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Dyscalculia for Parents

About Dyscalculia for Parents

Dyscalculia impacts approximately 6% of the population. In the UK that equates to about 1 million (one million) children and young adults, but we know many more have maths difficulties – approx. 25% (twenty-five percent)

Unfortunately, dyscalculia is under- represented in the field of neurodiversity and knowledge of dyscalculia is limited throughout society and even within the education system.

We want to help change this lack of awareness and knowledge so we can together make sure all learners have every opportunity to reach their full potential.

Parents with Dyscalculia

Informal Assessment to Diagnosis

If you have concerns about your child’s maths learning, firstly talk to your child’s teacher or the school SENCO; it is very important to gather evidence from both school and home on a journey towards a potential diagnosis of dyscalculia.

A good starting point, to help gather evidence, is to complete a Dyscalculia Checklist (either at school or at home.) A Dyscalculia Checklist is not a diagnosis, but it does help to gather information about the child and helps identify areas that are of concern.

The school may decide to complete some further informal online dyscalculia screeners or give your child more support within the classroom.

Remember, not all maths difficulties are caused by dyscalculia. Maths difficulties could occur because of maths anxiety, missed education, other specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, or difficulties with concentration.

However, if after a period of intervention and support, the school and/or you, feel that that the extra support is still not helping your child to reach their full potential, and your child still has significant difficulties with number, a diagnostic dyscalculia assessment may be considered. This requires either an Educational Psychologist assessment or a Level 7 Dyscalculia Assessor.

Find specialist maths support in your area or online

Top Tips on how you can help your dyscalculic child/young person at home

Useful FREE Downloads for Parents & Carers

These information sheets were kindly translated by a volunteer. Some words do not have a direct Welsh translation so an alternative may have been used and they also may not account for differences in regional dialect

Information Sheet for Parents & Carers

Information Sheet for Parents & Carers (Welsh)

Maths Anxiety

Maths Anxiety is the negative emotional or physical response a person gets when they encounter maths. A child or young person might show physical signs of maths anxiety like tummy ache or psychological signs like losing confidence or starting to avoid maths.

Top tips to help with Maths Anxiety at home

EHCPS

In some cases, it is possible to apply for an EHCP which means an Educational Health Care Plan. You can find out more information on the EHCP process in these two downloads

EHCP Part 1

EHCP Part 2

Send Code of Practice

Accomodations

Accommodations are adjustments that can be made for a child/young person to support them with maths difficulties and dyscalculia. If your child has a diagnosis of dyscalculia the assessors report will contain specific recommendations tailored to your child/young person so these would be the ones that would be passed onto school.

If your child/ young person doesn’t yet have a diagnosis, we have made some suggestions of accommodations that you could potentially ask a school/teacher to consider. It is important to note that not every accommodation works for every learner and not every school will be able to offer every accommodation, so these are just some starting points of ideas to discuss. The most important point to make is to ensure the school know that you will do everything to help and be proactive in supporting your child/young person at home.

Ideas for accommodations for dyscalculia that parents could ask a primary school-

General information-

  • Schools may, with permission from the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), request permission in advance for some access arrangements in your child’s Key Stage 2 SATS tests, these include 25% extra time and early opening to adapt test papers.
  • Other adaptations known as school-delegated arrangements can include a reader, rest breaks and support for keeping the pupil focussed. No permission is needed; however, the school must evidence that this is the child’s normal way of working and inform the STA of these. Further information about these and other arrangements can be found in the guidance for Key Stage 2 access arrangements.

For support in the classroom, you could:

