Training on learning disabilities

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What is Dyscalculia?

It is a Learning Disability, concerning the ability to automate calculation and its processes.
There are two main types of Dyscalculia:
- the first is concerning the inability to understand and manipulate numbers (multiplication, mental calculation, numerical operation…)
- thesecond is about the difficulty or impossibility to learn procedures or algorithm for calculation
The main areas involved are: Visual-spatial difficulties (related on what a person sees) and Language processing difficulties (related on what a person hear)

Is it possible to have only Dyscalculia?
Yes, it is, even if Learning Disabilities are often associated with Dyslexia and or/ Dysgraphia and/or Dysorthografia and or ADHD.

Could teachers not recognize symptoms?
It depends on the specific knowledge of teachers about Learning Disabilities. Nowadays schools are involving teachers in training about Learning Disabilities, but they are not clinical experts. They can give advices to families but the diagnosis is a specific task of professionals

How can I understand if my child has dyscalculia?
The students may have difficulties in…
•    learning to count
•    recognizing and memorizing numbers
•    Connecting number to a real quantity
•    organizing things in a logical way
•    solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division
•    problem-solving abilities
•    doing math operations
•    mathvocabulary
•    measuring objects or playing strategic games
•    managing budget or account
•    learningmathconcepts
•    concept of time
•    sense of direction (left/right)
•    mental calculations and/or estimation

So, if the student isn’t good in math, is because of Dyscalculia?
No, it isn’t! Math skills are related to teaching techniques: it is important a specific learning path in this subject and to clarify doubts and misunderstanding during the school period.

What causes dyscalculia?
Many researchers have studied causes of Dyslexia.
It is possible that dyscalculia is inherited or it could be related to the development of brain. Diagnosis consists on math assessments, student’s work, and test about cognitive functioning.

What is happening in the brain of a child with Dyscalculia?
Child’s thoughts in Primary school:
“I hate math!!”
“I can’t remember multiplication!!”
“Please help me in calculation… I can’t do it!!”
“What operation should I do? +? -?”
Child’s thoughts in Secondary school:
“I’m used to make some errors in calculating expressions… Signs in particular!”
“Geometry is a real nightmare!”
“I can’t remember formulas…”

An efficient treatment… is it possible?
There is a different between Dyscalculia and Difficulty in calculation (related to a weak study method and/or a not adequate way of teaching). An easy intervention is efficient, for sure. A treatment of difficulty in calculation has more effects than one in Dyscalculia. Before doing a treatment is necessary an evaluation and an intervention on attention, sometimes at the basis of the difficulties in math. That’s why intervention is always suggested, considering the age of the students.

How is dyscalculia treated?
Treatment depends on the difficulties of the student with Dyscalculia: there isn’t a general treatment, but specific ones related to the specific situation.
For example, some students prefer to use some strategy (i.e. to use colored pencils to better understand problems) but is the expert that should guide the student to a particular approach, instrument or methodology based on his or her help needed.  Here it is some suggestions  to deals with a student with Dyscalculia:
•    Scheduled computer time for practice
•    graph paper when needed
•    Work with an expert that could guide better understand the language of mathematical problems

How should I teach math to a student with dyscalculia?
These are some suggestions for teachers:
•    to give extra time to solve math tests
•    to Suggest a tutor to help him
•    let them use a calculator
•    Thinking about the learning styles of the student
•    To give them some concrete tools that can be useful to solve problems
•    Provide real-life examples relating to math concepts or problems
•    To prepare worksheet adapted to his/ her learning characteristics
•    To use flashcards, games, rhythms, music to help them in solving math exercises
•    Encourage them, be patient
The main strategies could be divided in three sections, according to the learning strategies of each student:
•    visual and verbal strategies: to create concrete situations
•    sequence strategies: to understand the logic of the exercise, problem, homework
•    mnemonic strategies: useful because students with these difficulties are used to have poor long-term memory.

What about an adult with Dyscalculia?
The main difficulties are related to:budget, estimating costs or paying bills, learning mathconcepts beyond the basic facts, concepts of time, mental arithmetic.
The person have to deal with the reality learning how to manage money, for example, paying attention to change: calculator in the mobile phone will be an important tool.

Can we consider “Math” as synonymous of “intelligence”?
No! Good skills in math are related to math intelligence.
To understand better this kind of concept, we should think about Howard Gardner’s words.
This American psychologist and professor describes the Theory of the Multiple Intelligences: there are Seven kinds independent Intelligence, and not only one.
•    Visual- Spatial Intelligence
•    Verbal-linguistic Intelligence
•    Logical-mathematical intelligence
•    Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence
•    Intrapersonal Intelligence
•    Interpersonal Intelligence
•    Musical-rhythmic and Harmonic Intelligence
He added other two intelligence, the Naturalistic and the Existential one.
In conclusion we could say that if a student is not excellent in math, he could have some other opportunities in other field.

What is the relationship between dyscalculia and dyslexia?  Dyscalculia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Researches are still studying if there is a relationship between these disorders but, nowadays, there isn’t a real answer in this sense. The same situation is related with ADHD: there is no answer to the question if ADHD causes dyscalculia.