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  • Writer's pictureSepideh Homayoonfar Psy.D

How To Recognize Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia, also known as Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics, is a common learning disorder that affects a child’s mathematical abilities. Understanding number concepts such as magnitude and relationships, recalling math facts, and following sequence of steps amidst computation may be difficult for a child with this diagnosis. Furthermore, while calculation skills are often most impacted, mathematical reasoning, applying mathematical concepts and procedures, are also areas of difficulty.

Dyscalculia is a lifelong condition and changes in symptomatology happen with age, resulting in a shifting or persistent array of difficulties across the lifespan. For example, a preschooler may have trouble remembering names of numbers and/or learning to count. Once in primary grades, a child’s difficulties shift to remembering number facts, remembering arithmetic procedures, and have trouble completing homework assignments. Basic mathematical equations such as 2+5=7 and recognizing the + and - signs will prove difficult in a school aged child. They may try to use fingers or some other quantifier in lieu of attempting to do it in their head. Concepts such as greater than and less than may be difficult for them to understand. Such weaknesses further intensify in adolescence as demands rise and mastery of math facts and mathematical problem solving become more necessary in school. Finally, as adults, those impacted by dyscalculia experience difficulty making inferences from numerical information in work-related documents.

Although we do not know what the exact cause of this condition is, research has indicated an increased risk for learning disorders due to prematurity or low birth weight, as well as prenatal exposure to nicotine. Heredity and parental literacy skills have also been correlated to learning disorders in children. Furthermore, experts have considered the role of weaknesses in working memory, which maybe why the child will have issues with understanding fundamental mechanics and recalling mathematical facts.

It is not uncommon for a child to have dyslexia co-occur with Dyscalculia. ADHD and anxiety are also commonly found amongst children with this disorder. Additionally, higher levels of psychological distress and lower self esteem have been reported, while higher levels of social and emotional support predict better mental health outcomes.

When questioning the possibility of a Dyscalculia diagnosis, an evaluation consisting of a certain set of tests directly relating to Dyscalculia will be administered. However, a full diagnostic evaluation should also be performed to get a complete picture of the child’s strengths and weaknesses across all domains of functioning.

Dr. Sepideh Homayoonfar is a licensed child clinical psychologist located in Great Neck, NY who specializes in comprehensive pediatric evaluations. Should results warrant a diagnosis, she can help parents and their child better understand ADHD, develop better coping strategies, and improve organizational skills.

Please feel free to email us or call our office at 516-484-1200 for a free phone consultation and any other questions that you may have!

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