  • Ask the educator to avoid ‘cold calling’ by giving your child notice of being asked a question so that they can prepare their response with adult or peer support.
  • Ask the educator to allow plenty of processing time in maths- think ‘the five second rule’. When asking a question or giving an instruction, ask if they could pause before expecting an answer or take up. If repetition is needed, ask if the same words could be used as rephrasing can confuse and cause the child to think that they have a different task or instruction to process, when they have been asked the same thing in a different way.
  • Ask the educator to avoid timed tasks wherever possible as these can raise subject based anxiety which has a knock-on effect on executive function, particularly working memory.
  • Explain to the educator that for dyscalculic people time as a concept can be extremely challenging and anxiety raising. This means they may not understand, ‘there are 5 minutes to go’ or ‘the test is half an hour long’. This often means they will struggle to complete tasks within set times and will also result in increased anxiety.
  • Ask that their maths learning begins at the point where the learner is already confident (able to access work independently) and then moves onto new concepts. New concepts should be taught one at a time and must be broken down into manageable ‘bite sized’ chunks.
  • Ask that, where possible and practicable, your child have a tabletop copy of what is on the classroom board, either a paper copy, photo of the board taken on a tablet or iPad, or a live copy dropped onto a tablet or iPad. That way, your child will be better able to focus their energy on the maths content rather than copying from the board. The use of a mini whiteboard for working out can also be encouraging for learners as they feel it is less permanent and they can alter their workings more easily.
  • Ask about the school’s policy on the use of manipulatives/concrete apparatus such as counters, base ten apparatus, Cuisenaire, Numicon etc. It is important that these are viewed as positive by all educators and learners and are available to learners of all ages. Explain that your child is likely to need to be explicitly taught how to use manipulatives and be actively encouraged to play and experiment to develop their understanding of patterns and number relationships.
  • While thinking about manipulatives, it would be helpful if your child could have access to similar things at home, to help with homework, as they have at school. Ask the educator if it is possible to borrow these from school or find out what is typically used if you prefer to support by purchasing a set of equipment to keep at home.
  • Ask for mathematical vocabulary to be pre-taught to your child and for one word to be used per concept per session if possible.
  • Ask if your child could create a personalised maths dictionary, separate from their maths book, so that they can refer to this when revisiting a topic and have their resources such as number lines, multiplication squares etc. to hand, as well as worked examples and memory joggers.
  • Request that homework is adapted to your child’s developmental level in maths. Agree with the educator how long they will spend on homework and stick to that time. Online homework environments such as Times Table Rockstars, MyMaths or Mathletics can cause high levels of stress and anxiety for children who struggle with maths. Ask if alternative, concrete activities such as games that reinforce numeracy basics could be used instead.
  • Ask the teacher to keep in regular contact with you as you are willing to support as much as possible; showing you are an engaged parent and willing to help at home will be of huge help to a busy teacher!

Access Arrangements

Access arrangements are agreed before examinations. They allow candidates with specific needs, such as special educational needs, disabilities or temporary injuries, to access the assessment and show what they know and can do without changing the demands of the assessment. The intention behind an access arrangement is to meet the needs of an individual candidate without affecting the integrity of the assessment. Access arrangements are the principal way in which awarding bodies comply with the duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ We have a separate download just on access arrangements if you want to know more.

Ideas for accommodations for dyscalculia that parents could ask a Secondary School-

  • Request the teacher to refrain from asking and expecting quick mental maths/ times tables answers. This may generate anxiety within your child but when given sufficient time they may be able to give an accurate answer.
  • Ask that your child can use of a calculator in lessons to support more complex maths topics. This will allow them to focus on understanding the maths concept – not spending a long time adding or multiplying in their head or on paper.
  • Ask if manipulatives can be made available to all learners in maths lessons. Your child may not need to use them all of the time but they are excellent for more abstract concepts.
  • Ask that your child has scaffolding within the maths learning, for example, If the lesson headings are provided printed on paper at the beginning of the lessons, your child will not need to spend time and effort copying from the board, whilst focusing on the maths work. This should include diagrams and drawings. This will also benefit a child with attention and concentration challenges.
  • Ask if the teacher could help your child to learn and practice a new concept by providing them with clearly numbered step-by-step instructions.
  • Ensure that the teacher is mindful of your child’s potential maths anxiety and to be aware of the negative effect this has on their working memory, especially when putting them into small maths groups with their peers.
  • Remind the teacher that when your child is pressured into working under strict timed conditions (including on-line games and activities), this may cause stress where the child’s memory goes completely blank and they achieve a low score. Dyscalculic pupils find it hard to retrieve basic arithmetic facts from their long-term memory, especially in timed conditions and may lead to them completely disengaging with their maths lessons.
  • For young people struggling with maths (and for their parents) the use of an online homework platforms e.g., Sparx, Mymaths, Dr. Frost, Heggarty Maths, can sometimes become the cause of high levels of stress and anxiety. Depending on the learning style of your child written homework may be preferable.
  • Gently remind the teacher that a dyscalculic pupil may be working twice as hard as a neuro-typical one, so we need to reduce the amount of homework given to five main questions, which cover the key area of the topic. The thought of a whole sheet of questions, which may take them several hours may lead to panic and them avoiding doing any maths altogether!
  • Ask the teacher to keep in regular contact with you as you are willing to support as much as possible; showing you are an engaged parent and willing to help at home will be of huge help to a busy teacher!

Access Arrangements- Secondary School/FE/Exams

Access arrangements are agreed before examinations. They allow candidates with specific needs, such as special educational needs, disabilities, or temporary injuries, to access the assessment and show what they know and can do without changing the demands of the assessment. The intention behind an access arrangement is to meet the needs of an individual candidate without affecting the integrity of the assessment.

Access arrangements are the principal way in which awarding bodies comply with the duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make ‘reasonable adjustments’.

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