2 OF 7 LEARNING DISABILITIES: DYSCALCULIA
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?
You tell your child to meet you by the large rock in the field where you are playing, but your child just looks around and can’t tell which rock is the large one? Or, your child can’t fit the key into the lock to the front door? Or you and your friends agree to meet at the toy store at 10:00, but you don’t seem able to tell the time by looking at a clock? These are just a few of the frustrations suffered by someone with a brain dysfunction known as Dyscalculia.
ITS NOT YOUR FAULT
We will now discuss Dyscalculia, the number 2 of 7 learning disabilities first listed in my November 1, 2019 article “Help For The Learning Disabled Child”, [article]. I believe it is important to discuss each of the 7 learning disabilities because each, although not well-known or recognized by most parents, afflicts a significant number of children and adults. Significantly, each of these disabilities has the collateral effect of altering the expected behavior of an affected person to normal circumstances. This is often incorrectly perceived by people around the affected child or adult, particularly his parents and teachers, as being intentionally disruptive. The truth is that this behavior is hardly intentional. It is the outgrowth of the frustration of not being able to do what other people do easily. After reading this post you should have a better understanding of how dyscalculia works and of the warning behaviors to look for. You also should note that I talk about dyscalculia as afflicting both children and adults. This is because many children suffering from dyscalculia do not receive proper help as a child, and carry the condition into adulthood.
WHAT IS DYSCALCULIA?
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to understand numbers (numeracy), impairing that person’s ability in general to comprehend math, memorize and organize numbers, and tell time.
While a single definition of dyscalculia has not been agreed to, it is generally understood to be based on a developmental learning disorder specific to numeracy. That basically means it is connected to how a person basically relates to and understands numbers and how numbers apply to the real world. Developmental dyscalculia [DD] is a learning disorder that affects the ability to acquire school-level arithmetic skills. Statistically, dyscalculia may affect 3-6% of school-age children. Adding to the difficulty of coping with dyscalculia, a person so afflicted may also have other learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].
IS THERE MORE THAN ONE FORM OF DYSCALCULIA?
There are basically 2 forms of developmental dyscalculia. Primary DD, which is the most severe form, is more neurological, associated with impaired development of brain mechanisms for processing numerical information, and is driven by endogenous neurodevelopmental factors. Then there is secondary DD, which stems from numerous external factors, such as poor teaching, low socio-economic status, and behavioral attention problems. In addition, for DD to be specific to arithmetic dysfunction, it may also have a root cause in disturbances of cognitive mechanisms, such as working memory, visual-spatial processing, or attention. Dyscalculia may be associated with atypical functional and structural characteristics of brain regions that support the process of numerical magnitude information.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF DYSCALCULIA?
Dyscalculia may require tailored educational intervention to improve numeracy skills. And, as a parent, you would not normally be trained to diagnose a child with dyscalculia. But there are some common characteristics of the disability that might warn of this, or some other, learning disability. That is why it is so very important for parents to continuously observe a child’s behavior. The need for a parent to be aware of a child’s behavioral patterns is a most important parental role.
While not an exhaustive list, some of the more common recognizable behaviors that might put you on notice of a possible dyscalculia disability are:
1. Your child is unable to recognize printed numbers.
2. Your child has trouble learning to count
3. Your child struggles to recognize patterns, like smallest to largest
4. Your child has difficulty remembering “basic” number facts
5. Your child struggles with doing simple math
6. Your child still uses fingers to count
7. Your child does not understand that a number represents a quantity
8. Your child shows a poor sense of numbers and estimations
9. Your child exhibits unusual anxiety about working on math problems or going to math class
10. Your child has trouble adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing single digit numbers
11. Your child has trouble telling time or using money
12. Your child has trouble figuring out which steps to follow to solve a math problem
13. Your child has no long-term memory for math skills, such as trouble memorizing multiplication tables
14. Your child has problems with shapes, such as being able to put round object into round hole
HOW IS DYSCALCULIA TREATED?
There is no medication for dyscalculia, although medication may be beneficial for assisting your child to cope with some of the other related issues such as ADHD or anxiety. As a parent, you should educate yourself about the different strategies, supports, and therapies that can help children with dyscalculia. Here are some of the more common things that parents can do.
1. There are specialized instructions available
2. Make available a tutor who knows how to teach in way that makes sense to your child
3. May require being taught in way that uses many senses, such as being read to, or to write problem, or to use different color for each part of the problem
4. May require an individualized education program through the entire school program up to graduation, and through college
5. Provide special accommodations in school classwork, such as giving your child extra time to take tests or do homework
6. Get a formal evaluation by the child’s school whenever it appears your child may have dyscalculia
7. Use the many techniques available to parents to help at home to develop your child’s math skills, such as computer programs and calculators.
HOW CAN A PARENT BE SUPPORTIVE?
A parent of a child with dyscalculia can help a child in a day-to-day way by:
1. Encouraging their child with praise and not under estimating the difficulty of what the child is doing
2. Going through homework problems with the child and explaining the process involved
3. Remaining positive and allowing the child to work through wrong answers until reaching a correct result
4. Focus on your child’s strengths, such as other physical or academic activities your child is proficient in
5. Do not focus on grades only. Recognize improvement.
6. Practice math skills outside of classroom, such making money change or correctly telling time, or counting objects
7. For when your child is old enough to be alone, giving your child a talking watch to wear so your child will always be aware of the time. A good watch would be the TimeOptics for girls and for boys.
Dyscalculia is a serious learning disability. Hopefully this article has given you a sufficient background to assist you to recognize if your child may be afflicted with dyscalculia. If you see some of the identified characteristics pointed out in this article, my recommendation is to delve further into educating yourselves about this affliction. Doing a Google search on the Internet would be a good starting place.
And if you are serious about helping your child, no matter his/her age, purchasing a book or two on the subject that explains dyscalculia and how you can help your child work through it, is definitely one of the best ways to educate yourself. Here are several books for that purpose. Brian Butterworth, Dyscalculia, From Science to Education; Paul Moorcraft, It Just Doesn’t Add Up; and Ronit Bird, The Dyscalculia Toolkit. Click on the book titles and not the images.
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