A guest article from Elisheva Seeman the creator of the Dyscalculator.
I first became aware of Dyscalculia when I noticed that my friend couldn’t read numbers. I couldn’t understand why she would always ask the people around her to tell her what number was written down, or why she would repeatedly ask what time someone said they were picking her up. When I realised how much Dyscalculia affected her on a daily basis, and how much it caused her to struggle in so many areas, I decided to find her an app or website to do the calculations for her. I figured that she was not the only one with this issue – surely someone must have developed a program to help with that.
I was wrong – all the apps I found when searching were geared towards teaching math, as opposed to offering tools to help people. So, I decided to create an app specifically to help her with numbers – and she loved it! She used it every day in different ways, and it really built up her confidence and helped her become less reliant on other people.
We recently got introduced to Mark Daly and his inspirational story of discovering his dyscalculia and returning to education as an adult. Mark had always struggled with numbers but growing up in 1980’s Ireland there was little to no awareness of dyscalculia or how to address it. Incredibly 30 years ago he discovered he had dyscalculia whilst on holiday in the USA and now he has been facing his challenges with this learning difficulty.
Written by Natalie Kerslake B.A (Hons), MA Ed SEND KS2 Teaching Assistant
A bit about me
My name is Natalie Kerslake B.A (Hons), MA Ed SEND, and I am a primary school teaching assistant, currently teaching in Year 6, with a particular interest in supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities. In January 2016, I graduated with my MA Education with specialism in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at the University of Derby,
I became motivated to complete my MA Ed research on dyscalculia after supporting a child with this in my first teaching assistant post. I did not know anything about dyscalculia myself at the time and not much was available to support teachers and children in this area. I wanted to investigate the current situation as to supporting children with dyscalculia in one particular primary school and see whether this was the case in another school.
It’s important to take signs of dyscalculia seriously. At the beginning of school, all children experience occasional difficulties with math. If these problems fail to dissipate with supported homework sessions or additional hours of practice, however, parents and teachers should be on alert for potential dyscalculia.
The following signs can indicate the presence of dyscalculia:
…has anxiety about going to school
…has anxiety about taking tests
…has a negative perception of their own intelligence
…expects to fail
…displays frustration and a reluctance to try (maths) in other subjects
Are you wondering why your child struggles with numbers and finds it difficult to solve the seemingly simple tasks?
Dyscalculia is usually perceived as a specific learning difficulty for mathematics, or, more appropriately, arithmetic. In isolated dyscalculia, there are no deficits in reading or writing. Dyscalculia is classified under WHO ICD-10, a classification system for diseases and mental disorders, as:
When you’re expecting a baby, it’s normal to spend hours on end thinking about the ways in which you will have to prepare your life and home for the arrival of a new family member. These anxieties are significantly amplified for expecting parents living with a disability. You may be keenly aware of how to adapt your life to your disability, but it’s not as obvious when you have to consider how a brand new life fits in.
But don’t worry – every parent goes through this. Your disability offers a different sort of challenge, but that doesn’t mean that preparing for parenthood has to be a logistical and emotional ordeal.
If your dyscalculia was undiagnosed until adulthood or perhaps you’re still undiagnosed, it is possible that you have gravitated towards a career that doesn’t involve maths. But no matter how often you need to do equations or handle numbers on a daily basis, simple accommodations can help you to perform your job to the best of your ability.
Developmental dyscalculia can be either genetic or environmental and even interaction of the two. It is a specific learning disability that affects the normal acquisition of arithmetic skills. It is equally common in boys and girls and impacts on 5-6% of the population.
Genetic causes include known genetic disorders such as Turner’s syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Velocardiofacial syndrome, Williams syndrome. In addition studies suggest that there are genes present in the general population which increase the risk of dyscalculia.
It is well known that schools tend to put mental arithmetic skills above the visual ones, as something like counting with your fingers is seen as a weakness in one’s calculation abilities. Educators and scientists have been tackling this obsolete cliché with research and scientific reports that seem to prove that visual aids are more than just helpful in the learning process.
Indeed, visual aids, such as the use of fingers, have a key role in children’s understanding of mathematics. This form of visualisation gives the abstract world of numbers a real side and establishes a connection to something tangible. This results in the creation connections from the prefrontal cortex (main memory / data centre) to the visual and motor cortex. Thus, when visual aid is used, thinking becomes outsourced to other brain areas generating a more efficient use the brain’s capacity.
However, these findings do not mean that you child will forever use their fingers to count. Over time a mental image of the fingers will become connected to the mental processes of counting, making the physical counting unnecessary. This is proven by numerous studies with primary school children that measured increased activity in the visual cortex while children were solving complex math tasks, even when they did not use their hands.
If you are not online, you can forget about keeping in touch with your grandchildren. That is just the reality we are living in. However, for seniors living with dyscalculia or dyslexia, using the internet can be incredibly stressful and even dangerous. To help you with this necessary form of communication, we have put together a comprehensive guide to make the experience less stressful and more fun.
How Dyscalculia and Dyslexia Affects People Later in Life
Most of the media attention on dyscalculia and dyslexia is focused on how these maladies affect youngsters. Yet, older adults also have trouble living a normal life and performing specific activities when they are afflicted by these disabilities. In turn, this can cause undue frustration and stress.
Seniors who acquire dyslexia and dyscalculia later in life often do so through trauma, dementia, stroke, or brain injury. For dementia and stroke, stress is typically a contributing factor. When stress is the source of dyslexia or dyscalculia, a dangerous cycle develops.
As dyscalculics and dyslexics put in extra effort to deal with numbers, math, and reading, they get frustrated and mentally-exhausted. This added stress can lead to other health issues or worsen the condition. Unfortunately, trying to use the internet is one of the more stressful experiences for seniors, especially with all of the scammers out there trying to prey on your inexperience. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to stay safe on the internet and avoid the added stress.