The name alone can be quite confusing already so it is not surprising that Dyscalculia can bring about a log of myths and misconceptions. Understanding what Dyscalculia is will allow you to devote your attention to the correct services for intervention as quickly as possible.
In essence, Dyscalculia is a condition associated with the human brain that makes it difficult to get a grasp of math concepts and numbers. It has nothing to do with understanding the concepts of math, but rather understanding its logic or why it is being done. As a result, proper application of the math concepts become challenging. The difficulty in understanding the condition is further aggravated when the child does well in other subjects.
A Common Condition
Dyscalculia is so common that it is called by different names like math dyslexia, mathematics disorder, or mathematics learning disability among others. It is a lifelong condition that should not prevent any child from being happy or let alone successful in any part of their lives.
The close association with dyslexia is due to some of the commonalities that they share. This means that sometime dyscalculia may be misunderstood as dyslexia; making it difficult to get an exact figure on the actual number of children and adults affected by the condition.
In general, an estimated 7% of elementary school children face challenges with understanding math-related words. As much as 56% of children suffering from reading disorder also have difficulty excelling in math, while 43% of those with math disabilities also have below par reading skills.
Understanding the Causes
The specific causes have not been pinpointed although some factors have been known to contribute to dyscalculia.
- Genetics – based on current studies, the possibility of dyscalculia being hereditary in nature is based on the findings that majority of children affected normally have a parent or sibling victimized by the same brain condition.
- Lifestyle – alcohol is never good with pregnancy, not heeding this can result in Dyscalculia much like the impact of low birth weight and prematurity.
- Poor development and injury – the actual condition of the brain plays a significant role in Dyscalculia. When certain parts of the brain become injured, a person can acquire the condition. A person that has poor brain development like in the case of lack of surface area, volume or thickness can also have Dyscalculia.
Aside from poor performance with math-related words, concepts, and activities, there are other skill sets that can deteriorate with people that have this brain condition. Even the simplest skills like measuring ingredients or judging vehicle speed can be difficult. This is why it is vital to have an understanding of the potential long-term effects of Dyscalculia so that proper preventive measures can be done.
- Sociability – children with Dyscalculia may be subjected to ridicule or bullying from their peers creating a low self-esteem and making them shy away from making new friends or participating in group activities. Sports and other games where scoring is involved may also be avoided instinctively. The lack of hand-eye coordination can also make children with this condition appear a bit clumsy adding to their lack of self-confidence.
- Direction and Visualization – visualizing how objects can look from another angle or perspective can be challenging for children with Dyscalculia much like they may find it confusing to distinguish between left and right. This means skills, like following directions or reading maps, may deteriorate or become non-existent; making it dangerous for them to be on the road alone.
- Management of Time and Money –real life skills like budgeting finances, estimating costs or balancing bank accounts all involve math and with Dyscalculia, these are all very challenging tasks. Estimating time and sticking to schedules are also skills that become extremely difficult to cope with.
With these simple are regular life tasks, it is easy to see the significant impact that Dyscalculia can cause in the lives of children and adults alike. The problem is not isolated to numbers alone, but extends so much farther and wider because math is an essential part of daily life where we need to contend with distance, speed, quantity, and others. All of these can be very frustrating if not properly addressed.
The manifestation of warning signs associated with Dyscalculia can vary depending on the stage of learning of the affected individual. It is likewise important to keep in mind that the symptoms of one can vary from that of another even if they are in the same age range. One thing that has been established is that the warning signs become more obvious as children grow older.
- Preschooler Symptoms
Problems in counting especially when a number is associated with an object.
Associating numbers with its word equivalent.
Connecting numbers to real-life situations like identifying groups of regular household items like five spoons or two chairs for example.
Trouble remembering number sequences.
Recognizing patterns and sorting objects become challenging.
Tends to avoid games involving counting or numbers.
- Grade-Schooler Symptoms
Difficulty in recognizing basic math concepts like numbers, symbols, or operations.
Relies on finger counting instead of more advanced techniques.
Writing numerals or using them to solve math problems requires extra effort.
Confused in using math-related words like less than or greater than.
Weak at telling time and direction.
Strives to remember phone numbers, game scores, or play number strategy games.
- High-Schooler Symptoms
Applying math to common activities like making change, giving a tip, measuring ingredients or estimating costs can be a struggle.
Can easily get lost.
Almost unable to understand information from charts or graphs.
