Psychiatry of Learning Disability

Psychiatry of Learning Disability Podcast

The Speciality

The Psychiatry of Learning Disability is a sub-speciality of Psychiatry, dealing with the assessment and treatment of emotional, behavioural and psychiatric disorder associated with learning disability. Practitioners also provide advice and education about behavioural aspects of learning disability to parents and other carers and to other professionals such as teachers. The nature of problems dealt with is much broader than in other psychiatric sub-specialities and includes organic psychiatric disorders (dementia, delirium, etc.); functional psychiatric disorders (affective disorder, schizophrenia, etc.); autism; challenging behaviour; behavioural phenotypes; epilepsy.

Speciality attractions

The sub-speciality offers many attractions compared to General Psychiatry and other psychiatric sub-specialities. There is scope for utilising medical knowledge (General Medicine, General Practice, Paediatrics, Genetics) and integrating this with expertise gained in psychiatric training to provide a holistic approach to clinical problems. Much work is done in settings other than hospitals (clinics, day centres, family homes, community group homes) and the psychiatric contribution to multi-disciplinary working is greatly valued. Out of hours work is not onerous and there is great scope for research. Advances in basic sciences have vastly increased the scope for improving the quality of life of people with learning disability through psychiatric intervention.

Essential Qualifications

  • Competency in Core training in Psychiatry and MRCPsych
  • Desirable to have training in either psychiatry of learning disability and or child & adolescent psychiatry in core training

Personal Qualities

  • Team working
  • Working under pressure
  • Good communication skills
  • Good time keeping
  • Rapport with patients/carers/colleagues
  • Ability to work with people with a disability and their carers


Dr Bushra Rauf
Programme Director of Psychiatry of Learning Disability