Dyslexia & Dyscalculia Contributed by: Safespot

What is Dyslexia & Dyscalculia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that causes problems with reading, writing, and spelling. Dyslexia can affect learning in numerous ways, for example processing language-based information, oral language skills, short term and working memory, and organisation.

Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that causes problems in maths; people with dyscalculia have trouble making sense of numbers and mathematical concepts.

Both dyslexia and dyscalculia are lifelong conditions. However, people can be supported in various methods. Having dyslexia or dyscalculia does not indicate a person’s intelligence, as they may perform well in other areas of learning.

Fast Facts!

  • Approximately 1 in 10-20 people in the UK have dyslexia.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 people have dyscalculia.
  • Research suggests that dyslexia affects more males than females – however, there are not any significant gender differences in dyscalculia.
  • 50% of people with dyscalculia have also dyslexia
  • ADHD is commonly diagnosed in each condition.

What causes it?

The exact cause of dyslexia is still unknown. However, there is evidence that dyslexia may be inherited from parents. Also, evidence suggest that brain function plays a role in the presentation of dyslexia, especially in areas that concern language processing.

Dyscalculia has two forms: developmental and acquired. Developmental dyscalculia means that an individual has always had the condition, causes of which are believed to be genetic. Acquired dyscalculia can often occur after brain damage or a stroke.

What are the symptoms?


–  Preschool children: delayed speech development, speech problems, problems expressing themselves using speech, little understanding of rhyming words, difficulty learning the alphabet.

–  Schoolchildren: problems learning names and sounds of letters, spelling, letters/figures may be the wrong way round, confusing the order of letters, reading slowly and making errors, visual disturbances when reading, difficulty writing down answers, difficulty following directions, slow writing, poor handwriting.

–  Adolescents/adults: poorly organised written work, difficulty writing essays and letters, problems revising, avoiding reading, difficulty taking notes/copying, poor spelling, struggling to meet deadlines.


– Preschool children: trouble learning to count, difficulty connecting numbers to objects, struggles to recognise patterns.

– Schoolchildren: difficultly learning and recalling number facts, difficulty computing sums, poor understanding of signs like + -, difficulties solving maths problems, poor processing of graphs and charts, lacking confidence in areas that require maths.

– Adolescents and adults: trouble applying maths concepts to money, difficulty counting backwards, slow to perform calculations, weak mental arithmetic skills, poor sense of numbers and estimation, high levels of maths anxiety.

How is it diagnosed?

The earlier dyslexia and dyscalculia are diagnosed, the better, as learning supports can be put in place. For dyslexia and dyscalculia; if there were concerns about the child’s progress in language and/or maths, a meeting with the child’s parents/carers, teacher and the school’s special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) would be arranged. If there were ongoing symptoms, then the family would also visit their GP. The GP would rule out any condition that may be affecting this, such as visual problems, hearing problems or other conditions, e.g. ADHD. If there are still concerns, the child may be referred to an educational psychologist or other specialist for an assessment. This involves a series of tests regarding reading and writing ability, language development and vocabulary, mathematical ability, logical reasoning, memory, processing speed, organisational skills, and their approach to learning. A report of the child’s difficulties will be provided, and then an educational plan will be put in place. Diagnosis can also occur in adulthood, where the process is similar. Following a GP appointment to rule out other conditions that may have an effect on their reading ability, adults may also be referred to a specialist. The assessment for adults looks at their educational background, performance tests in different areas, and may also look at the co- occurrence of dyscalculia, dyspraxia and visual stress disorder.

How is it treated?

There is no cure, or medical treatment as such, however there are recommendations that can help manage both conditions. Educational interventions may be put in place at school, or further education. For children with dyslexia, there are interventions that focus on phonological skills , which assist in recognising, identifying and understanding sounds, letters and words. At home, parents can also help in several ways, such as reading to them, encouraging silent reading and making reading fun. Technology may also help; using a computer or tablet with spell check in class may be more useful than an exercise book. Apps and interactive software may also aid a child’s learning. For adults with dyslexia, technology may also help them to learn, and work, such as laptops or tablets, and audio recording software in lectures or meetings. In employment, an employer may be able to make some reasonable adjustments, such as providing technology assistance, giving verbal instructions, allowing for extra time and giving information in accessible formats.

For children and adults with dyscalculia, there are similar support methods available. For children, interventions that break maths down into manageable chunks may be helpful, as well as other ways that help make maths fun, like number and board games. This can also be done at home with parents and carers. Technology can also assist in learning and processing, in both adults and children.

There is no medication that treat dyslexia or dyscalculia; however treating any co-occurring issues can be helpful.