Specific Learning Disorders- What is Dyscalculia?

Just as children are so vastly different, this holds true with their development as well as with the way they learn. When caring for a child who is struggling with schooling, one may look into possible learning disorders as a cause. There are learning disorders that are as vastly different as the children they impact. There is a diagnosis called Specific Learning Disorders in the Diagnostic and Manual of Mental Disorders. This diagnosis is applied when there is a neurodevelopment disorder that surfaces in a specific learning medium (for example: mathematics, reading, or writing). There are many various disorders that fall into this “Specific Learning Disorder” category. Let’s explore one of these disorders that surfaces itself in mathematic learning, dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia is a difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic. A difficulty in understanding numbers, manipulate numbers, or learning basic arithmetic facts are all symptoms of dyscalculia. It is common that these learning disorders are recognized during school aged years, but it is not uncommon for this Specific Learning Disorder to be recognised and diagnosed many years later. Dyscalculia is similar to dyslexia but as dyslexia typically applies to reversing the shapes of letters, dyscalculia is specific to numbers. For example, an individual with dyscalculia may write the number 1760 as 1716 because the words sixty and sixteen sound similar. ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia are commonly co-occurring disorders with dyscalculia, which simply means these disorders often occur together.

Common difficulties of individuals who struggle with Dyscalculia may experience:
-Difficulties remembering numbers, even basic simple numbers like dates, amounts, birthdays
-Easily loosing track when counting, if distracted
-Overwhelmed by arithmetic that involves multiple numbers (long division, budgeting, logistics)

For children specifically dyscalculia may be recognised early with difficulties in estimating simple quantities, especially without counting, as well as an anxiety around math related activities. Struggles to remember phone numbers, directions, reading clocks, and confusing right and left are also common signs in children that have dyscalculia.

There are diagnostic tests that can be completed if you are concerned that your child may be struggling with dyscalculia.  It is important to remember that early diagnosis as well as providing additional support can help your child cope with this additional challenge.  Psychologists, parents and teachers can be a powerful team in providing support for a child struggling with a learning disorder.  If you are concerned a loved one is struggling with dyscalculia, or another learning disorder, reach out to a psychologist for assessment. To book in a time to speak to a psychologist, call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online

Related reading:

Does my Child need an Assessment or Therapy?
Diagnosed: Benefits of receiving a DSM-5 diagnosis
How do I know if my Child has Learning Difficulties?

Looking for support?