Mark’s story of achievement from a diagnosis of dyscalculia and lack of support in school to becoming an advocate for adult education.
“This is a film about my journey in education. It connects my past to my present, from primary school to secondary school to third level and all the challenges I faced in the Irish education system without educational support and the difficulties of finding a job. My unhappiness at home and how I returned to education as an adult and became an ambassador for lifelong learning.”
Margot Connop’s artwork on dyscalculia popped up on our Instagram feed and we loved it so much we thought it would be great to get some insight into arts place in the world relating to dyscalculia, so without any further ado here’s the interview with Margot –
Hi dwdyscalculia! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your Instagram?
Hi! My name is Isabelle, I’m 20 years old and I work as a qualified freelance makeup artist in New Zealand. I was diagnosed with severe Dyscalculia (Acalculia) when I was around 11 years old. My Dyscalculia is not genetic, as I was born premature (25 weeks) and suffered a brain bleed, thus causing me to have Dyscalculia as a result. I was able to get specific tutoring for my Dyscalculia, in order to help me learn numeracy skills (this aided in me passing NCEA – similar to GCSE’s) Since being diagnosed, I have been a strong advocate for Dyscalculics.
I created my Instagram ‘Dancing with Dyscalculia’ when I was around 15 years old (also known as dwdyscalculia), to help educate and raise awareness of Dyscalculia. What better way to educate and raise awareness, create a discussion about certain topics in this day in age, than social media? I create and post textual descriptions with snippets of information about Dyscalculia, in order to help raise awareness. I will sometimes post questions relating to Dyscalculia and answer them. I also often answer questions relating to Dyscalculia in comments as well.
Nobody really discusses educational associated anxiety. This is separate from my more general anxiety. My mother would ask or try to ask me how was school today and just did not want to talk about it. There were no school counsellors when I went to school. The secondary school I attended was academically very strict. We were there to open our books face the front of the class and shut up.
To make sense of my thoughts as a potentially dyscalculic adult – who faces specific challenges with logical thinking – I probably need to start with some context.
At primary school, long division took me years to master, and there were always strange little things I just didn’t get or couldn’t do that others found easy (despite me apparently starting off well ahead in intellectual maturity and reading age)… I also always lost at Monopoly! Nevertheless, apart from a few such uncomfortable wobbles and blocks, I was able to keep up well into secondary school, even taking a couple of exams early.
It’s the 1980s. I am sitting at a desk in primary school. It’s senior infants. Although I was an easy-going kid, I would get frustrated that I could not do maths and got upset about that.
There were five of us at the desk. The teacher is handing out copy books. we were doing maths work. She asked us who had finished the and they all put up their hands, and then she asked who had not finished the work, and I put up my hand. The teacher said that they would wait until Mark is finished.
It took me some time to finish the work and the rest of the class sat there and waited until I was finished. We were all getting ready to go home, when one of my classmates turned to me and said, “I know you are not very good at maths Mark, but If I am late for football practice I won’t forgive you”. I said “I thought we were friends” and he replied, that “Just because we are classmates doesn’t mean that we are friends”.
A guest article from Michelle Steiner – first published and edited on The Mighty
My math learning disability presents a variety of challenges, but the most difficult one is not being able to read the face of a clock. Many people don’t understand that I can’t do this. I have had generous people gift me with beautiful antique analogue clocks. But I am unable to read what time it is and other than decoration, they serve little purpose for me.
I struggled with learning how to read a clock in elementary school. I can remember learning to tell time to the hour, but anything beyond that never made sense. I dreaded the worksheets that I had to tell what time it was, but I loved the colourful clock that you could move the handles.
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 increase of the understanding of dyscalculia, her experience as a primary school teacher, 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 of understanding of 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!
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