DyscalculiaSEN

Understanding and Supporting Individuals with Dyscalculia

It’s heartening to acknowledge the recognition of Dyscalculia Awareness Day. Over the past two decades, our understanding of dyscalculia has evolved significantly. I remember when the concept of subitising gained prominence, highlighting a pivotal area of focus. It’s truly gratifying to witness the dissemination of subitising knowledge throughout primary schools.

There was a prevailing belief that maths difficulties stemmed from a singular brain region. It was surprising to observe a uniform intervention approach for all children grappling with maths challenges – a one-size-fits-all method. During my school visits, I noticed a spectrum of maths difficulties, each child exhibiting unique behaviours, almost like a class of individuals.

Precision teaching became instrumental in fostering automaticity, tailoring interventions around improving outcomes based on surface behaviours. However, while the process of automaticity may have delivered correct paper-based or verbal responses, maths was not meaningfully understood.

Pockets of specialists led the work on dyscalculia – a specific learning difficulty with numbers. It’s gratifying that we have moved further in the research and understanding of dyscalculia.

Advancements in neuroscience research have advanced our understanding. We continue to build on these insights that underscore the uniqueness of each child’s cognitive profile, paving the way for ongoing learning and adaptation.

Today, as we acknowledge Dyscalculia Awareness Day, we can take pride in the fact that standardised assessments such as Dynamo Maths have shed light on complex maths difficulties.

What we have learned:

  • Maths difficulties present themselves uniquely in each individual.
  • Learning of numbers and maths require both domain general and domain specific areas of the brain.
  • Maths difficulties lie on a spectrum.
  • One-size does not fit all.
  • Dyscalculia assessments must drive the intervention.
  • Targeted intervention purposefully and intentionally focuses on the specific learning difficulty.
  • Graduated approach – ASSESS, PLAN, INTERVENE and REVIEW is best-practice.
  • We can differentiate developmental dyscalculia from maths developmental delays.
  • Differentiation of maths difficulties allows for targeted approaches to intervention.
  • Interventions need to have multiple contexts for learning and observing difficulties.
  • All assessments must be mandated to have observations as key reporting features.
  • Taking a developmental approach is best-practice and serves the learner long-term.
  • The window of opportunity closes as time moves forward.
  • Early intervention is the key to success.

Celebrating Dyscalculia Awareness Day holds significant importance in promoting inclusivity, understanding, and support for individuals who are marginalised and underrepresented.  Through increased awareness, we have the opportunity to dismantle barriers, reduce misconceptions and stigmas, and empower individuals with dyscalculia to understand their strengths so that they can celebrate their unique gifts and liberate themselves from the societal stigma associated with dyscalculia.

With a growing awareness of neurodiversity, policymakers must address the need for strategies for early identification and for the curriculum in the early years to focus on strengthening pathways in the brain through play and not with the emphasis on preparing children for abstract numbers.

It also extends beyond individual assistance. It entails fostering systemic transformations in education. Increasing awareness encourages researchers to further their knowledge so that we can use their work as a catalyst to bring services forward to the many areas of human development left undiscovered.

Raising Awareness About Dyscalculia:

Raising awareness about dyscalculia is addressing how it can be identified in early years; it’s about making bigger changes in how we influence early years curriculum, and how swiftly we empower parents to recognise this specific learning difficulty and take action. It also entails training teachers to support children with developmental delays to use techniques and interventions to promote a fun and engaging environment focused at the child’s functioning level.

The urgency is about creating a more inclusive understanding where everyone has the chance to succeed and this needs to start early.

Conclusion:

Dyscalculia Awareness Day gives each one of us the opportunity to advocate for early identification.

Ultimately, dyscalculia isn’t just about numbers; it’s about people. It’s about individuals who face challenges with courage and resilience, who deserve every opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Today we also acknowledge the researchers who strive to unfold the understanding of dyscalculia. Thank you.

So let’s keep the conversation going…

No individual with dyscalculia should ever go unnoticed.


I am Karima Esmail, Co-founder of Dynamo Maths, an award-winning, research and evidence-based inclusive programme proven to support students with dyscalculia and those not meeting age-related expectations.

I have 15 years of experience as a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. More recently, I undertook research at University College London, which inspired the creation of Puffin Maths for the deaf and hard of hearing, which now provides access to the National Curriculum using British Sign Language (BSL). Puffin Maths was ‘Highly Commended’ at BETT 2022.

I have also co-authored Dynamo Post 14 Number Sense Profiler and Dyscalculia Self Perception Indicators Questionnaire.

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