By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
“Reading disability (RD) and math disability (MD) are common developmental disorders that are defined by significant academic underachievement that is unexpected based on an individual’s age and development (e.g., American Psychiatric Association, 2000).”
Research has shown that children who struggle with learning to read often also struggle with math and understanding numbers. It is not uncommon for students to have both a reading disability (dyslexia) and a math disability, with this co-occurrence found at a rate of approximately 40% (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes math challenging to process and understand, with these problems not explained by a lack of proper education, intellectual disabilities, or other conditions. At this time, the estimated prevalence of dyscalculia in school populations is 3 to 6 percent. There is no medication that treats dyslexia or dyscalculia; however, treating any co-occurring issues (e.g., AD/HD, Anxiety) can be helpful.
What are some signs of dyscalculia?
Elementary School Difficulties:
- trouble learning and recalling number facts
- trouble processing numbers and quantities, such as connecting a number to the quantity it represents (the number 2 to two books)
- difficulty counting, backwards and forwards
- difficulties recognizing quantities without counting
- weak mental math and problem-solving
- trouble making sense of money and estimating quantities
- difficulty quickly identifying right and left
- difficulty identifying signs like + –
- trouble recognizing patterns and sequencing numbers
- poor processing of graphs and charts
- persistent finger-counting is typically linked to dyscalculia, especially for easy, frequently repeated calculations
- lack of confidence in areas that require math
- trouble applying math concepts to money
- difficulty counting backward
- slow to perform calculations
- weak mental arithmetic
- poor sense of estimation
- high levels of math anxiety
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) with impairment in math (i.e., dyscalculia) are eligible for special services in the classroom. In-school dyscalculia services and accommodations may include:
- direct, specialized pull-out instruction to target core, foundational skills
- extra time on assignments, quizzes, and tests
- use of a calculator
- modifying the task
- breaking down complex problems into smaller steps
If you believe that your child may be experiencing difficulties in the area of math, one step is to determine the root of the difficulty. For example, does the student have an underlying learning disability or reduced self-regulation that may be negatively impacting their progress? Receiving a neuropsychological evaluation could be a useful tool in determining the appropriate supports and services to best help your child. If you are interested in learning more about NESCA’s Neuropsychological Evaluations, email: email@example.com or complete our online intake form.
About the Author
With NESCA since its inception in 2007, Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center.
After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
She has given a number of presentations, most recently on “How to Recognize a Struggling Reader,” “Supporting Students with Working Memory Limitations,” (with Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Architects for Learning), and “Executive Function in Elementary and Middle School Students.”
Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders, and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children.
Her professional memberships include MAGE (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education), IDA (International Dyslexia Association), MABIDA (the Massachusetts division of IDA) and MNS (the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society).
She is the mother of one teenage girl.
To book a consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.