Dyscalculia in Children – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Mental capabilities in children is a topic that has been under debate for a long time. This includes incapabilities due to mental health issues and learning liabilities that individually or collectively contribute to the insufficient abilities of the child. Dyscalculia is one such disorder that has been present for a long time but has only recently gained prominence and importance among educators and guardians.
What is Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects the way a person performs arithmetical calculations. It is also known as math dyscalculia. It refers to a person’s inability to understand mathematics, its concepts, and numbers. As a result, it may lead to anxiety disorders. Sometimes, people confuse disinterest in the subject with a learning disorder.
How Common Is It?
This medical problem does not pertain to mental health. Due to this, there is not enough research on it. However, an estimated 5-10% of the population is affected by dyscalculia. There exists a common myth that boys are better at math than girls, so they are likely to be more prone to it. The fact is the disorder can affect boys and girls equally. Moreover, this disorder has no age limit. It can occur at any age.
Types of Dyscalculia
Now, people may or may not exhibit classic symptoms of a disorder. Hence, after extensive research and study, six types of dyscalculia have been identified:
1. Verbal Dyscalculia
Verbal dyscalculia refers to a struggle in understanding spoken language. It includes a person’s inability to write the numbers or equations spoken to them. They are also likely to have problems naming the operational signals.
2. Practognostic Dyscalculia
A person with this disorder has difficulty applying a simple mathematical principle, such as comparing the quantity or size of two objects.
3. Lexical Dyscalculia
It is the opposite of verbal dyscalculia. People with this disorder have trouble reading mathematical symbols such as plus, minus. They are unable to read mathematical operations when shown in visual form.
4. Graphical Dyscalculia
Unlike lexical, this disorder involves difficulty in writing numerical and mathematical operations. In this, a person cannot figure out mathematical concepts if it is in a written form.
5. Diagnostic Dyscalculia
This Dyscalculia relates to the inability to remember previous arithmetical concepts. As a result, this causes difficulties in understanding.
6. Operational Dyscalculia
This form of dyscalculia entails having difficulty interpreting operational symbols and their meanings.
Causes of Dyscalculia
According to New Zealand research, dyscalculia may result from varying reasons differing from person to person. In most cases, the causes might not be apparent. Even so, the following are three common causes for this disorder:
1. Brain development
Also known as developmental dyscalculia, a gap between structural and functional parts of the brain is one of the primary causes of this disorder.
2. Genetic background
A family history of this disorder makes it more likely to recur. In this regard, heredity plays a crucial role.
3. Environmental factors
Research suggests that environmental factors can also play a role in this disorder. For example, the fetus may be exposed to alcohol or drugs by the mother during pregnancy.
Signs and Symptoms of Dyscalculia
Symptoms of dyscalculia vary from person to person. It may develop as early as in preschool for some, while others may get it later in life. Many experts believe that even if the disorder is found later, it is present from childhood. The following are some signs and symptoms of Dyscalculia:
- Problems with counting numbers, both verbal and in writing
- Having trouble remembering previous mathematical concepts or difficulty in remembering “basic” arithmetic facts
- Slow in performing calculations
- Experiencing increased anxiety when exposed to arithmetic
- Having trouble keeping track of time
- Being unable to comprehend even the simplest math equations
- Unable to read numerical values or operational values
- Using fingers for simple counting or difficulty in counting backwards
- A lack of coordination and movement in the motor skills
Diagnosis of Dyscalculia
Sometimes when other impairments overlap, it is difficult to diagnose this learning disorder. There is a difference between a child not interested in math and a child with this disorder. Hence, proper diagnosis is crucial.
1. Visit a doctor
To begin with, if you have the slightest doubt, you should visit your doctor. He will discuss your family history to rule out any genetic influences on the condition.
2. Testing for other medical conditions
The next step is to determine if there are any other underlying medical conditions.
3. Evaluating techniques
The doctor may refer to trained learning specialists. These specialists will conduct a series of observation tests. Adults may be referred to a psychologist or the same team of professionals who will perform the necessary evaluation tests.
4. Support from school or work
Children can always ask their school for support. They can ask for evaluation tests in the daily study schedule from their teacher. Adults with disabilities can ask for help from their employers. Learning disorders are a part of the list of disabilities under the law.
Treatment of Dyscalculia
A person cannot outgrow dyscalculia. It is always better if the treatment begins as early as possible. Yet, there are now successful medical strategies available to both children and adults. Although there is no definitive treatment, you can still negate the effects of living with dyscalculia.
First, let’s discuss how we can treat dyscalculia in children.
- Introducing multi-sensory instruction techniques
These include using sensors related to sight, touch, movement, and hearing. By linking objects or actions to symbols or numerals, it strengthens the concepts.
- Using assistive technology
There are many tools and apps available for maths. Parents can use them to help kids practice at home as well.
- Treating other medical issues
ADHD is often associated with learning disabilities. There have been studies about it. As per a 2015 study, almost 11% of children suffering from dyscalculia also had ADHD. Currently, there is no medicine for dyscalculia, but there is medication for ADHD. By treating ADHD, doctors can reduce its symptoms.
- DIY home activities
Adding board games to a child’s weekend activities can prove beneficial. Also, keeping a progress tracking sheet helps to tailor treatment to the child’s needs.
- Consult a psychologist
Self-diagnosis is never a good idea. Before assuming, always consult a professional. The doctor will conduct an evaluation test to determine the root cause of your child’s problem.
- At-home tips
Downloading puzzles or memory games on their smartphone is one way to combat this disorder. Another way is to write everything down as you read them. You will be less likely to forget things this way.
- Accept your limits
Finally, accept this and relax. Otherwise, you will only burden yourself with anxiety. It may be a disorder, but it doesn’t mean the end of the road.
How Can a Child With Dyscalculia Be Helped?
People should understand that those suffering from dyscalculia need extra support. It will help them succeed in academics and to manage their issues. As parents, you can play a crucial role in helping your child walk through these troubled waters through these methods:
- Implementing the right tools
- Managing anxiety
This math disorder dyscalculia in kids can make them underperform in their studies. As a result, they can become anxious. In this situation, parents should calm their children and teach them ways to overcome it. Praise their child’s hard work and efforts regardless of the grade they receive.
- Boosting self-esteem
A child may not understand why he is slower than his peers in a particular subject. Peer pressure may cause him to experience stress and lower his confidence. Rather than thinking of him as a child, it will be best to talk to him as an adult. Help him understand his strengths rather than focussing on the negatives. Tell him you are proud of him and you are there to support him.
- Consult an expert
Take the help of an expert to guide him through his studies. The educational specialists have levels of experience in these cases. They will help the child to learn mathematical concepts in a non-stressful environment.
We can safely state that dyscalculia is not a mental disorder. It is like a foreign language, challenging for the brain to comprehend. By following these tips, dyscalculia sufferers will be able to reduce their symptoms. Yet, if you or your loved ones suffer from any of the above symptoms, we urge you to seek the guidance of a specialist.