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Specific Learning Disorder: Dyscalculia and Math disorders 


Dyscalculia and other disorders with mathematics are possible symptoms of Specific Learning Disorders. According to current literature, certain dyscalculia profiles first are detected in young children who have difficulty learning to count, and this has implications in all numerical activities. A language disorder also may have negative impacts on develpment of numerical capacities and in some children, all language that is required to develop concepts that support mathematical knowledge is problematic. These difficulties are often found at the same time with other learning disability symptoms in the same children, including dyslexia. Some children can have problems with math, even if their numerical abilities are normal (without dyscalculia); performance in mathematics in school require a complex set of skills. Language, reading comprehension, cognitive skills, logic and reasoning skills, visuo-spatial skills, eye-coordination and binocular vision skille, praxic skills, attention and executive functions (those are not all skills that can be addressed in Speech and Language Pathology if there is a problem) all are required. A deficit or disorder in those skills may result in problems in mathematics. This is why early and precise identification what is bringing problems with math; a SLP assessment is essential as part of a multidisciplinary assessment. Your SLP will be able to assess skills within their competence and appreciate the other dimensions that will have to be assessed, and refer to other professionals. if required. The specific job of a SLP is to design and apply a SLP Treatment plan, when disorders within their competence is detected.

It is important to mention that the scientific community has not reached consensus about a definition of "dyscalculia" and there is less research available than with reading disorders.


Dyscalculia conclusion? Yes, but more importantly: Treating Dyscalculia and Math Disorders 


The possibility of a dyscalculia profile may be suspected in very young children in their difficulty to learn to count and activities with quantity. At that age, we also may observe and assess global development and all conditions mentioned earlier and that may be bases for school difficulties in math in later years. Depending on the child's age, your SLP will assess in detail language skills, verbal reasoning and logic skills, reading and writing, numerical skills and the linguistic aspects of dealing with numbers and quantities, thus contributing to a conclusion. If appropriate, your SLP will be able to suggest a treatment plan, and appreciate other components of child development outside of their competence and refer to other professionnals.As with other disorders, early identification and treatment will help prevent difficulties and handicap situations. 


On top of direct treatment, teaching and pedagogical strategies and adaptations, specifically selected for the child's linguistic and language profile can be suggested for the school. Just as many other aspects of Specific Learning Disorders, dyscalculia is not very well reckognized and certain myths persist. Children are often considered lazy, and that if the child worked harder, he/she would improve and succeed.


Possible symptoms (wide variations according to underlying causes)

* many people may display less habilities in certain of those skills and tasks, and it wouldn't necessarily mean they have a form of dyscalculia or other math disorder;

  • Difficulties in very young children to process quantities, numbers and counting
  • Frequent difficulties with arithmetics, confusion in signs : +, -, ÷ and × /
  • Difficulties learning math facts: addition, multiplication, substraction, division, and mental calculation , etc.
  • Difficulties in daily living activites like counting money and making sure change is right, reading time on an analogic clock, etc.
  • Incapacity to understand a financial or budget plan, even at the most basic level: for example, problems estimating total cost of grocery, or balancing accounts.
  • May be successful in subjects like physics or geometry, easily handles logic and organization, but fails to the point calculations have to be performed.
  • Difficulties understanding time and to estimate time to go, or time passed. Often very late or very early to appointments.
  • Specific problems to tell right from left.
  • Difficulties navigating or mentally rotating a map to orient self during travels.
  • Might be difficult to mentally estimate dimensions, distance, etc. (for example, if an object is 3 meters, or 6 meters, or a 100 meters away)
  • Difficulty understanding and memorizing concepts, rules, formulas and math reasoning.
  • Incapacity to read a series of numbers, or may read or repeat backwards (say 56 instead of 65).
  • Difficulty tallying or keeping score during games or sports.
  • Difficulty with games like poker even with softer scoring rules.
  • Difficulty in many tasks that require sequential treatment of information, from more concrete activities (counting steps in dances, in sports) to more abstract (enunciate lists in the right order). Problems also may be seen using a calculator, because of problems respecting the right sequence of keys for different calculations.
  • Dyscalculia may lead, in some situations, to math phobia and long term math anxiety with everything related to numbers.