What are Dyslexia and Dyscalculia?

  • Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that mainly affects the way people read and spell words.
  • Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. People with dyslexia have particular difficulty with:
    • Phonological awareness- the ability to identify how words are made up of smaller units of sound, known as phonemes, and that changes in the sounds that make up words can lead to changes in their meaning. For example, a child with a good level of phonological awareness would understand that if you change the letter "p" in the word "pat" to "s", the word becomes "sat".
    • Verbal memory- the ability to remember a sequence of verbal information for a short period of time. For example, the ability to remember a short list such as "red, blue, green".
    • Rapid serial naming- the ability to name a series of colours, objects or numbers as fast as possible.
    • Verbal processing speed- the time it takes to process and recognise familiar verbal information, such as letters and digits. For example, someone with a good verbal processing speed has the ability to quickly write down unfamiliar words when they are spelled out.
  • Dyscalculia is a learning disorder that affects a person's ability to learn basic arithmetic, process numbers and perform accurate and fluent calculations. These difficulties must be below what is expected for an individual’s age, and must not be caused by poor education or intellectual impairments.
  • Dyslexia and Dyscalculia only affect some skills and abilities, and is not linked to a person's general level of intelligence.
  • Children of all intellectual abilities, from low to high intelligence, can be affected by Dyslexia or Dyscalculia.
  • Similarly, the difficulty a child with dyslexia has with reading and spelling, or a child with dyscalculia has with Mathematics, is not determined by their intelligence, but by how severe their disability is.

Getting Help:

  • It can be difficult to diagnose dyslexia in young children, as the signs are not always obvious. If you think your child has dyslexia, the first step is to speak to their teacher or the school’s special needs coordinator.
  • Identifying your child’s strengths (such as picture puzzles or maths) as well as their difficulties can be helpful. Many schools identify children who are having difficulty learning in particular areas and offer additional support.
  • If your child does not make progress when offered this support, the school may request a more in-depth assessment from either a specialist teacher or educational psychologist. It is also possible to request private assessments, either directly from an educational psychologist or through voluntary organisations such as Dyslexia Action.
  • Currently dyscalculia is very difficult to diagnose and there are very few teachers qualified to work in the field. Research is, however, being conducted all the time. The best help or information can be found through specific dyscalculia organisations.

How to Manage Dyslexia and Dyscalculia

  • Although dyslexia is a lifelong problem, a range of educational programmes and interventions are often effective in improving reading and writing skills in many children with the condition. Research has shown that the earlier appropriate interventions are adopted, the better.
  • Most children respond well to educational interventions and go on to make progress with reading and writing, although some children continue to find reading and writing difficult and will require more intensive support and long-term assistance to help them learn strategies for managing their difficulties.
  • Children with dyslexia face challenges on a day-to-day basis, but even children who have severe dyslexia can go on to lead full and productive lives.
  • Again, because there is very little known about dyscalulia, it is unclear how best it should be managed. For the most up-to-date information, see the links below.

All information from NHS Choices and BDA