​Dyscalculia


Dyscalculia is a learning disability that inhibits a person’s ability to comprehend numbers and learn mathematical and arithmetic logic (sometimes even basic ones, such as “number sense”). People with this disability may also have difficulty comprehending math symbols, have trouble with remembering and organizing numbers, struggle with telling time, or have difficulty with counting. Thus, dyscalculia is often referred to as a “mathematical disorder” or even “math dyslexia” as it is essentially an impairment of mathematical cognition due to a form of dysfunction in the brain. Dyscalculia most often co-occurs with other disorders, such as dyslexia or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Hence, if your child is diagnosed with dyscalculia, they will struggle with math, even if they typically do well in other subjects. This could possible lead to confusion, anxiety, low motivation and low self-esteem.

Dyscalculia is a lifelong condition that can present many frustrating challenges. However there are many strategies and tools that can be taught in order to help cope with these struggles and there is no reason why this disorder should hold your child back from being happy and successful.


There is not yet a definite list of symptoms of dyscalculia, and symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next. Furthermore, symptoms are usually more noticeable as you child grows older, and the indicators of the disorder tend to change over time. If you or your child suffers from dyscalculia, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Struggling with understanding mathematical and arithmetic concepts, such as quantity, number lines, and place value and so on.

  • Difficulty thinking of a plan and using steps to solve math operations  

  • Problems with imagining mental numbers

  • Difficulty in remembering arithmetic facts

  • Trouble with understanding and recalling mathematical symbols (such a ‘+’ or ‘÷’).

  • Difficulty with comprehending and solving math problems, especially word problems

  • Struggling with sequencing or categorizing information or events   

  • Struggles with handling money and calculating change

  • Trouble with understanding concepts associated with time, such as days, week, months, and quarters and so on.

  • Shows struggle with keeping calculations and steps organized on a page, such as writing out numerical clearly, keeping numbers lined up in a column, or completing a long subtraction problem.  

  • Lacking confidence of ability is activities and situations that require estimating time, speed and distance and so on.

The signs of dyscalculia tend to become more obvious as one gets older. If left undiagnosed, it could lead to much frustration, anxiety or even depression. If your child is showing struggles with basic math concepts, is falling significantly behind other children in math class, or shows any of the other signs related to dyscalculia, it is strongly recommended to take them to see a specialist working with the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital, as soon as possible for a testing and diagnosis. The earlier the treatment begins, the better the outcomes tend to be.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.

There has been comparatively less research on dyscalculia compared to some other learning disorders. Thus it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. It not yet possible to diagnose dyscalculia based on brain function. Therefore diagnosis is more dependent on analysis of the effects of the disorder. It is considered good practice to take notes of your child symptoms and ask their teachers for their help and input, as this could be of great assistance to the diagnostic process.

The doctor will first run tests, a medical exam, and a clinical interview in order to understand more about the symptoms and to rule out other possible causes of the struggle with math, for instance anxiety disorders or other learning disabilities (or you child could just be bad at math!).
Once other possibilities have been ruled out and it is clear that your child is severely compromised in math and it causes an everyday struggle, and that he or she is suffering from some sort of learning disability, your doctor will conduct more tests.

Diagnostic tests will look at mathematical ability, IQ, reading and writing ability and so on. There are other methods that are sometimes used to diagnose dyscalculia, for instance your child’s doctor may ask them to count dots, to count backwards, and to copy and draw shapes form memory.

The results of these tests will be examined and understood on a person-to-person basis, as there is currently not a generalized set of indicators for dyscalculia. Once a diagnosis is made, it will be much easier to suggest treatment and therapy for the disorder.

After you or your child has been diagnosed with dyscalculia, it is important to assess how minor or severe the disorder is. Thus, identifying personal strengths and weakness is a good start to treatment, as it enables a focused effort for improvement. Parents should also work together with their child’s teachers and other educators in order to come up with tactics that will help ease their struggle as school. These may include helpful methods to try and help with organization, with better understanding of math and word problems, and with coping with stress and anxiety. Your child could learn practices that would strengthen their math ability, such as counting with familiar objects (e.g. buttons), using visual aids (e.g. pictures), or using graph paper to keep their work organized.  In some instances, the doctor may prescribe medication in order to treat symptoms of stress and depression that may be a side effect of struggle with dyscalculia.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
 
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
 
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.