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Are Your Child’s Struggles with Math A Sign Of Something More? Learn About Dyscalculia.

Many people struggle with math. For lots of us, the thought of solving complex math problems reawakens dormant nightmares from elementary and high school—and the cold sweats and sheer panic that went along with them.

Yet, most of us were able to find a way to muddle through—even though math wasn’t our strongest subject, we got by.

But, sometimes, problems with math skills arise from a deeper issue.

If your child struggles with learning and retaining math skills and concepts, you’re not alone. In some cases, math difficulties can be related to an underlying issue.

You’re likely aware of learning disabilities and how they can impact the children who experience them. But, many people aren’t aware that learning disabilities can directly impact math skills.

This specific type of learning disability is known as dyscalculia.

But what does it mean to have dyscalculia? And how can you know if the issues your child is experiencing stem from this underlying condition?

Let’s explore this issue in greater detail, to give you an awareness of what it is, how it shows up, and how you can help and support your child if they experience it.

What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects math skills in those who have it.

Children with dyscalculia struggle with understanding, remembering, and using mathematical concepts.

This can include both performing math problems and equations and it can also manifest as difficulties with understanding relational math concepts and relationships (such as big and little).

Sometimes, you may hear dyscalculia referred to as “number dyslexia,” or “math dyslexia.”

These terms are typically an oversimplification that fails to encompass the true nature of the issue at hand, as well as the differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia.

While it’s true that dyslexia and dyscalculia can co-occur and that both arise from difficulties in executive functioning skills—they are distinct issues.

At present, dyslexia is better understood than dyscalculia. But, some experts estimate it’s just as common—impacting between 5-10% of people worldwide.

Because dyscalculia impacts all math skills, regardless of their level of complexity, it can affect a child’s ability to learn the math skills necessary to progress in school, as well as cause difficulties in their everyday lives.

Basic math skills are used regularly in our daily lives. Children with dyscalculia may experience problems learning to count change, understand time, follow recipes, and tally quantities.

That’s because dyscalculia impacts a child’s number sense—which is a group of key math abilities, used in everyday activities.

Your number sense includes core competencies like—

  • Understanding relational concepts, like big vs. little, or more vs. less.

  • The ability to compare numbers to one another (such as greater and less than)

  • Understanding quantities

  • The knowledge that numbers are representative of groups of items

  • Awareness that numbers are symbols that represent quantities (and that numbers can be represented both with number and letter symbols—such as six and 6).

Reviewing these skills, it’s apparent how important they are for informing and laying the foundation for both our higher level and our everyday math skills.

Because children with dyscalculia often struggle with their number sense skills, it stands to reason they also experience difficulty with higher level math skills. It’s like trying to construct a sturdy home on top of a shaky foundation.

Children with dyscalculia experience difficulties at all levels of math skills. Addition may be as complex and difficult for them to grasp as algebraic equations.

Because dyscalculia is a specific learning impairment, it specifically impacts the math skills of the children who have it. These kids may excel in other areas of their learning, but struggle with classes in which they are expected to learn, process, and use math skills.

It’s important to know—not all math issues are a result of dyscalculia. If you’re concerned your child’s difficulties in math may be caused by this issue, let’s explore how dyscalculia is identified.

How is a child diagnosed with dyscalculia?

If you’re concerned your child’s difficulties with math may be the result of an underlying issue like dyscalculia—how can you be sure?

Children with dyscalculia often experience a range of difficulties with math skills, including—

  • Delayed number learning

  • Becoming easily disorganized when counting

  • Struggle to recognize and match numbers to their written counterparts (like 7/seven)

  • Difficulty reading clocks and estimating time

  • Trouble telling left from right

  • Struggle to grasp and perform basic math activities, like addition and subtraction

  • Difficulties with pattern recognition

  • Struggle with visual math concepts, like graphs, tables, and geometric shapes

  • Trouble remembering numbers like addresses, game scores, phone numbers

These issues can lead to frustration and can create learning gaps between your child and their same-aged peers.

