Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia

“Why isn’t our son learning? Isn’t he trying hard or is something else happening? Is it serious? Will he fail the school year? How can we help?” There are so many questions that parents face in light of their children’s poor performance at school. In many cases, the answers are found in learning disorders. The most common are dyslexia and dyscalculia, however, what are the differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia? Find out here every difference between these disorders.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia
Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia

What are learning disorders?

Learning disorders are a group of problems that have a negative impact on school performance, as well as on academic goals. They are due to alterations in cognitive processes, although they are not related to low intelligence.

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It is common for these difficulties to go unnoticed, since they affect certain areas and only manifest during the learning process. Learn the differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia, two of the most common learning disablities.

What factors influence the development of learning disabilities?

As with most psychological disorders, these are multi-causal:

  • Neurobiological causes (main factor).
  • Environments with a low sociocultural level.
  • Low-quality education.
  • Limited learning opportunities.
  • Low parental involvement.

In any case, these problems usually appear in children without any cognitive or emotional delay, in healthy family environments and with normal schooling.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a disorder that presents itself in the difficulty to learn to read, regardless of a conventional education, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunities. It depends mainly on the cognitive alterations whose origin is often constitutional.

This problem is usually evident in the first years of school and is suffered by between 5 and 10% of children. In terms of gender, it is two girls for every three boys.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: What is dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is defined as a learning problem that makes it difficult to understand numbers, mathematical terms, basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and geometry. It can also affect visuospatial and language processing abilities.

It is estimated that 5% of children suffer from dyscalculia. The frequency is the same in girls as in boys.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: How do we differentiate the two disorders?

Dyslexia and dyscalculia seriously interfere with the learning process, but they are different disorders. The presence of one does not imply the other. So, if our child has learning difficulties, how do we know if it is one of these? There are a number of signs to watch out for:

Symptoms of Dyslexia

  • Difficulty reading.
  • Avoidance of reading aloud.
  • Pronunciation difficulties.
  • Confusion in the order of the letters.
  • Problems or inability to understand what is read.
  • Difficulty memorizing familiar words at a glance
  • Writing the same word in different ways.
  • Deficiencies in grammar and spelling.
  • Working memory affected

Symptoms of dyscalculia

  • Difficulties in learning to count. The child tends to continue counting with their fingers even though more advanced forms have been taught.
  • Limitations on basic calculations.
  • Problems understanding terms such as “greater, lesser, or equal than.
  • Difficulty understanding charts and graphs.
  • Deficiencies in memorizing mathematical data.
  • Problems using mathematics in daily life
  • Limitation in working memory.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: How does dyslexia and dyscalculia affect emotions and social life?

Difficulties in reading are a great handicap. The embarrassment of having to read aloud and taking longer to answer the teacher’s questions erodes self-confidence and might lower self-esteem, creating a heavy sense of inferiority. In addition, dyslexia may also prevents a correct understanding of irony and jokes.

Dyscalculia has a similar effect. Continued errors and failures with calculations and mathematics in general decrease self-esteem. The child runs the risk of generalizing these difficulties to other subjects and questioning their abilities. Relationships with peers are also affected, as they may avoid sports, games, or activities that involve calculating scores. Adults may be afraid to drive.

In both cases, we must bear in mind that, children can be cruel and may not understand other children’s difficulties. Educating our children against bullying is a fundamental responsibility, as well as informing the school if we believe it is happening.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: What are the treatments for these learning problems?

If we suspect that our child has any of these disorders, it is important to contact a professional. Both a speech therapist and a psychologist will be able to address the problem. Although the approaches will be different, both will try to teach strategies and resources to deal with the problem. That’s why early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia
Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia

On the other hand, early psycho-pedagogical treatment will avoid common problems such as school abandonment, emotional problems and lack of motivation.

As for the particular treatments for dyslexia, many focus on improving attention and language sounds, as well as understanding the sequence of letters and their correspondence to sounds. The specific ones of dyscalculia are more oriented to mathematical thought stimulation.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: How can school help?

A school is a place where children spend much of their time. It is therefore recommended that teachers become aware that dealing with children with such problems in an adapted way can make a difference.

Keys to help dyslexia

  • Simplify instructions. Repeat as often as necessary and include pictures.
  • Shorter activities or divided into smaller tasks.
  • Give extra time for exams, reading, writing and answering questions in class.
  • Give notes so that the child can focus on paying attention. It is advisable that these have large letters.
  • Easy access to audiobooks.
  • Teaching different ways to start writing sentences.
  • Offering the possibility for the child to show their knowledge in alternative ways to writing, such as oral presentations, video reports, etc. If this is not possible, give them other options such as more space on paper for their answers.
  • Daily review of both homework and skills acquired in different subjects.
Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia
Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia- Bullying

Keys to help with dyscalculia

  • Use of square paper for numbers and other symbols.
  • Use of calculator (as long as you are not being evaluated for specific calculations).
  • Use of multiplication tables or other mathematical operations.
  • Use of lists with already learned mathematical formulas.
  • Use of as wooden balls or coins.
  • Separation of mathematical exercises into sections according to their subject matter.
  • Highlight important facts and keywords of mathematical problems.

Differences between dyslexia and dyscalculia: How can we help at home?

For children, the home is usually their safety net, the one in which they are safe from outside hostilities and problems. In addition to the teachings of motherhood and fatherhood, we must know that there are certain strategies to help our children if they are affected by these learning difficulties.

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Keys to help dyslexia

  • If the child is young, the use of rhymes and songs is a good alternative for memory retention.
  • Teach them the existence of audiobooks and encourage them to use them.
  • Encourage them to read graphic novels, comics, magazines, and newspapers, as the images support the text and help follow the story or news. The same goes for cookbooks, where they can also practice what they have learned themselves.
  • Read books or stories out loud, especially if they are stories above their reading level.
  • Take a look at your child’s homework to check spelling and grammar.
  • Knowing the format of each test is very useful to guide studying (whether it will be test type, fill gaps or blank space for writing).
  • Organizing study sessions and homework with a personalized schedule according to the child’s rhythm is a good way to reduce frustration and anxiety.
  • Mnemonic strategies, especially visual ones, will help them study better.

Keys to help with dyscalculia

  • Participate with the child in card games, board games, or digital activities where math skills are practiced.
  • Practice counting and simple calculations with the help of small objects, such as chickpeas, cookies, Lego pieces, etc.
  • Organize math homework into blocks with short breaks in between.
  • Musical instruments can be helpful.
  • Role play allows you to recreate situations. Playing store clerk, cashier etc.

It is very important that the child feels understood, supported and accompanied in their difficulties. In this way, their development will be favored and their self-esteem will be reinforced.

Let us remember that a child is not reduced to their mathematical or reading abilities, they have many more skills and abilities. Let us help them to see them and to strengthen them.

This article is originally in Spanish and it was translated by Alejandra Salazar.

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