Learning disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012
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Correction date: July 20, 2015
Corrections have been made to this product.
Please take note of the following changes:
As a result of data rounding errors, the following corrections have been made:
- Counts for dexterity, seeing and developmental disabilities and percentage for seeing in table 1;
- Percentages for memory (15 to 24 years) and mental health-related (65+ years) in chart 2;
- Percentage for high school with a disability in chart 3;
- Percentages in 'Effect of disability on educational experiences', 'Educational aids and services' and 'Personal income for working-age adults' sections;
- All percentages in table 2;
- Percentages for specialized software received and record or note-taking device not received in chart 4;
- Percentages for '25 to 34 years' and '55 to 64 years' with a learning disability in chart 5;
- Percentages for accessibility issues and lack of specialized transportation in chart 6;
Median income values in the 'Personal income for working-age adults' were also corrected to include negative and zero values.
We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.
The results presented in this fact sheet are from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), which surveyed residents of private dwellings who reported an activity limitation and who were aged 15 years and older at the time of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).
According to the CSD, respondents are considered to have a disability not only if they report a difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem, but also if they report that they are limited in their daily activities as a result of their condition. Appendix A describes how the CSD defines learning disabilities.
It should be noted that the population living in institutions, including residential care facilities, was not included in the 2012 CSD. Further details are available in the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guide. 89-654-X2014001
According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), 3,775,900 Canadians aged 15 years and older, reported some type of disability, representing 13.7% of the adult population. Approximately 622,300 of the adult population (2.3%) reported a learning disability (Table 1). The most prevalent underlying learning conditions reported included attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other developmental disorders of scholastic skillsNote 1.
Note: Individuals may have more than one type of disability; therefore, the sum of all individual disability types is greater than the number of “total disabilities”.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012.
Chart 1 highlights that the prevalence of learning disabilities as a proportion of all disabilities declines with age. Among those aged 15 to 24, 4.4% reported at least one type of disability, and nearly half of them (2.0%) reported a learning disability.
Learning disability rates among men and women were not significantly different.
Learning disabilities frequently co-occurred with other types of disability: 96.3% of respondents who reported a learning disability also reported at least one other type of disability.
The pattern of co-occurrence varied by age. Mental health-related disabilities had the highest rate of co-occurrence for adults aged 15 to 24 with a learning disability, while physical disability had the highest rate of co-occurrence for adults aged 25 and older.
Adults with a learning disabilityNote 2 had overall lower levels of educational attainment than those who did not have any type of disability. Among adults aged 15 to 64, currently not attending school, those with a learning disability were more likely than adults without any disability to have not completed high school (33.0% versus 13.1%). They were also significantly less likely to have completed post-secondary qualificationsNote 3 (35.6% versus 61.1%).
Effect of disability on educational experiences
Among adults with a learning disability aged 15 and older who currently were or had recently been in school, almost all (98.0%) stated that their disability directly impacted their educational experienceNote 4. The most common impacts reported by those with a learning disability were the following: taking longer to achieve education milestones, taking fewer courses and changing their choice of courses or career. Many also reported social difficulties including being avoided or excluded, and being bullied (Table 2).
|Effect of disability||Percentage|
|Took longer to achieve current level due to disability||64.6|
|Took fewer courses due to disability||63.5|
|Choice of courses/career influenced by disability||63.4|
|People avoided/excluded you in school due to disability||57.5|
|Bullied at school because of disability||49.8|
|Changed course of studies due to disability||49.0|
|Education interrupted due to disability||47.4|
|Attended special education classes in regular school||47.2|
|Discontinued education due to disability||41.4|
Note: Learning disabilities includes those in school within the last 5 years and had disability while in school.
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012.
Educational aids and services
Over half (51.4%) of adults with a learning disability aged 15 and older and who recently attended school required some sort of education aid or service. Of these, 93.9% stated that at least some of their needs had been met, while 6.1% felt that none of their needs had been met.
The most commonly required supports reported were extensions in time for tests (40.8%) and teacher’s aides or tutors (32.7%) and these needs in particular were predominantly met (Chart 4). Technology-based supports, such as specialized software, recording devices, and audio/e-book devices were less likely to be needed. However, adults with a learning disability who reported needing technology-based supports were less likely to receive them. For example, about half (56.0%) of those who stated they required an audio or e-book device received this aid.
