Last week we spoke to Rose Lister, a primary school teacher who has struggled with numbers and was eventually diagnosed with dyscalculia at age 21. Rose tells us about the frustration of completing school education without a diagnosis – by telling her story, she hopes to bring more awareness to dyscalculia. Her story is very inspiring, and we hope that it can show you that dyscalculia doesn’t have to limit you in what you want to achieve in life.
In this part of the interview, we discussed the increased understanding of dyscalculia, her experience as a primary school teacher, and advice for those who have just been diagnosed and for parents with children struggling with numbers.
As a teacher, do you feel there has been an increase in understanding dyscalculia?
Defiantly since I was at school (I finished school in 2008) but I do believe there is still more understanding and research to be done and also awareness to be had. Everyone has heard of conditions such as dyslexia, but I still meet people who have never heard of dyscalculia.
What would you advise to someone who has just gotten their diagnosis?
Please believe in your own abilities and remind yourself that you are working as hard as you can and that perseverance is far more important than grades or exam results. If you are trying your best, then that is all that matters, and you should feel proud of yourself for showing such perseverance and ambition. You can do it! Also, never ever compare yourself to others. Focus on your skills and gifts and what you are capable of. Having a learning difficulty does not mean you are not clever or cannot do something. It just means you learn in a slightly different way and wouldn’t it be a boring world if we were all the same!
Take on advice from others such as teachers or blogs such as this one. You may also find out about strategies or ideas which could help you in your day-to-day life. Dyscalculia is not just present in weekly maths lessons; it’s there every day in every part of our life and routines. For example, one strategy that I learned to help me manage my finances (more numbers!) is that I make a note on my phone of everything that I spend. I even use emoji symbols to represent my bills and outgoings! But it works for me, so try and find out what works for you and stick with it.
What advice would you give to parents with a child who seems to struggle with numbers?
If you suspect that your child may be presenting as dyscalculic, look beyond the maths struggles that exist just in school. What is their time management like? Are they messy and disorganised? Do they appear to not be listening (because they struggle to process information)? Do they avoid maths activities, such as cooking, board games, jigsaws or team games in sports that involve a lot of rules? Do they forget phone numbers, codes and passwords? Do they struggle reading a map and following directions? Can they step and move in time to music? Do they panic and become upset when they have to deal with numbers?
If you feel your child does show such struggles, speak to their class teacher or their school SENCO about your concerns. Write down all of the struggles that your child has so that you have something to present. On this Blog, there is a section where you can view symptoms that can often present as dyscalculia; this might be a good place to start.
There are also lots of resources that you can purchase that may help your children, such as easy-to-read clocks and watches (I couldn’t tell the time until I was 16), maths games apps, and even continuing to use resources that were once seen as ‘just for primary school’ such as playdough and counters. If it helps, use it!
However, the most important support I feel parents and carers can give their children if they feel that they are struggling is understanding and patience. Listen to your child, support them, offer to help them with their homework, try to speak about maths positively, build up their confidence and make sure that they have time to relax and engage in activities which they enjoy and love.
As a primary school teacher (I teach Reception), I am committed to supporting and helping my pupils learn, grow and make the best progress that they can. I especially love helping them discover what they are good at and nurturing these likes and interests, and celebrating their achievements, no matter how small. We are all unique and special, and each one of us has a gift just waiting to burst out. Although it was apparent that I was never destined to become a mathematician, I realised that, like many other people, I was just going to have to work that little bit harder than some, and that’s ok. We are all different. Although I can often still panic, and become frustrated and upset when dealing with numbers, I feel that this helps me to relate to and understand how a child in my class may feel if they experience feeling frightened or nervous about any subject, whether it be reading, writing or numbers. I also hope that in my role, I can support parents and carers who may be worried about their children and help them the way my parents and teachers supported me.