Children with Learning Disabilities: Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia


Throughout my experience as a teacher, I taught more than 200 different students whose ages vary from five to eight years old. I cannot say that all of my students were high achievers; in fact, I have dealt with students who need one-to-one help in their classwork and whose parents complain they cannot do their homework on their own, or face some difficulty reading or solving mathematical problems. This does not mean that these children are less intelligent; they just have some problems that can make it difficult for them to learn as quickly as other students.

These problems, which fall under the umbrella of learning disorders or disabilities, affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information. Researchers do not know exactly what causes learning disorders, but they appear to be related to differences in brain structures or dysfunction of the central nervous system. These differences can be genetic, which means they can be inherited like many other traits we get from our parents and grandparents; they can also be caused by problems at birth or during pregnancy.

There are some signals of learning disorders that teachers and parents may notice such as difficulty in speaking, reading, writing, or figuring out a math problem, having trouble following rules and remembering what someone just said, in addition to not paying attention in class. There are many different kinds of learning disorders and they can affect people differently. The most occurring disorders are:


It is a learning disability that affects how children acquire written language and how well they use language to express their thoughts. It is not the result of an intellectual impairment, nor is it dependent upon the child’s ability to read. According to the researches, dysgraphia can occur due to underlying problems in orthographic coding, which is the process of sorting written words in working memory while analyzing the letters that make up the word during word learning.

Just having bad handwriting does not mean a child has dysgraphia. Children with dysgraphia may suffer from cramping of fingers while writing short entries and may not complete written assignments that are legible, appropriate in length and content, or within given time. Other signs and symptoms of dysgraphia may include slow writing or copying, inconsistent spacing between words and letters, mixed upper case and lower case letters, awkward pencil grip, several spelling mistakes while writing, and missing or incomplete words in sentences.

Totally avoiding the process of writing through using computers cannot be the only solution, no matter how severe the student’s dysgraphia is. Treating dysgraphia may include treatment of motor disorders to help control writing movements. Students can practice writing letters and numbers in the air with big arm movements to improve motor memory of these important shapes.

Teachers have to encourage proper pencil grip, posture, and paper positioning for writing. It is important to reinforce this as early as possible because it is difficult for students to unlearn bad habits later on. Students with dysgraphia can practice writing through low-stress opportunities; such as writing letters and diaries, or making grocery lists.

Papers with raised or different-colored lines help with forming letters in the right space. Tape recorders can supplement note-taking and help in preparing for writing assignments. For slow writers, the teacher can have the student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.


Individuals with this type of learning disorder have difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics. Researchers assume that dyscalculia is due to difference in the brain development and function, and the difference of the structure of some parts of the brain; those areas of the brain are linked to learning and memory.

It can also be hereditary. Researchers found that a child with dyscalculia often has a parent or sibling with similar issues. Studies also show that dyscalculia can occur due to injury of certain parts of the brain, which can result in what researchers call “acquired dyscalculia”.

Signs of dyscalculia vary from one child to another, and can also look different at different stages. It can be detected as early as preschool, when a child has a delay in counting or has trouble remembering numbers and skips numbers while counting, in addition to having difficulty in stating which of two numbers is bigger; all of these signs would be an early alarm of dyscalculia.

Other symptoms may include confusion of the mathematical signs—plus (+), minus (-), divided by (÷), or multiplied by (x)—and understanding their functions; difficulty understanding concepts of place value, and quantity, number lines, positive and negative value, and fractions, in addition to difficulty understanding and doing word problems. Students with dyscalculia also have difficulty understanding concepts related to time; such as days, weeks, months, season, and they are challenged making change and handling money.

Children with dyscalculia may fall early in school and may develop anxiety or strong dislike of mathematics; this is why it is important to follow some remedial strategies in order to strengthen the student’s mathematical skills. Teachers or parents can use diagrams and draw pictures of word problems to simplify math concepts.

Math-related games can help the child have fun and feel more comfortable with mathematics. Children with dyscalculia should not be assigned too much amounts of work in mathematics so he/she would not feel overloaded and lose concentration in solving problems.

Learning disabilities should not be confused with other disabilities, such as autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or behavioral disorders. Although these disorders can affect the child’s ability to learn and follow the educational process normally.

An important step is to understand the child’s learning difficulties and consider how they will affect their communication, self-help skills, willingness to accept discipline, impact on play, and capacity for independence. Parents can help coordinate the evaluation and work with professionals and teachers to have the evaluation and educational testing done to clarify if a learning disorder exists.

Parents can find different strategies that work with their children other than the above mentioned. Thus, it is important that parents observe their children and take notes to share with teachers and therapists to find the best strategies and support for their children. The sooner you move forward, the better your child’s chances for reaching his/her full potential.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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