It may be obvious how reading would be more difficult for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder but have you ever thought about mathematics? There are four areas of difficulty when doing mathematics that my child has to pay extra special attention to.
- Word problems: The most obvious way Dyslexia, APD, and VPD trip up a child when doing mathematics is in the word problems. Whether they are written or spoken problems, the child has to read or listen to them correctly and understand them correctly in order to know what to do.
- Reading the numbers: People don’t think about the fact that written numerals are a language in which specific notations represent a specific number. A child with Dyslexia, APD, and VPD can read the numerals incorrectly; 26 may appear as 62 or 56. If a number is read incorrectly, how can the correct answer be found? Also, if a number in a sequence is skipped, again the answer will be wrong.
- Writing the numbers: Just like reading the numbers, the Dyslexic, APD, and VPD child may write the numeral incorrectly; 26 may be written as 62 or 56. (This one is a common difficulty for my child and she has to pay extra attention to whether or not she is writing the correct numerals in the correct place.) If the wrong number is written or written in the wrong place, the answer will not be correct.
- Remembering how to compute correctly: The child who has short term memory problems (common to Auditory Processing Disorder) will have difficulty remembering how to do something until it is finally stored in the long term memory. This is especially true for multi-step processes that are common in mathematics. Therefore if how to multiply multiple digits was taught yesterday, and even though the child managed to do it correctly yesterday, does not mean the child will remember how to do it today.
Knowing that these four aspects to mathematics may be a problem for a child with Dyslexia, Auditory Processing Disorder, and Visual Processing Disorder, what can be done?
- Give more time: The biggest help for a child with APD, VPD and Dyslexia in doing mathematics is to have more time to do each problem. With more time, the child can carefully reread problems and numbers to make sure he or she is reading, interpreting, and writing correctly.
- Reteach concepts and practice consistently: Do not assume just because the skill was mastered yesterday that it will even be remembered today. Reteach the skill without condemning the child for not remembering. Reteach the skill until the child does not need to be retaught anymore. It will happen; the skill will eventually reach the long term memory and the child will be able to do it without help and reteaching one day. Be patient.
- Use visuals and/or kinesthetics when teaching mathematical concepts and skills: Children with Auditory Processing Disorder have poorer auditory processing skills and are usually much stronger with visuals and kinesthetics. (My dauthter's VPD is very mild and pretty much limited to letters and numerals. We have used a lot of drawings, hands on work with objects, Cuisenaire rods, place value blocks, and movement when she was younger for things like basic addition.)
- Teach in small chunks: Smaller pieces of information will be better retained by the short term/working memory and thereby be more usable to the child. Too much information will simply be overwhelming.
Given the right circumstances and the time to learn mathematics, my daughter has proven that she is very capable of doing well. She can grasp the concepts, memorize the processes over time, and use mathematics in her every day life.
* For more information on how to help children with short term memory difficulties, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities: http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/executive-function-disorders/how-to-help-child-with-weak-working-memory
* Here is an article by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity about Math Struggles: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/math.html
* Here is a really inclusive article about dyslexia and mathematics from Dyslexia Scotland via Oban High School:: http://www.obanhigh.argyll-bute.sch.uk/Websites/SchSecObanHigh/UserFiles/File/dyslexia%20materials/3_9_19HelpWithMaths.pdf
Personal Notes and Feelings About this Piece:
Since I cannot pinpoint exactly which one of her diagnoses (APD, Dyslexia, or VPD) is the culprit of these problems, I have decided to include them all.
I also have to put in a caveat here that my daughter does have short term memory problems for things like language and mathematics yet her short term memory for things like pictures, feelings, physical movements, and events is incredibly strong. She has also grown very strong at quickly memorizing the spellings of words via her understanding of phonics and utilization of chunking common spelling patterns. I suppose all this tells me is that each child is unique and the definitions cannot apply straight across the board and/or she has learned compensatory strategies for some things.