So, what’s a parent to do when you recognize some of these issues in your child and you need to know if they’re the result of an issue like dyscalculia?

Thankfully, there are experts and systems in place to help support you and your child—and to make sure they get the extra support they need to thrive.

Like our team here at The Loop—we’ve got experts who are trained to assess and treat issues like dyscalculia when they occur.

We can help you understand the underlying nature of your child’s issues with math, as well as create a customized treatment plan to help address and overcome any problems they’re facing.

While there’s no single, definitive test to determine whether or not your child has dyscalculia, we are able to provide you with a confident differential diagnosis using several methods of assessment and interview.

Here are some important steps you can take if you’re concerned your child may have dyscalculia—

  • Reach out to their healthcare provider—your child’s doctor can help determine if they’re experiencing any issues with hearing or vision that may be impacting their ability to learn in school. If necessary, they can also make referrals to other specialists for additional assessments.

  • Talk to their teacher—your child’s teacher sees things you can’t while they’re participating in the classroom setting. They may have additional insight for you, and they’re also a great resource and advocate to have on your team to line up and implement any support services your child may need.

  • Talk to a specialist—this is where we come in! The Loop team is always ready to stand in your corner to ensure your child gets the support and assistance they need to thrive. We can set up and conduct a thorough evaluation of their learning skills, communicate directly with you and relevant educational professionals, and design and implement an individualized learning plan to help your child succeed.

How is dyscalculia treated in children?

While receiving a diagnosis of dyscalculia can be scary for any parent—this is an important step in getting your child the help and support they need to address their issues with math learning.

Left untreated, dyscalculia can persist into adulthood, creating lifelong challenges for your child without providing them the tools to overcome them.

If your child is diagnosed with dyscalculia, this can secure them access to an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

An IEP is used to ensure their access to learning supports, targeted treatment, and classroom accommodations, as well as a dedicated team to monitor their progress.

The Loop team is skilled at identifying and treating students with dyscalculia and other types of learning difference and disabilities.

Once we’ve communicated with you and completed a thorough interview and evaluation of your child’s individual learning strengths and struggles, we’ll get right to work crafting a customized educational plan to address their unique needs.

While our treatment plans and goals are highly customized for each individual child and family we serve, our treatments for targeting dyscalculia may include—

  • Instructing your child in target math skills, allowing them many different opportunities to encounter this information and practice its use

  • Developing and using visual and tactile aids to help your child conceptualize and retain math concepts

  • Training your child in strategies to overcome their issues with math, including—

    • Separating problems into smaller, less complex steps

    • Allowing your child extra time to complete math work

    • Allowing your child to use items like calculators

    • Providing your child with supplemental aids and strategies for math work

    • Training your child in checking over their work for errors

  • Working closely with your child’s teacher to implement any necessary classroom or instructional modifications and accommodations to support your child’s learning

  • Working closely with you to help you learn key strategies and use them at home

The Loop team strives to be a true partner to the children and families we serve. We’re always available to answer your questions and welcome parental involvement in our therapy, whenever appropriate.

We’ll help you advocate for your child’s needs in the school setting—ensuring their issues with math won’t create a barrier to their educational experience or life as a whole.

Because we believe every child has the right to a fun, full learning experience. And we’re here to help your child gain access to the tools and resources they deserve to make this a reality.

Did you know—The Loop is proud to partner with Chicago area private schools to offer a wide range of therapy and learning support services. From speech, language, and occupational therapy, to educational consultancy and advocacy, executive function coaching, and learning remediation services, we’ve got your family’s educational support needs covered!

Want to stay in The Loop? Keep in touch with us on your fav social platform @TheLoopSLL. Got questions? Shoot us an email at And remember to visit our site regularly for awesome freebies and informative content, created just for you!

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