Like dyslexia, it is genetic in origin and is often compromised by limited working memory. It affects approximately 5% of the population and has a 60% co morbidity with dyslexia.
Dyscalculia affects a person’s ability to understand, recall or manipulate numerical information, or conceptualize numbers as abstract concepts.
Common symptoms of dyscalculia include:
- Difficulties with simple maths tasks
- Confusion with regard to signs e.g. +, -, or x
- Inability to estimate e.g. 39 + 39
- Inability to understand financial information e.g. budgeting
- Difficulties with conceptual understanding of formula
- Difficulties estimating the passing of time
- Difficulties with navigation and orientation in general
- Inability to estimate distance
- Transposition of numbers e.g. 117 read as 171
- Difficulties reading long numbers
Often those with dyscalculia will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid numbers. For example, this may lead to able employees refusing promotion if it means working with numbers even at a basic level.
As with dyslexia, dyscalculia can be addressed with specialist input. In specialist sessions, the employee acquires strategies for dealing with numbers. In many ways dyscalculia can be regarded as a language and time must be spent learning its vocabulary, syntax and translation. If sound learning of the basics is not acquired difficulties with numbers will occur which may be the result of dyscalculia – a difficulty processing numbers.
Employers can help by:
- Arranging awareness sessions
- Ensuring instructions are clear and concise
- When presenting numerical data – reduce to essential parts and remove unnecessary figures i.e. make the message clear
- Use where possible visual representations such as pie charts etc
- Explain what numbers are and mean
- Avoid asking employees to record important figures in meeting – provide this in written format following meetings. In this way errors will be reduced
- Provide facilities for speed dialling of telephone numbers
- Consider the appropriate reasonable adjustment for using security codes for doors and computer log in etc
- Review expense forms etc and gain input from employees on how these might be developed
- Provided handheld calculators
For those employees with diagnosed dyscalculia consider a workplace assessment which will provided information on reasonable adjustments and how to best support an employee. Such assessments carefully explore each individual difficulties and situation as well as taking into consideration the needs of the employers.
Recommendations may include:
- Provision of a speaking calculator
- Consideration of permitting flexible working to avoid times in the office when it is busy and noisy, enhancing concentration
- Permitting working at home
- Provision of a quiet area in which to work
- Provision of screening around the desk and/or earphones to reduce distractions