Disability History Month: My experience with Dyscalculia

Posted 16 December 2020
President of Activities, Ellis, talks about his experience with Dyscalculia.
President of Activities, Ellis, talks about his experience with Dyscalculia.

Dyscalculia, the first time I heard this the term sounded so unfamiliar. Many people, including myself while growing up did not know the condition existed. Often enough, people will just think they have a difficulty with maths, and anything with numbers is a struggle. If you were to ask the average person out on the street about Dyslexia most of them would have a small level of understanding and acknowledgement of it being a legitimate disorder. Ask that same person about Dyscalculia and they will very likely have no clue what that is. Throughout my life I've often had it waved away as, “Well you might just be bad at maths” but what I have come to talk about is: it is so much more than just struggling in maths lessons.

From a young age I struggled immensely with maths, I still only know the easy times tables. It's never that I did not want to learn, I simply just could not figure it out even with help, and often now I rely on friends to double-check any calculations (on a calculator several times) that I’ve made are correct. Looking at numbers I was never able to figure out how they go into each other to make a larger one, and shopping can be a nightmare on a budget. I struggle with the time often and the only way I can read a normal clock is I remember the placement of the hands means something specific (20 to, 10 past etc), because of this I developed the habit of getting to appointments early to stop being anxious about being late. Anxiety is something that links to anything to do with numbers for me, from counting change in a shop several times so I know exactly how much I’ve got or have been given

Throughout school I was frequently told that I’m ‘thick’ by some teachers and never really got the help that was needed, and I feel lack of understanding is something to blame on this. Yet it's something I have no explanation for why I cannot do things that are seen as “simple maths”. Imagine every time you have to do something with numbers in your head, the cogs just stop and nothing moves, you hold these numbers in your head and there is no possible way to do anything with them, they just remain there in your head. It’s paralysing, and often it can be humiliating. The difficulties that come with Dyscalculia do affect day to day life, and often enough those who are struggling with Dyscalculia are often not diagnosed due to how relatively unknown the condition remains.

As with Dyslexia, it is a learning difficulty and with it brings everyday problems - telling the time, being able to stick to deadlines, counting money and budgeting. Raising awareness of this learning difficulty is something that is relatively easy to do, but we need to do more to accommodate people who do struggle with this daily.