Yay, it’s World Dyscalculia Day!
So, I started to touch on the topic of Dyscalculia in my last post, and I intend to further break it down into a series of posts over time, but this is a good time to summarize it, on the very day set aside each year for Dyscalculia awareness (always 3/3; how fitting for it to be a lovely fraction).
There is SO MUCH I want to say about it, but seriously, it can’t be summed up in a short post, and writing a novel will only bore people in a sea of new knowledge (tl;dr ;)), given how few actually know what it is. There are a lot of people out there who have this and only wish they could turn to someone who gets it, or knew more about it themselves, or wish to find a community of fellow “sufferers” where they’ll fit in and can relate to.
What is Dyscalculia exactly? It’s a learning disorder involving numbers, but not just numbers. Rather than write a painfully long description when other sites explain it very well, head over to the Dyscalculia Forum site and read up for a good breakdown (I’ll wait…). This does not mean we’re stupid and/or lazy, or aren’t trying hard enough to understand things like handling money, reading a map or organizing a space, or that we’re just choosing not to do something because we don’t like/feel like it, we actually lack the ability to grasp these concepts; our brains simply cannot make heads or tails of it (pun intended). It’s like any other form of dyslexia – you can try to learn, practice for hours, and no matter how much you put into it, your brain will never retain the information, or very little of it, and scrambles it around furiously without ever actually understanding it. Ooh, and the resulting brain pain. 😛
For example, when I was in third grade, I would sit as best as a squirmy kid can, trying to listen to the teacher explain the math assignments, and I was at such a loss, I’d pretty much just stare off blankly; it didn’t sink in. What I should have known in third grade, math-wise, did not make any sense to my brain until I was in eighth grade. This means I was years behind my peers in my understanding of what should have been “simple” math for most kids my age. I had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for several years, and some would judge without taking time to understand what this means as being a “special education” student. It sort of fits into that, but I wasn’t in “special ed,” or “short bus” material (I personally hate those derogatory terms), nor is there anything so terribly wrong with those who are, they just learn and understand things differently. Special education students, by the way, are not set up for a lifetime of failure or dependency on others because they don’t understand the same way as others, they just have to adapt and are prepared for those things they’ll need to know to make it on their own as adults (or as close to on their own as they can be). It bothers me that people dismiss those with profound disabilities as unable to be proper humans or a population to ignore, stare at, make fun of or discount as amounting to anything, because it’s not true and they don’t deserve that kind of disrespect. But, I digress.
For me, this “special” attention through an IEP meant I needed extra help and extra time to learn as much as I could at my expected grade level. However, I was never going to make it beyond Pre-Algebra (which was as far as I could get before failing out of math), but I did eventually catch up, at least a little bit, and graduated just like everyone else, which wasn’t easy since a graduation requirement was to pass a math competency exam (which I failed miserably the first time), but eventually I did it and it was a huge relief. I was able to “outgrow” the need for an IEP by the end of seventh grade, because I was finally at an acceptable level of math understanding, it just took a little (okay, a LOT) longer for me. So, yes, it is possible to learn some math, we just don’t grasp a higher knowledge of it, and things like accounting, tax preparation, and having a job where you may be expected to deal with numbers still looms overhead as a big issue later on.
If you’re seriously interested in knowing more about Dyscalculia (and/or have it), there are a nice handful of resources available online for starters: On Squidoo, the Dyscalculia Forum and Facebook group, and even a Google search digs up some others.
Yes, I know there is great irony to the fact that I have math dyslexia (because that’s what it is), and one of the most influential shows of my childhood/teen years was Square One TV (and Mathnet). Actually, it makes great sense that I was drawn to it, given the need I had to understand mathematical concepts in a more creative/visual way. Quality PBS shows were a staple for many of us “80s Kids;” if you were around in the day, you know what I’m talking about: gems such as 3-2-1 Contact, The Electric Company, Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, and the Joy of Painting (okay, so that last one wasn’t a kid’s show, but it was awesome). Kids today miss out a great deal on quality educational programming, unless they’re lucky enough to have parents who have episodes on tape, DVD or have found them on YouTube. Get with the program, search these clips out, and share them with your children if you haven’t yet, parents!
Oh dear, I did promise the short story this time, didn’t I? Well, believe me, I will have more to say in time, especially regarding the self-esteem and emotional struggles that go along with having learning disabilities, the diagnostic process, and trying to “fit in” with the rest of society when your dyslexia carries on into adulthood (that’s right, you’re not magically “cured” just because you graduate, it follows you for the rest of your life, yay). I will save these deeper thoughts for another time. Just being able to talk/write about it, read about it online (a luxury I didn’t have in the years I could have used the reassurance) and see I’m not alone helps a lot. Also, thank God for smartphones; I would be SO lost and truly “dumb” without one. 🙂
Before I wrap this up today, I will recommend a related book that I have read; My Thirteenth Winter by Samantha Abeel; it’s a good read, and while I haven’t struggled like she did, I can relate to where she’s coming from a great deal. Worth the read just to get a glimpse into what it’s like to struggle with a disability, in my opinion.
And here, have a lovely little infographic:
There you go, a “starter” post about something you may have yet to wrap your head around, but at least we have a day to “celebrate” our struggle.