terminology

We use the term ‘learning disability’ on this website.

We use this term in the way that is defined in Valuing People, A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century

The definition in Valuing People states that learning disability includes the presence of:

  • A significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with;
  • A reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • ‘Which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

Levels of learning disability?

In the UK the words profound, severe, moderate and mild have been used to describe groups of people with learning disabilities.

These terms have related to IQ scores, with people with profound learning disabilities having an IQ of less than 20 those with a severe learning disability having an IQ of between 20 and 35 those with a moderate learning disability between 35 to 50 and those with a mild learning disability having an IQ of 50 to 70.

There is now a much clearer focus on holistic assessments in which IQ plays only one part. There is also no clear cut off point between people with mild learning disabilities and the general population and some people may be described as having a borderline learning disability.

Potential confusions for international audiences

There may some confusion caused by the terms used on this web site for an international audience.

Learning disability and learning difficulty are commonly used terms in the UK, and are sometimes used interchangeably in the context of health and social care for adults. However, in some settings these terms may have different meanings.

The term learning difficulty is used in the UK in educational settings for people with ‘specific learning difficulties’, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia etc., but who would not be described as having a significant impairment of intelligence as outlined in the definition of learning disability.

In the USA, specific learning difficulties are sometimes referred to as ‘learning disabilities’, which causes some confusion.

There is an increasing use of the term intellectual disability, particularly by professionals and academics in countries such as the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. In the Republic of Ireland, intellectual disability is the term used also by service providers. Many of the papers we blog about on the site use the term intellectual disabilities.

We will continue at present to mainly use the term learning disabilities on this site, although we may also use the term intellectual disabilities in direct quotations from papers, although as language is constantly changing, we will keep this under review.

Sources we search

We search the following journals and websites for reliable evidence.


  • Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities
  • American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • American Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • British Journal of General Practice
  • British Journal of Learning disabilities
  • British Journal of Nursing
  • British Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • British Journal of Psychiatry
  • British Medical Journal
  • Clinical Endocrinology
  • Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health
  • Current Opinion in Psychiatry
  • Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology
  • Disability & Society
  • Epilepsy & Behaviour
  • European Journal of Public Health
  • Health & Social Care in the Community
  • Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
  • Intensive care Medicine
  • International Journal of Positive Behavioural Support
  • Journal of Advanced Nursing
  • Journal of Applied research in Intellectual Disabilities
  • Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis
  • Journal of Disability and Oral Health
  • Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability
  • Journal of Intellectual Disabilities Research
  • Journal Intellectual Disabilities
  • Journal of Learning Disabilities and Offending Behaviour
  • Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities
  • Journal of Policy & Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
  • Journal of Positive Behavioural Interventions
  • Lancet
  • Pediatric Pulmonology
  • Psychiatrist, The
  • Research & Practice in Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities
  • Research In Developmental Disabilities
  • Tizard Learning Disability Review
  • Seizure
  • Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology


  • British Institute of Learning Disabilities
  • British Psychological Society
  • British Society for Disability and Oral Health
  • Care Quality Commission
  • Challenging Behaviour Foundation
  • Community Care
  • Department of Health
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Estia Centre
  • Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities
  • International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities
  • Improving Health and Lives
  • In Control
  • Institute for Health Service Research Lancaster
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Mencap
  • National Autism Society
  • National Development Team for Inclusion
  • Norah Fry Centre Bristol
  • Paradigm
  • PubMed
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Social Care Institute for Excellence
  • Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability
  • Tizard Centre
  • Welsh Centre for Learning Disabilities

Please contact us if you know of any other journals, websites or other sources that should be included in the above list.

– See more at: https://www.nationalelfservice.net/about/#sthash.XKmKzyR5.dpuf