Do You Have a Dyscalculia Diagnosis? Being chronically late is a sign.
When it comes to mathematics a dyscalculia diagnosis could essentially mean your child is blind to numbers. Much like color blindness, someone who struggles with arithmetic lacks a basic sense of numbers that even babies can do, so said a renowned researcher in dyscalculia, Dr. Brian Butterworth. So if your child is struggling with math it isn’t because they aren’t smart enough. They just aren’t able to relate numbers to the real world. What does this look like? They will have difficulty grasping quantities, or time, and the very idea that “five cookies” is the same amount as “five cakes” and “five bananas” well they just don’t get it.
Here is an interview with Dr. Butterworth. The insights you will gain by watching these 11 minutes will be well worth your time. It will certainly give you a lot of insights.
Broken Brain Wiring
This is another of the brain’s functional anomalies but rather than the prefrontal cortex as in ADHD, math issues involve the parietal area of the brain. A fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) substantiates that the wiring for doing math, the actual brain activity housed in this region of the brain, just isn’t lighting up.
So then, it is a processing disorder and science is discovering there are a number of contributing factors. Some of these may worry you! One that really jumped off the page for me was prematurity. My little bundle was born at 30 weeks, 2 ½ months early, and her birth weight was only 2 lbs. 5 oz. No surprise then that low birth weight is also a possible contributing factor.
Other contributing factors include alcohol exposure in the uterus. And there is a growing body of evidence that chemicals are harming growing brains. If alcohol is a concern, than no doubt chemicals in our environment and in and on our food also have something to do with the presentation of dyscalculia in our children. Remember in the uterus the blood brain barrier doesn’t prevent some chemicals in the blood from getting into a child and its important to remember that even after birth a child’s brain doubles in size in their first year, that’s a big deal
Sadly, there is a big disparity in funding to conduct the needed extensive research to continue better understanding dyscalculia. This is something that people like Dr. Butterworth are trying to correct. In one article I read that over 200 million has been spent on dyslexia research where dyscalculia research has received less than 20 million.
One very expensive assessment is the scientific analysis in genetics. Those studies conducted are surfacing possible genetic components. So children who have genetic disorders like Fragile X syndrome, Gerstmann and Turner’s syndromes often struggle with arithmetic skills. And you know what the statistics are indicating, that up to 7 % of children in any one class may have this learning disorder. That’s at least 2 children in every class of 30 kids.
And if your child already has a diagnosis for another condition like ADHD and math anxiety it may be related to dyscalculia and is just one more in an array of learning challenges. It has been found that 40 -45% of dyslexic children have both dyslexia and dyscalculia.
What are the signs that a dyscalculia diagnosis is appropriate for you and your child?
- learning left and right
- reading a clock and understanding time and be chronically late
- having a poor sense of direction and get easily lost
- judging distance between objects and so may seem more clumsy
- have trouble with money, making change, and when older making a budget or giving a tip
- determine amounts for recipes
- avoiding games that require keeping score
When your child does not relate a number to how many, then they do not have a sense of what the numbers represent. They may have memorized numbers but will often skip numbers or the numbers are out of sequence. These are strong indicators that there is or will be a problem with arithmetic.
My Math Story! What’s Yours?
I remember how devastated and afraid I was because I just could not ‘get’ division in the third grade. If my grades were poor, well my dad would be outraged. I always had to struggle with math, felt like I was never going to understand. What in the world did it mean that we are putting one number into the other, dividing it? WHAT? It made no sense to me. And multiplication wasn’t that much different, oh how long, how very long it took me to memorize those tables. And some simple calculations, like the answer to 8 X 7 just didn’t stick in my brain. To this day I still have to count out on paper or yes, use my fingers. Doing math in my head makes me feel pretty well jumbled up.
Are you perhaps seeing yourself in some of these descriptions, does some of it just seem all too familiar?
Well we don’t catch dyscalculia like some sort of disease, unless of course there has been an injury which can be the reason why math ability is lost. This brain-disorder means your child is not making sense of numbers and finds math concepts to be very hard, they just don’t get it. Here is the problem, being able to figure out how numbers work, well it just isn’t working in their brain. They have difficulty associating how many of something is to its numerical value. And you know what? A child who has dyscalculia probably is struggling with estimating and comparing too.
