Words matter. I hear from parents all over the country that their school “doesn’t accommodate” dyscalculia, or that their child is diagnosed with “a math learning disability, but not dyscalculia”. Educators, this is incorrect. Your school absolutely does meet the needs of students with dyscalculia, and you absolutely do have these students in your school! The federal guidelines from the Department of Education are clear: the math learning disability (MLD) is dyscalculia. Don’t be afraid to say dyscalculia; there is no difference between these two terms. Take a look at the official wording on the department of education website:
“...the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services… clarifies that students with specific learning disabilities—such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia—have unique educational needs. It further clarifies that there is nothing in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in a student’s evaluation, determination of eligibility for special education and related services, or in developing the student’s individualized education program (IEP).”
Words matter because they can be used to hold back services. They can be used as a barrier to certain accommodations, interventions, or teacher training. They can add to the confusion and self-blame that students with learning disabilities are already feeling. As educators, we need to value words and use them properly. Choose the words of your IEPs and evaluations with precision and follow federal guidelines when talking about student learning challenges.
Helping students with dyscalculia isn’t difficult, but it can be impossible when we refuse to
acknowledge the issue. Students who have a math learning disability have dyscalculia. Don’t be afraid to learn about dyscalculia, its causes, symptoms, and the best way to meet the needs of students with this Specific Learning Disorder. Learn more about the disorder and the ways to help your students here.