Mixing up Letters and Numbers- Dyscalculia vs. Dyslexia

Mixing up Letters and Numbers- Dyscalculia vs. Dyslexia

Most people have heard of dyslexia, a disorder that causes individuals to have an unexpected difficulty with reading. 5-15% of Americans are dyslexic, meaning it’s highly likely you know someone who has this disorder. Dyslexia can be recognized as early as a child’s preschool years but can have lifelong implications. It can impact an individual’s ability to read fluently, spell, or learn another language. Though the challenges are language based, the implications span beyond just reading and into every subject. However, there is another similar disorder that might be confused for dyslexia, especially when someone struggles with math.

Dyscalculia is another learning disability that causes difficulties specifically with math. While it has a nickname of “math dyslexia”, don’t let this fool you: the two disorders are distinct from one another. Individuals with dyscalculia can have difficulties with manipulating numbers in their head, understanding mathematical concepts like bigger and smaller, or might not be able to apply concepts, even if they understand them. It is currently thought that three- six percent of the population has dyscalculia, but being that this disorder is not well studied, it is likely closer to that of dyslexia.

While there is some overlap in the signs, of these two disorders, it is possible to tell them apart. One of the most obvious ways to figure out whether an individual has dyscalculia or dyslexia is by seeing where an individual’s struggles arise. If they only occur while doing math problems, or if they are an issue in many different areas, can be the first sign of which disorder an individual is dealing with. If someone avoids reading out loud and has issues with spelling and grammar, this would most likely be due to dyslexia, while issues with counting and computation would likely point to dyscalculia. These differences may be due to the way that the disorders impact cognitive functioning. In the case of dyslexia, it has been seen that the underlying issues are actually phonologically based. This is in contrast to dyscalculia, which is has been linked to specific issues with the manipulation of numbers.

In both cases, there is no “cure” for either dyslexia or dyscalculia, but there are ways to help an individual overcome the challenges that come along with the disorders. While there are some accommodations that both types of students can benefit from, such as additional time on tests; however, there are different ways that can help with each individual’s issues more head-on. With a child with dyslexia, using shorter written assignments or testing them in other ways, such as oral reports will help them succeed. For s child with dyscalculia, giving and breaking down math assignments, using games to implement math concepts, and giving them additional help like access to a calculator or math facts, may be more helpful. Overall, both disorders can be manageable, but it is important to treat the correct disorder. By giving a child the proper tools to handle their specific challenges, they will be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with each of these unique disorders.


Work Cited:

Dyslexia: What Brain Research Reveals About Reading. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ldonline.org/article/10784/

Landerl, K., Fussenegger, B., Moll, K., & Willburger, E. (2009). Dyslexia and dyscalculia: Two learning disorders with different cognitive profiles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,103(3), 309-324. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2009.03.006

Rosen, P. (n.d.). The Difference Between Dyslexia and Dyscalculia. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/the-difference-between-dyslexia-and-dyscalculia

Team, U. (n.d.). Understanding Dyscalculia. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/understanding-dyscalculia

What is Dyscalculia? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.aboutdyscalculia.org/dyscalculiamain.html

What is Dyslexia? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/


Julianna Casella

JULIANNA CASELLA (WRITING INTERN) I have always found medicine and neuroscience to be extremely facistinating, and I wanted to find a way to combine these two passions into my future career. Once I took Introduction to Psychology, I knew that this was a field that I wanted to spend the rest of my academic career gaining a deeper understanding about. The more psychology courses I take, the more I fall in love with this field, and want to educate more people about how important it is to take care of your mental health, just like your physical health. After my internship at NYU Langone’s Rusk Center for Rehabilitation Psychology department, I have realized the impact that psychological and neurological disorders can have on an individual, and the importance of educating the general population about these struggles. I hope that my future work as a clinical psychologist, along with my work with The Humanology Project, will help in this goal of educating more people about mental health problems and minimizing stigma about these issues. You can often find me crying over the latest episode of This is Us, playing board games with my friends, or singing show tunes.

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