It’s important for middle-schoolers with dyscalculia to learn how to self-advocate and ask for help. But kids this age may be self-conscious about speaking up. They also may not know what to say. Practicing common situations like these with your child can help.
1. “I have an accommodation in place for that.”
The situation: A substitute teacher doesn’t know your child uses a multiplication chart during math class. The substitute takes it away and warns your child about cheating.
Your child can go up to the substitute and say: “I have a math learning disability and have trouble remembering the times tables. Using the multiplication chart is part of my learning plan.”
Your child can talk to the regular teacher or IEP team later and say: “The substitute didn’t know that I use a multiplication chart and I didn’t like feeling that I was doing something wrong. Can you help make sure substitutes know my accommodations?”
2. “Can I skip being scorekeeper?”
Situation: In gym class, all the students take turns being scorekeeper during ball games. Your child has a hard time tallying the points, especially during games in which different plays may score different numbers of points.
Your child can talk to the gym teacher before class and say: “I know we’re playing basketball this month. It’s hard for me to tally scores quickly. Can I skip being scorekeeper or have someone else do it with me?”
3. “Can you help me find a way to keep track of my lunch account?”
Situation: Your child struggles to estimate the total cost of things and keeps running out of lunch account money.
Your child can speak to the lunchroom staff and say: “I need some help keeping track of how much money I have left before I run out. Is there a way to set the system to give me a heads-up when I have only $5 left on my account?”
Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “I need help budgeting my lunch money. Can we look at the lunch item prices at the beginning of the week to help me learn what I can buy each day and still keep to my budget?”
4. “Can we talk about when it’s OK to use a basic calculator?”
Situation: Your child struggles to remember basic math facts. It’s getting in the way of the ability to complete other types of math work, even though your child gets the concepts.
Your child can speak to the teacher and say: “I know how to use this formula. But I get the answers wrong because I’m having trouble with the computation. Can I use a basic calculator for homework that requires me to show how to use the formulas?”
5. “Can I please not have to explain my work in front of the class?”
The situation: Your child’s science class is practicing for the science fair. The experiment poster and work are done, but it took a long time to work through understanding the mathematical language and concepts. Your child isn’t confident about explaining it to the class.
Your child can say to the teacher before class: “Is it OK if I just hand out copies of my poster? The charts I created tell the whole story. I worked hard on them, and I’m proud, but I’m just not sure I can explain it out loud.”
6. “Can I keep my phone with me to know what time it is?”
The situation: Your child has trouble reading the analog clocks in the classroom and struggles to keep track of how much time is left to get classwork done.
Your child can say to the teacher: “Is it OK if I keep my phone with me just to be able to read the time? I’ll turn the ringer and notification sounds off.”
Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “I know there’s a ‘no cell phones in class’ policy. If I can’t keep mine with me, is there another way to make sure there’s a digital clock available for me in class?”
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.