Dyscalculia Or Mathematics Disorder In Children

Dyscalculia Or Mathematics Disorder In Children

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Numbers – harmless scribbles on paper for some, passion for others. But for a handful of people, numbers or mathematics can be a source of terror. And the terror starts young.

Is your child having trouble in his math class? Are his math grades falling? Then he might have Dyscalculia or Mathematics Disorder.

What is dyscalculia in children? Well, Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that can turn numbers and math concepts into dreaded enemies. Even simple concepts can seem gigantic obstacles to kids with this disorder.

Math disorder is often confusing for parents, especially if their kids are doing well in other subjects. If it is confusing to you, it is debilitating for your kid! The helplessness a child feels due to his learning disability can cause anxiety and low self-esteem (1). But you can help you kid!

Dyscalculia may be a lifelong condition, but it need not be a death sentence. With a little help from you and experts, your kid can even fall in love with numbers!

How Common Is Dyscalculia?

Does the term Dyscalculia sound Greek to you? You are not alone! Not many people are aware of the existence of this learning disorder. But the fact is that mathematics disorder is almost as common as dyslexia!

Many children with Dyslexia also have a problem with numbers. But it can exist alone too (2).

According to studies done by Cross-Tsur, Munro and Shalev in 1996, about 6.5% of people are dyscalculic (3).

That’s quite a sizable part of the population!

[ Read: Learning Disabilities In Children ]

Causes Of Dyscalculia In Children:

It is still not clear as to what causes dyscalculia in children. But experts have some clues. Here are some of the factors that may cause mathematics disorder:

1. Genes:

Did you struggle with math as a child? Then chances are high that your child will too! According to studies, dyscalculia has a strong genetic link and can be passed on from generation to generation (4).

2. Brain Development:

People with dyscalculia have brains that are a bit different! With the help of modern brain imaging tools, it is now clear that there is a marked difference in the brain structure of people with this learning disability (5).

[ Read: How To Nurture Child’s Developing Brain ]

3. Alcohol Abuse:

Women who consume alcohol while pregnant are more likely to have children with dyscalculia (6).

4. Low Birth Weight:

If a baby’s birth weight is lower than average, it is more likely that he will grow up to have dyscalculia (7).

5. Brain Injury:

According to research, an injury to the brain too can cause dyscalculia in children (8).

Symptoms Of Dyscalculia In Children:

All dyscalculia symptoms are different. That is why it is difficult to list down any fixed symptoms associated with the disorder. But by careful observation, you may be able to catch the problem early.

Here is a classification of dyscalculia symptoms in children according to age:

1. Preschool And Kindergarten:

Your child may have dyscalculia if she:

  • Has difficulty in counting.
  • Has trouble identifying number symbols.
  • Cannot remember numbers in their correct order.
  • Have problems in recognizing patterns, sizes, shapes or colors.

[ Read: Number Activities For Kids ]

2. Middle And High School:

Is your middle school kid going through a bad ‘math’ phase? Check out the following symptoms to rule out Dyscalculia.

  • Difficulty distinguishing numbers and symbols.
  • Problem in remembering basic math concepts.
  • Using fingers to count and calculate.
  • Inability to tell left from right.
  • Poor sense of direction.
  • Difficulty telling time.
  • Inability to relate math concepts to everyday life.
  • Difficulty in reading graphs or charts.

Complications Due To Dyscalculia:

Apart from falling math grades, dyscalculia can cause the following complications in your child’s life:

1. Poor Social Skills:

Today, when academic achievement is touted as the epitome of success, failing in math class can be a huge setback for a kid. The inability to do well in a subject can lead to anxiety and take a toll on your kid’s self-esteem. With no self- respect, it may be difficult for your child to make friends or get involved sports activities.

[ Read: Tips To Help Your Child Make And Keep Friends ]

2. Skewed Sense Of Direction:

As mentioned above, children with dyscalculia have trouble with direction. With a skewed sense of direction, it is difficult for such kids to drive, read a map, or simply reach an address easily.

3. Physical Coordination:

Dyscalculia can make the connection between the eye and brain a little weak. This can make judging distance a huge task and may make a child appear clumsy.

4. Money Trouble:

Once your kid grows up, she may have difficulty managing money, thanks to dyscalculia.

5. Time ‘Mis’-management:

Dyscalculia can make it difficult for a kid to understand the concept of time. That is why children with this disorder have difficulty managing time and sticking to schedules.

How Is Dyscalculia Diagnosed?

If you suspect that your kid has dyscalculia, get a professional to take a look. Diagnosing dyscalculia is no easy task! It involves several steps.

  • A Medical Exam: Don’t let the thought of a medical exam scare you! All it entails is sitting down with your child and pediatrician and talking about the issues your kid is facing. The point is to identify any other underlying condition causing problems with understanding numbers. In many cases, children with ADHD also show signs of mathematics disorder, making diagnosis difficult (9). That is what makes a medical exam vital.
  • Visit An Educational Professional: Get a referral and visit an expert who can help identify the exact math skills your child lacks. A school psychologist or private psychologist will be perfect for this task.

Once you get the diagnosis, you can start working on finding a solution.

How To Help Child With Dyscalculia?

If you have finally got a diagnosis, it is time to help your kid manage his problem. But don’t worry! You are not alone in this battle. There are several people who can help you.

  • You can work with your child’s school and ensure that he gets the extra support he needs to do well. Some extra time during tests or using a calculator is simple ways in which your kid’s school can help.
  • You also need to sit down with your child’s teacher and come up with ways with which math can be made easy for him.
  • You can also get a tutor to help your kid with math.
  • Finally, your kid may need a psychologist to deal with the anxiety and depression that can be a fall out of dyscalculia.

What Can You Do:

How to teach math to a child with dyscalculia? You too can help your kid manage his dyscalculia symptoms better. Here are some easy tips to help you along:

  • Use solid examples to connect math with real life. For example, you can use objects your kid is familiar with to explain basic math concepts.
  • Don’t load your kid with work he cannot handle. Doing so will simply overwhelm him and cause him more anxiety.
  • Be there to supervise your child’s work. Also ask him to verbalize the problem-solving process to understand math concepts better.
  • A huge lesson can be daunting for kids with dyscalculia. So break a lesson down into smaller portions.
  • Make math fun! Use math games to manage your kid’s fear of numbers.
  • Let your kid know that being poor in math is not the end of the world! Identify his strengths and encourage them. If your kid has an interest in language, find ways to nurture it.

Learning disorders can be difficult to live with. But with a little research and hard work, you can help your kid! Just don’t let the idea of failure scare you. Be strong and positive.

Does your kid have trouble with numbers? How are you helping him deal? Share with us.

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