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Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects an individual's ability to do math. Early diagnosis can help to avoid poor school performance
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Specific Learning Disorders: Dyscalculia and Dyslexia

Dyscalculia and dyslexia are both learning disorders. Dyscalculia affects a person’s ability to understand and work with numbers, while dyslexia affects a person’s ability to read and understand written language. These conditions can affect children’s performance in school and in everyday life.

In today’s article, we will learn more about these learning disorders.

Dyscalculia and Dyslexia
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Dyscalculia and Dyslexia

When a child’s intelligence is average, but the performance on tests that measure their academic performance is below the expected level for intelligence, age and schooling, we are dealing with a specific learning disorder.

Dyslexia is the best known of the specific learning disorders. In fact, most parents and teachers are familiar with this term and know that dyslexia refers to a specific difficulty in learning to read.

Less well known is dyscalculia, another specific learning disorder of neurobiological origin that affects the acquisition of knowledge about numbers and calculation.

Video: Why is dyslexia more commonly diagnosed?

It is curious that Dyscalculia and Dyslexia have the same estimated prevalence of 5-7% (Landerl et al. 2009) but, while the latter is usually known, diagnosed and treated correctly, the former is largely unknown, and often hard to diagnose and implementing appropriate intervention strategies is difficult.

In this video expert Dr. Daniel Ansari explains what the research shows about this issue .

Comorbidity between Dyscalculia and Dyslexia

Of all children with dyscalculia, only half show difficulties only in the numerical area (Kaufmann and Von Aster, 2012). This means that it is possible to have dyscalculia solely, but it also means that 20-60% of children with dyscalculia also have associated impairments. And the disorder with which dyscalculia most frequently co-occurs is dyslexia In these situations, when we are dealing with a case of dyscalculia that presents with an associated disorder, we say that it is a comorbidity.

Common Causes or Independent Disorders?

Despite the existence of comorbidities between dyscalculia and dyslexia, current theories about the causes of these disorders allude to the existence of different deficits at a cognitive level. A deficit in phonological skills in dyslexia and a numerical deficit in quantity representations in dyscalculia. Although the former may have some influence on mathematical performance, this will occur partially in some tasks, but does not seem to be strong enough to generate a pattern of dyscalculia on its own(Garzía-Orza, 2012). This means that, in the case of comorbidities, we are dealing with two different disorders occurring at the same time, and not with a pathology which, is the cause of a second problem.


What are the implications of these considerations from an intervention point of view? Our advice is that in the case of comorbidity between dyscalculia and dyslexia, it is important to develop an intervention plan that includes different activities: some specific for the recovery of reading skills and others for the improvement of dyscalculia symptoms. Moreover, it should be taken into account that the association between dyscalculia and dyslexia implies a higher severity of the mathematical learning disorder and a lower resilience (Jordan Hanich, Kaplan, 2003). Therefore, when choosing programs to work on dyscalculia, it is necessary to consider that the recovery of mathematical difficulties in these cases could be more difficult because there are many areas involved.

If you have concerns about the possibility of your child having dyscalculia and dyslexia, do not hesitate to see a specialist. For children with learning difficulties in maths, Smartick´s free dyscalculia test can help detect risk early. Early detection and attention helps to reduce difficulties.

Hiwet Costa
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