We all want the very best for our children. We want them to grow up to be kind, happy, and successful.
When we notice anything a little out of the ordinary, it can be very worrying.
In this guide, created especially for parents, we’ll talk about how you can look out for signs that may indicate your child has dyscalculia and what you can do about it.
Keep reading, and we’ll aim to put your mind at ease.
Early Signs Of Dyscalculia
The early signs of dyscalculia can easily be missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for or if you view the signs and symptoms in isolation.
Below, we’ve included a comprehensive list of the common signs parents can look out for:
1. Difficulty In Understanding Number Concepts
Children with dyscalculia often struggle with the very basics of numbers and what they represent.
This difficulty goes beyond simple counting; it’s about understanding the value and relationships between numbers.
For example, a child may not grasp that ‘5’ is not just a symbol but represents a quantity greater than ‘4’ and less than ‘6’.
They might also have trouble with the concept of ‘more than’ or ‘less than’, failing to recognise, for instance, that 5 cookies are more than 3 cookies, or that 7 apples are less than 10 apples.
2. Struggles With Basic Arithmetic
Arithmetic problems like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are fundamental to mathematical understanding, but children with dyscalculia can find these a little challenging.
A child might repeatedly make errors in simple addition, such as consistently miscalculating the sum of 4 and 3.
These difficulties are often unrelated to their abilities in other academic areas, indicating a specific challenge with numbers rather than a general learning issue.
3. Challenges With Time And Money Management
Understanding and managing concepts of time and money are often confusing for children with dyscalculia.
They might struggle with learning to tell time on an analogue clock or understanding the sequence of days and months.
Managing money, such as understanding why a 20p coin is worth less than a 50p coin, can also be challenging despite its smaller size.
This confusion extends to making correct change or estimating the cost of items.
4. Reliance On Their Own Methods For Problem-Solving
Children with dyscalculia often resort to their own unique methods for solving what are typically considered straightforward math problems.
For instance, they may rely heavily on using their fingers for counting, even for basic arithmetic, which their peers can do mentally.
They might also draw elaborate pictures to understand simple problems, indicating a struggle with abstract mathematical thinking.
5. Pattern Recognition Difficulties
Recognising, understanding, and replicating patterns are key skills in mathematics, but children with dyscalculia may find these tasks daunting.
For example, they might struggle to identify a pattern in a sequence of numbers or have difficulty understanding the concept of repeating patterns, such as in basic algebra or geometry.
It’s important to note that one of these signs in isolation may not mean your child has dyscalculia, but being aware of all of the key symptoms can help you get an idea of whether they may have a specific learning difficulty and if it is worth seeking a diagnostic assessment.
What Causes Dyscalculia?
While there’s no clear indication of what causes dyscalculia, there are some theories.
It is believed to involve a combination of genetic and brain development factors.
Studies suggest that dyscalculia may be linked to how the brain processes numbers and mathematical concepts.
The involvement of hereditary factors is also indicated, as dyscalculia often appears to run in families.
Finally, structural differences in the brain, particularly in areas associated with processing numerical information, have been observed in individuals with dyscalculia.
Are There Any Conditions Related To Dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia can often be linked with other conditions.
Firstly, anxiety – it’s incredibly common for children with dyslexia to experience anxiety surrounding maths. This is what, post-diagnosis, putting the correct support in place for your child is essential – but we will come onto that later.
Secondly, dyscalculia can sometimes occur alongside other conditions, such as dyslexia, which is characterised by difficulties with reading and language, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which affects attention and self-control.
How Do You Test A Child For Dyscalculia?
If you think your child may be displaying signs of dyscalculia, you can book a diagnostic assessment for your child.
The NHS doesn’t provide dyscalculia assessments, so you will need to be referred to a psychologist who specialises in dyscalculia, or alternatively, you can get an assessment from a private provider.
We also have a full article on how to get your child tested here – so have a read of that.
What Can I Do To Support My Child If They Have Dyscalculia?
When you have a dyscalculia diagnosis for your child, there’s a lot you can do to support them.
Our main piece of advice is to work closely with your child’s school to discuss learning techniques and adaptations that can help your child both in the classroom and at home.
We have two handy guides, which you may want to take a look at too.
Our Final Word
There are a number of signs to look out for, which may be an indication that your child has dyscalculia, but the only way to confirm is by getting an official diagnosis.
Remember that if your child does have dyscalculia, there are plenty of things that you and their teachers can do to support them on their learning journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
How common is dyscalculia?
Approximately 5-7% of the population is thought to have dyscalculia, making it a relatively common learning difficulty.
What can be mistaken for dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia can be mistaken for dyslexia, ADHD, or general math anxiety, all of which can affect math learning in different ways.
Can you self-diagnose dyscalculia?
While self-assessment tools can be indicative, a formal diagnosis should be made by a trained professional for accuracy.
At what age is dyscalculia usually diagnosed?
Dyscalculia is typically diagnosed in primary school, but signs of the condition can sometimes be noticed earlier.