Most of us have heard of dyslexia, but less of us are probably familiar with the term dyscalculia, which refers to a range of learning disabilities involving numbers and math specifically, rather than letters, words, and numbers, as is the case with dyslexia. Dyscalculia is known by a lot of other names, as well, including Math Learning Disability, Acalculia, Gertsmann’s Syndrome, and even Math Dyslexia. As with dyslexia, dyscalculia affects people who generally have a normal or above normal IQ.
Dyscalculia can cause two major types of difficulties:
- Visual-spatial. This means it’s difficult for a person with dyscalculia to understand and process what his eyes are seeing.
- Language processing. A person with language processing difficulties might not be able to understand what his ears are hearing.
Because of this, dyscalculia affects different people in different ways, and the symptoms can vary. Some may have trouble telling time, while others may have difficulty remembering left from right. Many have difficulty doing mental math, performing common math tasks in writing, remembering math concepts, understanding the layout of streets and buildings, and more. Severity of symptoms can also vary from person to person.
Despite its relative obscurity, dyscalculia affects millions of people worldwide. It seems to affect males and females about evenly, whereas dyslexia is more common in males than females.
What to Do If Your Child is Diagnosed
The first step is to identify the difficulties your child is having due to dyscalculia. Also make note of what your child is particularly good at, and use his strengths to help him learn in different ways. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) offers the following strategies:
- Use graph paper for students who have difficulty organizing ideas on paper.
- Work on finding different ways to approach math facts; i.e., instead of just memorizing the multiplication tables, explain that 8 x 2 = 16, so if 16 is doubled, 8 x 4 must = 32.
- Practice estimating as a way to begin solving math problems.
- Introduce new skills beginning with concrete examples and later moving to more abstract applications.
- For language difficulties, explain ideas and problems clearly and encourage students to ask questions as they work.
- Provide a place to work with few distractions and have pencils, erasers and other tools on hand as needed.
Learn what works best for your child and help him continue to develop new strategies to create an effective alternative learning plan. Read up on other strategies and advice on the NCLD’s list of 10 Helpful Dyscalculia Resources. With a bit of work, patience, and encouragement, your child with dyscalculia can certainly go on to achieve success and happiness throughout his life.
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