What are the signs of dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia, like other learning disabilities, is considered a Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) in the DSM-5 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), meaning it isn’t differentiated from other learning disabilities despite its unique symptoms. According to the DSM-5, a person must experience the following symptoms persistently for at least six months in order to qualify for an SLD diagnosis:
- Persistent difficulties in reading, writing, arithmetic, or mathematical reasoning skills, including slow and laborious reading, poor written expression, problems remembering numbers, or trouble with mathematical reasoning
- Academic skills in reading, writing, and math well below average
- Learning difficulties that begin early, during the school-age years
- Difficulties that “significantly interfere with academic achievement, occupational performance, or activities of daily living” and cannot be “better explained by developmental, neurological, sensory (vision or hearing), or motor disorders”
Math anxiety, while not an official diagnosis, is a common experience in people with dyscalculia that can significantly inhibit their ability to learn, Schreuder says. Signs of math-related psychiatric issues to look out for include:
- Math-induced anxiety and/or panic
- Math-induced agitation, anger, or depression
- Fear surrounding math and going to school in general
- Physical manifestations of anxiety and depression including nausea, increased heart rate, sweaty palms, vomiting, sweating, and stomachache
It’s important to note that not all struggles with math and numbers are caused by dyscalculia, Schreuder says. Inattention issues caused by ADHD, for example, could cause someone to struggle to remember multiplication tables or to lose track of their progress when working out a math problem. This is why IEP assessments are critical — they help ensure your child receives the proper interventions, remediations, and accommodations based on their specific condition(s).
For more information, see our article Dyscalculia 101.