Q: Dyslexia runs in my family. I have learned what works for me and how to compensate for what is more difficult. Our son is having some math challenges and the teacher said he probably has something called dyscalculia. I am flummoxed. I never heard of this before!

A: Dyscalculia is an interesting topic. It seems to involve an innate genetic or developmental origin. Estimates are that perhaps 3-6 percent of the general population has some form of Dyscalculia. Studies have also established that one in every ten or eleven children with dyscalculia also has ADHD. It has also been seen in individuals with Turner Syndrome or spina bifida.

Dyscalculia has been confused with dyslexia—even more confusing as some brains have both. It has also been confused with acalculia: mathematical disabilities due to some types of brain injury.

Dyscalculia can present as difficulty in learning or comprehending the concept of arithmetic; trouble understanding numbers and how to manipulate them; inconsistency in how to recall facts about numbers and mathematics, or frustration when trying to do calculation involving numbers. Sometimes it can present as problems with all these mathematical aspects.

When I was a school nurse and a child was struggling with math, we first asked for a history of any head injuries. Next vision and hearing assessments to rule out problems with the sensory systems. After that, we would put the child in touch with a learning specialist for some testing. The school nurse at your son’s school would likely know some sources for that. The tests I am familiar with check for several areas such as:

An ability to remember facts related to basic math and numbers

An ability to do math operations (add, subtract, divide, multiply, fractions)

An ability to do math problems in his head

An ability to understand and solve word problems involving math

You might also do an internet search for tips on how to help a child with Dyscalculia. Every brain has something for which it needs help.