How Can I Tell If My Child Has Been Misdiagnosed With Dyscalculia?

By Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D.

How can I tell if my child has been misdiagnosed with dyscalculia?

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D.

Senior Director, Learning Resources & Research, National Center for Learning Disabilities

The word “diagnosis” is the key to answering this question. Unfortunately, we can’t do a blood test or scan and truly “diagnose” the cause or nature of math difficulties.

The best tools we have to “diagnose” dyscalculia are based on the ways that we think about what children should know at different points in time. We look at how they perform on certain measures that sample math skills. We observe how they work with numbers.

If you’re worried that your child might have been misdiagnosed as having dyscalculia, the first and most important question to ask is whether he’s received high-quality instruction in math.

Just like in the area of reading, there are kids who seem to just “get” math without needing any additional attention or support. But some kids are not able to teach themselves the underlying skills needed for math success. Without high-quality instruction, there will be gaps in their “math foundation.” Kids will be left to guess, wonder and worry about their math performance. This is nothing short of a prescription for failure.

Carefully observe your child. Make note of the specific behaviors that suggest that your child may not in fact have a learning disability in math. Share that information with school staff. Work with them to make a plan that will clarify whether your child needs targeted remedial instruction or some other type of support.

Don’t be concerned if the school wants to keep the dyscalculia classification in order to provide needed services. You always have the option, at a later date, to request that your child’s special education or 504 status be changed. The key is getting the right kind of help, without delay.

About the Author

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D. is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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