If you’re reading this blog the chances are you are Dyslexic. It’s also likely that you will have one of the other differences on the neuro-diverse spectrum. Most of us have a pick and mix selection of neurodiversities which I like to call the Dsy-difficulties spectrum or The Dysdiffs for short ;o)
Having this selection of Dysdiffs can sometimes feel like having a rock band within; different musicians playing together to create a symphony of daily dilemmas.
Running with that analogy, if you look at the Dysdiffs like a rock band, let’s say Oasis. As with any rock band, individual members have their own egos.
So within our rock band, The Dysdiffs, Autism takes on the role of Liam Gallagher. It shouts the loudest and proudest of all the Dysdiffs and gets the most attention and funding. Then there’s Noel Gallagher/Dyslexia (Noel is actually Dyslexic,) slightly more laid back but still a major house hold name. As you go through the band you get to Tony McCarroll. ‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Tony (far right) is the long forgotten original drummer and founding member of Oasis.
Dyspraxia and Tony have many things in common. Ask your average man/woman on the street who Liam/Autism or Noel/Dyslexia is and even if they are not a fan of the band they will have some notion of who they are. When you then ask that same man/woman who Tony/Dyscalculia is you’ll probably be met with the same blank expression in both cases.
So what is Dyscalculia? First of all as with many members of the Dysdiffs it is impossible for anyone with learning difficulties to pronounce or spell. This video does the pronunciation so you don’t have to.
In a nut shell Dyscalculia is a specific learning difficulty, characterised by a severe difficulty in acquiring the skills needed for arithmetic. Dyscalculics also lack an innate sense of what numbers represent. It could perhaps be seen as the numerical equivalent of dyslexia.
Upon learning that I have, ‘problems with numbers’ people find it hard to grasp exactly how difficult an inability to process numbers can be. If you too are struggling to grasp how Dyscalculia could manifest itself, here’s an example of the problems that it brings up in just one morning.
6:45 – Alarm sounds, wake up. No panic, have plenty of time. Check emails/twitter/Facebook on phone and stare at ceiling for five minutes.
7:15 – *Still staring at ceiling* Whoops, no idea where that time just went. Must get up now!
7:20 – Get up, wash dress. I put toast in toaster and fiddle with the dials. I can’t work out if it’s on setting 3 or 4, but I don’t have time to worry.
7:25 – Eat burnt toast (must have been on setting 5!). Glance at paper for just a ‘couple of minutes…’
7:45 – Didn’t realise the time, now have just 10 minutes to walk to bus station.
8:00 – I miss the bus by just a couple of minutes. Try to read bus time table to see when next bus is arriving but can’t work it out. I decide to wait at the bus stop in the hope that another bus comes along soon!
8:05 – Realise I need to really start doing some planning so I ask somebody when the next bus will be. I realise I have 10 minutes to wait. This is of course more than enough time to pop into the shops to get some much required chocolate. I try to pay for the chocolate but only have the change in coins. I try to count change, but keep losing track; so I tip the contents of my purse onto a counter and attempt to count that way. Thankfully, the shop assistant impatiently selects the correct amount from the small mountain of coins.
8:15– On exiting the shop, I see the bus going past the shop window, I run out in a wild panic and just manage to catch it. I sit down, breathe and eat the chocolate!
8:30 – I arrive at the train station resigned to the fact that I missed my intended train long ago. Looking at the departures board, I see that the next train is arriving on platform 9 so I head in that direction.
8:35 – Half way down the stairs to platform 9, an announcement informs me that the train is actually arriving at platform 6 rather than the platform 9 that I thought I’d read! Panic! I run back and arrive at platform 6 just as the train is pulling in!
9:00 – I arrive at London Euston and head towards the Underground lines. More confusion! Which line do I need? I try to read the underground map. It may as well be written in hieroglyphics! I have to take an educated guess which thankfully proves correct!
9:05 – Arrive at Oxford Circus. I attempt to find the correct exit and emerge onto the street completely disorientated. I start to walk down Regent Street. Wrong way!
9:15 – Finally work it all out and arrive at destination. I apologise profusely for being an hour late, convincing my colleagues that my tardiness is because of the ‘terrible’ bus/train/tube delays! Tomorrow I’ll set the alarm for 5 am!
As frustrating as Dyscalcuila is, as with Dyslexia it is not all bad. Dyscalculia is associated with creativity and creative writing is something I feel I excel at. Dyscalculia is a curious thing, although it affects a persons’ ability to do basic arithmetic and calculations, it certainly does not affect intelligence or their higher thought processes. For instance, I studied philosophy and was surprised at how quickly I grasped logic and the concepts surrounding the philosophy of mathematics, yet still couldn’t recite my times tables.
“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” Albert Einstein
It is encouraging to read that the great Albert Einstein also faced great challenges with basic maths. This makes me believe that it is possible for me to get that blasted C in GCSE maths that has eluded me for so many years (I’m planning to retake it for the third time.) I guess I just need to find a way to learn maths that suits my dyscalculic brain, or more importantly, find a teacher who has the patience to teach me in my preferred style.
Words by Anneliese Evans, edited by Sean Douglas.
Anneliese has worked mostly in the Czech Republic and Portugal as an EFL teacher and is now in the final stages of a Master’s in Education. She has recently had some of her creative writing published in ‘Everything is Spherical, an anthology of dyslexic writing’ and is passionate about raising awareness of the positives of learning differences.
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