Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

This describes 2 common learning disabilities in children: dyslexia and dyscalculia. Read on to learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of these learning disabilities.

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Most children struggle with reading or math concepts at some point. However, if this is a habitual problem, your child may have a learning disability.

Learning disabilities are defined as a neurological disorder that affects one or more psychological processes involved in processing or using language. The disabilities often create a flawed ability to write, spell, read, or do mathematical calculations. More simply stated, your child is unable to fully perform the skills needed to read, write, spell, or do math correctly.

Two common learning disabilities are dyslexia and dyscalculia. Learning disabilities are lifelong conditions, and thousands of children and adults are affected by them in the United States. However, kids with these disabilities can become successful students once proper knowledge of their disorder and support is in place.


Dyslexia is a language and reading disability that affects 2% to 8% of all school children. Scientists have found that most people with dyslexia have problems with distinguishing or separating the sounds in written words, which is one of the major tasks involved in reading. Some may also have problems with sounding out and rhyming words.

According to the International Dyslexia Association, www.interdys.org, signs that a child may have dyslexia include:

  • Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
  • Difficulty decoding single words
  • Difficulty spelling phonetically
  • Consistent reading and spelling errors (letter reversals, word reversals, substitution, etc.)
  • Small word Confusion
  • Consistently relies on guessing and context
  • Difficulty learning new vocabulary
  • Transposes number sequences, confuses arithmetic signs
  • Trouble remembering facts

Children need a formal assessment test to be properly diagnosed and treated for dyslexia. After being diagnosed, most dyslexics obtain additional help from a teacher, tutor, or therapist. If your child is receiving help for their dyslexia, it is important that it is one-on-one attention and it involves several senses.

It is also recommended for parents to look into their child's school's academic modifications for dyslexics. For example, your child could get extra time to complete assignments and tests, and could have access to audio tape tests.


Dyscalculia is a mathematical disability. Children with dyscalculia have great difficulties performing mathematical calculations. There is no single form of this disorder, so the affects of dyscalculia change from one individual to another.

One of the most prominent causes of this disorder is visual processing weakness that causes difficulty in visualizing numbers and mentally mixing up the numbers, which causes mistakes in calculations. Another cause may be the language processing difficulties that can be caused when the brain has a problem processing what the ears have heard.

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, www.ncld.org, symptoms of dyscalculia in a child include:

  • Slow to learn counting and math skills
  • Difficulty reading numbers
  • Difficulty recalling the numbers in a sequence
  • Easily frustrated when using computation and organization skills
  • Trouble understanding how to tell time
  • Trouble approximating how long an activity will take
  • Poor mental math ability - unable to estimate grocery costs or number of days until vacation
  • Difficulty playing strategy or role-playing video games
  • Difficulty keeping score when playing games.

Children can be professionally evaluated for the detection of dyscalculia. After detection of this disorder, parents and educators can work together to help the child manage their disorder. During the evaluation, specific skills that the child struggles with will be detected, so the parents will know which mathematical fundamentals need to be identified when helping their child.

Helping your child outside of school is especially important because it allows your student to work at their own pace to learn and master each mathematical skill. To accomplish this, you can look into hiring a tutor or even a therapist.

Dealing with Learning Disabilities

Tutoring can be an extremely powerful tool when working with a child with learning disabilities. This is because your child will get one-on-one attention from a professional trained in teaching children. These professionals utilize your child's various senses and implement fun activities and games to keep your child focused. Also, by having a tutor, along with a school teacher, children are exposed to even more techniques and ideas for learning various math and reading concepts. This way, by hiring a tutor, you are ensuring that your child's bases are covered.

When choosing a tutor, make sure to look at their credentials. Many tutors now are state-certified and are trained to teach the state-wide required math and reading skills.

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