Those who understand math and teach it say that estimation and comparison are how we develop math skills and how we understand math concepts. So, it’s not their fault. And it doesn’t mean they have a low IQ either. They may be doing fine in other areas of their education but not when it comes to math and math related functions, like assessing a distance or determining a quantity or a volume of something.
No wonder learning math is hard.
The very foundation for getting math concepts is anchored in having a good ‘number sense’. If this is so, then are you observing any of the following?
- Does homework, especially math homework make your child or young person not just frustrated but bring them to tears?
- Are you finding that they are not able to read a face clock with numbers and know what it means to have 60 minutes in an hour? So they are having trouble assessing time?
- Are they frustrated and feel angry or sometimes seem out of sorts? They may be working very hard to grasp something.
- Do they seem like they feel out of sync with their world? They know they need to get ready to leave for some engagement, school, a doctor’s appointment whatever, and time just slips away from them.
- Are you observing that they find the concept of left and right hard?
- Do they seem to have two left feet, so that learning to dance is difficult for them?
- Do you find that when using a map, (even a simple map of a campus’ layout) that they turn the map to orient it in the direction they want to go, not keeping it oriented to north? Real world navigation is probably hard for them.
What’s a Good Parent Supposed to Do?
Go into this knowing that because dyscalculia isn’t well known or understood you are probably going to have to stand up and be a firm advocate for your child.
Start with your pediatric physician. This is your opportunity to discuss your valid concerns that there is a problem with how your child is working with math concepts. Think of it this way, you are concerned with his cognitive abilities as related to math. The doctor may then provide you with referrals that will drill down on this. What referrals are likely?
- Genetics: Remember that this can have a genetic component, so you should be receiving a referral to a geneticist. You might call this a cognitive math function of the brain.
- Neurology: The brain function isn’t presenting normally and a neurologist can make these determinations.
- Developmental: When not performing at what is considered normal milestones a Developmental Pediatric Physician is a critical health partner is your determination of what is going on and in helping to secure proper services to help your child.
THEN: Make arrangements with education professionals. Once you have a diagnosis you can begin your proactive stance within the school arrangements and to assess what math difficulties your child is struggling with. This is necessary in order to establish what educational supports should be in place to help him learn math in his way.
This should involve a psychologist trained in testing procedures that identify the math weaknesses that are giving your child such a hard time. You should seek out getting this referral even if you already have a diagnosis for some other condition like ADHD.
Bottom line: Knowing as much as you can about your child’s learning difficulties ensures they get the help they need in school to succeed.
The psychologist should be reviewing their medical and school records as well as conducting their own tests. These tests may include things like drawing a shape from memory, observing what their number sense is by how they count dots they are given in different configurations, conducting the “Neuropsychological Test Battery for Number Processing and Calculation in Children”.
This test helps them see how a child’s brain is working with math, thinking about it and making sense of it.
Know What You Know and Act On It
Look, I get how time-consuming this is going to be. This does look like allot of work. I am living this too, remember. My granddaughter has a plethora of challenges going on and as she goes further in school, (she is only in first grade now) I’m convinced I will have to stay on top of how things are playing out in her classroom and with her education. There is SO much to keep our arms around that it can feel overwhelming.
So, just set out to get one thing done at a time. See the peds doctor, get your referrals, get your results, see your educational professionals, and then you can make sure their educational plan includes the ‘right stuff’ so they can learn. This will probably mean that adjustments to their IEP (Individual Education Plan) are necessary. You can call for an IEP meeting at any time during the school year so as soon as you know, you know what’s behind your child’s struggles around math, you ask for that IEP meeting. The sooner there are supports in place for handling their math challenges the better for them.
Children with learning disabilities often have low self-esteem and may suffer from depression.
That is reason enough to get these things done. If I can help…you will let me know, right? You can Contact Me Here.
Or leave a comment below.
So have you been functioning all your life with this learning disability? Are you an adult who is just discovering the condition of dyscalculia? How are your children doing? Let us know by leaving a comment. Your honest sharing with us will no doubt benefit many others.