Learning disabilities are more prevalent than ever before in adults, according to the latest report from the Learning Disability Council.
The survey of adults from age 18 to 70 found that more than a quarter of respondents were at risk of learning disabilities in the future, a rate that rose to 29 per cent among people aged 70 and older.
While the figures are higher for people aged 55 to 64, they are still well below the rate for those aged 55 and older, which was 26 per cent.
The rate of learning disability among adults has been increasing in recent years, with an increase of almost 40 per cent in children from 2013 to 2017, the council’s director of research and policy, Chris McLean, said.
“This increase in the age group is a good sign, but the picture is not quite as good for younger people,” he said.
The latest survey also found that people aged 65 and over were more likely to be in a learning disability category than people aged 18 to 24, with more than half (53 per cent) of them having a learning disorder.
“We’re seeing a higher prevalence of learning disorders in older adults, so the problem with that is they’re not always the easiest to diagnose,” Mr McLean said.
In terms of severity, learning disability was most common in people aged 35 to 54, with 44 per cent reporting at least one of the four symptoms, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent, or 1.7 million people) reported two or more.
There were also concerns that the proportion of people with learning disabilities could increase as the population ages.
“The proportion of Australians who are in a disability-related disability will continue to increase as we age,” Mr MacLean said, citing the high rate of disability among older people.
The Learning Disability Coalition estimates there are about 20,000 people with a learning impairment in Australia.
Mr McLean believes that the current level of disability is a result of the fact that we have become more educated in the way we learn and that has meant we are now able to be more sensitive to learning disabilities.
“As people have become educated in how to learn in school, the quality of the educational experience is higher and therefore we are able to teach our children how to read, write, speak and be able to engage in the world,” he added.
“If we were to continue to educate our children, it’s more likely that they would be able and prepared to meet our needs.”