We Know About DYSLEXIA but What About DYSCALCULIA?
Dyscalculia (pronounced to rhyme with Julia) is a specific cognitive impairment affecting the understanding of numbers. Those who suffer from this condition could have trouble with numbers - namely doing simple calculations, remembering numbers or even putting them in size order.
Dyslexia is the condition affecting reading and writing and in recent years has become well known, leading to research and help for those who are dyslexic.
Meanwhile dyscalculia is relatively unknown and there is little support for sufferers who for the most part are unaware that they even have the condition.
How widespread is dyscalculia?
You might be surprised to learn that Peter Jarrett (Chair of the Dyscalculia Committee at the British Dyslexia Association) estimates that between five and seven per cent of us have this problem.
He goes on to say that he would argue that across the life course, dyscalculia is more disabling than dyslexia. He says: "Everyday things that most people take for granted - judging what time to leave the house, checking a bank balance, reading a speedometer or a train timetable - can be stressful."
Others will find it difficult to budget or gauge the expense of something. They may find it almost impossible to find a job if a math qualification is part of the criteria for employment.
How do you know when someone might have dyscalculia?
- In very young children, there can be problems in learning to count and/or recognize patterns.
- In elementary school, a child may avoid number-based games such as Snakes and Ladders. They may also struggle to grasp basic mathematical concepts such as learning times tables or interpreting quantities.
- Other signs are using their fingers to work out additions and subtractions while their peers can compute sums by using mental arithmetic. Another sign is difficulty in reading an analogue clock or struggling to count backwards.
- Children who struggle with dyscalculia can get frustrated and upset when they are unable to complete basic math tasks, resulting in low self esteem.
- There can also be signs of this condition outside the school setting, ranging from struggling to tell left from right, remembering phone numbers as well as difficulty dealing with cash (giving change, splitting the bill or even managing finances).
- Sadly, those with the condition will often be mislabeled as being laxy, unmotivated or inattentive. There is often a disparity in their processing speed with math compared with their higher processing speed with other subjects such as English.
- As adults, those with dyscalculia may have trouble timing how long a task takes or estimating how long it will take to get somewhere when travelling, struggling to stick to budgets or even turning up on time to events.
What help is available for those with dyscalculia?
Experts are saying that society needs to be more aware of dyscalculia as there is such a lack of information in the public domain.
Peter Jarrett says: "There needs to be a level of parity with dyslexia. If we are screening for dyslexia, then we should be screening for mathematical difficulties as well."
He goes on to say: "It is not an intellectual impairment. It is finding a particular element of processing difficult. All of us find some elements more difficult than others."
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If you have a child who says they can't do math, it is worthwhile paying attention. And if it transpires that your child really struggles with math and actually is diagnosed with dyscalculia, then the parent’s role is crucial for mental and emotional support. Encouragement is a prescription that can go a long way in building a strong mindset in dyscalculics.
Best intervention strategies for dyscalculia - Number Dyslexia
Dyslexia. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/learning-and-developmental-disorders/dyslexia. (Accessed June 8, 2021).
Hamilton SS. Reading difficulty in children: Clinical features and evaluation. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. (Accessed June 12, 2021).
Hamilton SS. Reading difficulty in children: Interventions. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. (Accessed June 12, 2021).