8 things I wish people knew about parenting a child with dyscalculia

Math was my least favorite subject growing up. Now I’m the parent, and my daughter is struggling with math. An evaluation showed that she has dyscalculia. We were able to get support for her in the classroom with an 

But dyscalculia affects her outside the classroom, too. Here are eight things I wish people knew about parenting a child with dyscalculia.

1. Basic math can be a challenge.

Kids with dyscalculia find simple math hard to do. Using graph paper to line up numbers helps, but my daughter needs more accommodations. Like extra time on tests. It also helps when teachers format tests so there are fewer problems on each page.

2. Telling time can be hard, too.

My daughter doesn’t wear a watch because she struggles to tell time. I remember when a middle school teacher asked her in front of the class what time it was. When she couldn’t respond quickly, the entire class laughed at her. That was a tough day.

3. Getting lost is a real concern.

My daughter has a hard time keeping track of directions. Even with a compass or a smartphone. And figuring out left or right can be a challenge. (One of our favorite tricks is making a letter “L” with both hands to verify the true left hand.) As a teenager, she still needs written directions with landmarks and signs for when she walks to town. She’s concerned that she’ll get turned around or lost.

4. We’ve had to get creative with games.

My daughter avoids any sport or game that requires mental math. Popular board games like Monopoly and Risk can be too complex for her. She’s done better with creative games and toys, like Jenga and Legos.

5. Math isn’t the only school subject that dyscalculia affects.

My daughter has a hard time measuring things. This is a common sign of dyscalculia. In middle school science lab, she had trouble comparing the measurements of liquids and solids. Luckily, a teacher noticed and spent extra time with my daughter during lunch period. This was a real boost to my daughter’s confidence.

6. Paying for things can make even a trip for ice cream tricky.

In the school cafeteria, my daughter worries that the kids behind her in line will make fun of her if she takes too long at the cash register. And during a recent visit to our local ice cream parlor, she had a hard time figuring out how much to pay. One reason is that she struggles to organize her wallet and all her bills crumple together.

7. Her struggles with math make her feel ashamed.

My daughter used her fingers to count for much longer than most kids do. Or she would clap her hand against her leg. She was ashamed, so in middle school, she would hide her fingers under her desk as she counted.

8. Dyscalculia doesn’t just “go away.”

You don’t grow out of dyscalculia. It’s a constant in my daughter’s life (and in ours). And there will be more challenging times in school and beyond. But as a family, we’ve learned to adapt to give my daughter the support she needs.

Learn more about classroom accommodations for dyscalculia. See a day in the life of a teen with dyscalculia. And watch as a college student with dyscalculia shares her story.


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