A brief glossary of the main terms in common usage in the field of learning disability.

Mental retardation - is the term used in the World Health Organisation’s classification of mental and behavioural disorders (ICD IO), 1992)

Mental Handicap - describes people who have a significant impairment of intellectual skills which results in them being handicapped. The term was originally introduced by relatives and professionals as an alternative to “Mental Subnormality”.

Learning Disability - was introduced by the Department of Health in 1991 to replace the term Mental Handicap. Described as “change of emphasis in the philosophy of care and in the values which form our thinking”. The new term emphasises learning potential and equality of citizenship and “a commitment to thinking of people with learning disabilities as individuals in their own right”.

Learning Difficulty - is a term used by some agencies in the content of special education to differentiate from the health needs of people with intellectual impairments.It is felt to place less emphasis on disability which they feel results as much from environmental as pathological factors.

Mental Impairment - This is a term used in the 1983 Mental Health Act. It stipulates abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct in addition to social and intellectual impairment.

The terms Mental Deficiency and Mental Subnormality were used in the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act and the 1959 Mental Health Act respectively. They are no longer used.

Impairment - Loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function.

Disability - Limitation of personal activity or ability.


The above information was given to me as editor of the Learning Disabilities Federation newsletter “Carers Companion”.


The Journey Continues

Onwards and upwards


Setting up the Toy Library is another of my achievements, born out of the hope that we could try to encourage Gary to widen his interests. He was obsessed by cars and only played with toy cars. The toy library provided a range of toys for him to try and continues to give the same opportunities to children with special needs 30 years on.


North Tyneside Toy Library


Launching Carers Companion


Meeting Princess Ann at the official opening of the Princess Royal Carers Centre in Wallsend was a great honour and a thrill. She spoke briefly to every one of over 100 people individually.


Me and a fellow carer meeting the Princess Royal


Another very special experience for me was seeing H M The Queen opening the Newcastle/Gateshead Millenium Bridge in 2002. Because the toy library was opened in the Queens Silver Jubilee year VIP tickets for a front row view were given to committee members.


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