Activities that need to estimate speed and distance is not their strong suit.
Medical conditions that have similar symptoms as Dyscalculia are often referred to as comorbid and are sometimes the cause of misdiagnosis. We often find that children can have more than one specific learning disorder. The new DSM-5 criteria reflect the strong chance that your child may well have more than one condition.
Some of these conditions include:
- Dyslexia – perhaps one of the conditions with symptoms closest to Dyscalculia with as many as 65% with difficulties in math having a reading impairment.
- ADHD – the attention deficit can lead to poor math skills, which makes it easy to misdiagnose this condition with Dyscalculia.
- Genetics – fragile X, Turner’s, and Gerstmann’s syndromes are some of the genetic disorders that are currently associated with Dyscalculia.
- Math anxiety – many students fear math because of the possibility of getting low scores. The possibility of having Dyscalculia and math anxiety is not far-fetched.Professionals Help for your child
Although symptoms of other conditions may be similar, specific treatment and techniques should be used to cope with Dyscalculia. The roles that are expected in the intervention process vary depending on the professionals.
- School Authorities
Teachers can provide additional time or let those with Dyscalculia to use calculators during tests.
Schools can use programs like Response to Intervention (RTI) to help affected students cope. The small-group or one-on-one instructions are designed to help achieve progress with schoolwork.
Constant monitoring of the performance of affected students in math-related activities will go a long way in strengthening math skills and number sense. Encouraging the use of manipulatives, lessening school load, and reviewing subject matter are all successful strategies teachers can use.
Supervision of the application of math rules and formula as well as breaking up of lessons into smaller parts (chunking) will make it easier to digest math concepts.
Using extra paper or graph paper will increase focus and number sense.
Introduction of math-related games will make children with Dyscalculia to be more comfortable with math.
Schools may opt to use a 504 plan to have a more detailed guide on how to accommodate children with Dyscalculia.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an absolute must for any child with a specific learning disorder or difficulty. It should never mean ‘extra work’ for a teacher but rather make things easier. It is the joint responsibility of both teacher, parent and invited service providers such as Focused Education to collaborate when producing an I.E.P.
The attention given to affected students will increase mastery of math skills and open up the possibility of alternative strategies that can be used specific to your child. At Focused Education our tutors are in fact teachers. We only employ teachers that have specific training and experience helping children with learning difficulties.
In advance stages, the potential for depression cannot be discounted. The expertise of paediatricians and psychologists become vital in managing the mental, emotional, and physical health of the child with Dyscalculia.
- The Learning and Attentional Disorders Society (Perth, Western Australia.)
Advocates are usually parents that have children suffering from similar disabilities. This means that they are valuable support groups that can help you work out potential problems on how to help your child to cope with his condition.
Coping from Home
There are many advantages to helping improve the math skills and number sense of children with Dyscalculia, the most notable of which would be resilience and higher self-esteem. The good news is that despite varying individual needs, parents do not have to be mathematicians or math experts to provide help from home.
It is normal if things do not work out immediately; the key is to keep on trying until substantial improvement is achieved. Important things to do are:
- Get a better understanding
Dyscalculia by nature is already complicated, make sure that you are properly armed against it by learning as much as you can and how to properly deal with it. Reinforce your child constantly by ensuring him that you are always there and understand his condition. Encouragement coupled with patience can help the child overcome anxiety and inferiority among others.
- Encourage math games
There are huge benefits from practising. Encouraging the use of math games will help a child with Dyscalculia to overcome anxiety with math concepts and at the same time greatly increase their math skills, appreciation, and understanding. Learning is achieved in a happier and relaxed atmosphere. This strategy is an excellent confidence builder.
- Dedicate a space
Homework can be additionally challenging for affected children, which is why it is important that they have a dedicated space at home where they can focus on schoolwork. Setup an accessible area where there are minimal distractions and ample privacy where you can help him deal with his math assignments using chunking technique.
- Introduce the calculator
The calculator can be a child with Dyscalculia’s best friend. This device is an excellent way to help remember basic math concepts and facts. Improvement of valuable skills can be achieved using a calculator without being cited for cheating.
- Confidence boosters
Turn weaknesses into strengths by investing time in confidence boosting activities like helping your child to keep track of time or taking every opportune moment in the home as a math learning experience. Use the abilities and interests of the child to identify the appropriate activities that can be done to boost his confidence and improve his math skills.
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