By Suzanne O’Connor





I didn’t even know there was a word for my learning difficulty until I was about ten years of age when I was diagnosed with it. The Special Educational Psychologist told my mother I was smart enough to know that I was different to the other children in my class. At that time, I felt very alone, thinking why I couldn’t add up or tell the time like the other children, my brain would shut off if I couldn’t get the numbers right the first time.

In my head, I just thought that I was too stupid to learn and then I wouldn’t try, I would just give up. That followed me through to college, I’m trying to learn not to be so hard on myself.

 School was a nightmare; I didn’t fit in with the other girls and was often bullied by them too. I found the learning to be difficult. I wasn’t as fast and when even today if I don’t get something right away, I get annoyed with myself (I’m slowly learning that I have my own way of learning).

 I didn’t tell anyone outside my family that I had Dyscalculia, as I was trying to figure out who I was.

Questions I would ask myself as a kid:

  • Would I be able to manage my money when I’m older?
  • Would I be able to have my own bank account?

Emma Magee who is a Senior Educational Psychologist at Dyslexia Association of Ireland, I asked her:

Where does Dyscalculia come from?

Yes, like Dyslexia we are born with Dyscalculia. It is a neurodevelopmental difference, meaning it has to do with how the brain is wired and so it is genetic rather than environmental or acquired. 

A lot of people who have Dyscalculia can also be very creative, though there is little research, it is seen that most of the dyscalculics are innovative and end up in the creative fields. Many celebrities and great personalities are into artistic and creative lines, despite facing many challenges in their initial lives. This post includes how Dyscalculia and creativity are related and how dyscalculics can boost their creativity. 

How Dyscalculia is Diagnosed:

 The only way to get a diagnosis is through an evaluation. This can happen at any age. Evaluators use different tests for adults than for kids.

Evaluators use a set of tests just for Dyscalculia. But evaluations also involve testing for other challenges. That’s partly because people with dyscalculia often also struggle in other areas, like reading or working memory. But evaluations don’t just point out challenges. They also show strengths.

Adults with Dyscalculia may get accommodations at work. The law requires employers to give support to people with disabilities. That includes people with learning disabilities.

Once you have the diagnosis, you can begin to work around Dyscalculia and how it can make your life better.

Examples of Dyscalculia:

Example A:  I have an appointment for the doctor at 9:45 (which is quarter to ten). In my head I get it mixed up and think it’s a quarter to nine.

Example B: A girl buys a pack of buns for €6 and gives me €10. What is the change? My brain can’t work that out without having a calculator.

Example C: I never understood %, when I see the sale sign and 20% off, my mind gets dizzy and wants to run away, I always thought that 20% really meant 20. An example of that is runners are 20% off (the runners are €30) and in my head, I thought that meant they are now €10.

Education Specialist Honora Wall says:

Schools in the US have not heard of Dyscalculia, although this is slowly changing. Many teachers don’t believe it’s real, which is frustrating. Most teachers, administrators, and tutors, try to use interventions and accommodations that work for low numeracy or weak math foundations, which are not helpful for Dyscalculia. It’s frustrating.

At my school, I soon found myself with a teacher who did not like us at all. She told us a few times that we would never do anything, and she would often make me feel very small. I didn’t tell anyone at the time as the last thing I wanted was to create more stress at home. When I did, my parents were angry at the school and the teacher. Being pulled out again felt frustrating, but it was at my 3rd and last primary school that those nerves settled.

I remember my first day, just sitting on my own, too nervous to talk, till the teacher came over and got me to talk to the other girls. I felt more settled and even made friends, it took time but slowly my confidence went up in the school.

This is a poll from Instagram and X when I asked:

Have you heard of Dyscalculia?

Paul explained to me that when in maths class he would just stare at the other kids who were writing away, not at the time aware of what they were doing in class, his brain couldn’t keep up with the other kids so he had a friend who he would copy off.

When he heard about Dyscalculia through a Facebook comment, he researched it, took a test online and he had ticked all the boxes of having Dyscalculia.

Paul had his own frustration as a child when his mum and dad would help him with maths at home. His dad was a high-level maths scholar, and it would end with Paul in tears.

Paul’s advice to anyone else is that you should take advantage of their skills and that you are not stupid.

Amy also shared her own story with Dyscalculia and said that she wasn’t diagnosed till she graduated from college. Her boyfriend had figured it out in his education class.

She says that the teachers who had been in his class had not heard of it. She talks about how she hated maths class and trying not to get called up to solve maths problems. She says that mental maths is still not a thing she likes to do, and her daughter has Dyscalculia too. Amy talks about how she tells her daughter it’s her job to help her out and that she is not on her own. Amy makes up stories to help her, saying that fractions are parking spaces, they memorise times tables by simple tunes.

She explains to people that she has Dyslexia with numbers.  She talks about how her mom would help but she was too fast for her brain to teach her, so when her husband was teaching their children, she found when it was done with a bit of patience and slowly, it helped. She explained that her dad also has learning difficulties and that back in the 50s he would have been known as the “dumb kid”.

Amy gives great advice for parents saying not to rush or to teach them, don’t let them know it’s a test. She had her daughter make a times table chart before saying the word to her as Amy knew it would make her daughter very anxious.

To find out more about Dyscalculia click here.