What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is a severe difficulty with understanding mathematical concepts and symbols, including numbers.
What are the symptoms of dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is characterised by an inability to master basic numeracy skills. Children will find it difficult to deal with numbers even at an elementary level, and will have trouble recalling basic maths facts. They may have difficulty linking numbers and symbols with directions and amounts, struggle with handling money and also not be able to tell the time on an analogue clock.
Is dyscalculia a disability?
Dyscalculia is considered a learning disability, and is one of a group of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) that can often co-occur in children. Children will usually have more than one SpLD; these include dyspraxia, dyslexia or ADD/ADHD. That said, it should never be assumed that a child with dyscalculia will definitely have dyslexia, or vice versa.
Help for children with dyscalculia
There are no medications for dyscalculia, but as dyscalculia can co-occur with other learning and attention issues such as ADHD, some children may be prescribed medication to help with these. Whilst treating a child for ADHD or anxiety will not directly help with dyscalculia, it can help to eliminate things that could distract them or make them overly nervous of number work.
Many schools are able to offer additional classroom assistance to a child who struggles with numeracy. Multisensory instruction may be used, employing sight, touch, hearing and movement to help with understanding and learning. This is how many children learn maths in the early days - by using wooden blocks or other objects to carry out basic addition and subtraction. Children with dyscalculia may benefit from continued use of approaches like this.
At home, parents can help with this too. A child with dyscalculia will need a little more help in things like learning to associate a quantity with a written number so home practice can be as simple as learning to associate the written number 4 with 4 hand claps or 4 finger clicks.