I often have parents discuss with me the confusion they feel regarding the diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder that their child may have and its impact on learning. One issue of potential misunderstanding is that Reading Disorder, Math’s Disorder and Written Expression Disorder are often referred to by alternative terms.
A Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in mathematics), in particular, is sometimes referred to as dyscalculia. A key component of the diagnosis is that the learning difficulties are “unexpected” in that other aspects of your child’s development appear within normal range.
A Specific Learning Disorder can only be reliably diagnosed by a psychologist after starting formal education. If your child suffers from this disorder, they are likely to have difficulty understanding simple number facts or procedures. For example, they may have difficulty solving basic maths problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. This may be as a consequence of them not remembering what the symbols mean or that they cannot remember the steps involved in the maths equation.
For example, a teenager given a person’s four exams scores of 70, 75, 80, and 65 may be unable to determine the individual’s average test score. In other words, they may struggle to understand how to solve the problem. If given the steps to solve this equation, your child is more likely to be successful. Alternatively, it may be that your child may be able to complete a maths addition problem but write the numbers in reverse so that instead of 61 they write 16. Lastly, they may have a poor memory for number facts such as knowing automatically that 7 times 7 equals 49.
There are a number of ways we can assist a child with a Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in mathematics) depending on their age and maths ability. For instance, research has demonstrated that cooperative learning is an effective way to reduce processing difficulties that are associated with maths anxiety. Therefore, it can be beneficial that your child has a classmate who can demonstrate how to arrive at the work-out answers so that they can see the steps that they go through to succeed in solving the problem.
Additionally, if your child has some of these difficulties, a learning difficulties assessment completed in an educational psychology clinic can assist you in understanding your child’s learning needs and providing recommendations and accommodations to assist them learn in a more effective manner.