Respondents with a learning disability were also asked about learning disability-specific aids and devices, such as computers with voice recognition. Approximately 32.8% stated they needed at least one type of learning aid, and of these 41.2% reported this need was not met. The most commonly stated reason for having an unmet need was the cost associated with the aid or device; 71.6% cited this as the primary reason for not having had their needs met.
Labour force status
More than half (63.5%) of adults aged 15 to 64 with a learning disabilityNote 5, were not in the labour force, and another (7.7%) were unemployed.
The employment rate of working-age adults, aged 15 to 64, with a learning disability was 28.8%, less than half the employment rate for those without any disability (73.6%).
The low employment levels of adults with a learning disability relative to adults without any disability are observable for all age groups (Chart 5), with the largest relative differences appearing in older ages.
Among adults with a learning disability, who are or recently had been employedNote 6, 55.5% stated they needed at least one type of work accommodation. Of these, 71.0% stated at least some of their needs had been met while on the job. The most commonly required accommodations were modified work hours (39.1%) and modified work duties (23.3%).
Employment disadvantage for adults with a learning disability extends beyond the important first step of obtaining a job. Employed adults with a learning disability also worked significantly fewer hoursNote 7 per week on average than those without any disability (28 hours vs. 37 hours).
Not in the labour force
Many adults with a learning disability, who were not in the labour force, encountered barriers that discouraged them from looking for work.
The most commonly cited deterrents to entering the labour force reported by adults with a learning disability were inadequate training or experience, a lack of locally available jobs, and having been unsuccessful in the past (Chart 6).
Personal income for working-age adults
Working-age adults (aged 15 to 64) with a learning disabilityNote 8 reported a median total personal incomeNote 9 of approximately $12,200—less than half that of those without any reported type of disability ($31,200). Adults with a learning disability were more likely to rely on government transfers.Note 10 Among adults with a learning disability who received government transfers, the median transfer income was $9,470, over five times the amount for those without any disability ($1,650). Furthermore, 63.4% of adults with a learning disability received more from government transfers than they did from employment income, while this was true for only 18.7% of those without any disability.Note 11 Among those with employment income, median employment incomes for adults with a learning disability were less than half for those without any disability ($15,900 and $34,100 respectively).
Adults with a learning disability experience difficulties with many aspects of their day to day lives. Poorer educational outcomes, relative to adults without any disability, can be observed for all ages. Lower levels of education and training translate to employment disadvantage and labour force discouragement, and in turn much lower levels of income and higher levels of reliance on government transfers. Furthermore, their learning disability is likely to be one of several disabilities, which in combination, may negatively influence their education and employment experiences.
Identification of adults with a learning disability
The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) identified adults with a learning disability as those whose daily activities were limited because of difficulties caused by a learning condition. The survey used the newly developed Disability Screening Questions (DSQ) to identify disability. The initial step in identifying a learning disability was to establish the existence of a learning condition. This was done using two questions:
DSQ_25 Do you think you have a condition that makes it difficult in general for you to learn? This may include learning disabilities such as dyslexia, hyperactivity, attention problems, as well as other conditions.
DSQ_26 Has a teacher, doctor or other health care professional ever said that you have a learning disability?
Those who answered yes to one or both of these questions received a follow up question to determine how often the condition limited their daily activities:
DSQ_27 How often are your daily activities limited by this condition?
Those who indicated being limited at least rarely were asked another follow up question to determine the amount of difficulty experienced.
DSQ_28 How much difficulty do you have with your daily activities because of this condition?
- No difficulty
- Some difficulty
- A lot of difficulty
- You cannot do most activities
Respondents who reported being limited at least sometimes were automatically considered to have a learning disability. If they reported being limited ‘rarely,’ they were only considered to have a learning disability if they also reported having ‘a lot of difficulty’ or if they reported being unable to do most activities. All others were defined as not having a learning disability.
An estimated 934,100 Canadian adults reported a learning condition. Of these, 622,300 (2.3% of the adult population) had a disability, while the remaining 311,800 had a condition that either was not limiting or was rarely limiting with some or no difficulty in daily activities.
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