I am going to take a different approach to my blog this week. I am going to talk to you about something that has been misdiagnosed in me until I was an adult in my late thirties.
I have Dyscalculia.
Dyscalculia is a learning disability that makes math challenging to understand.
I had always had problems with math or numbers for as long as I can remember. I thought I was just slow. I avoided math or anything to do with counting or numbers. I cannot do mental math well or at all. I have a hard time understanding math problems or doing them. I have to really break it down and even things like fractions to this day are hard for me.
I remember as a child that I wouldn’t like to do homework or work on any math problems. I just wouldn’t do them. Or I would procrastinate, and I never asked questions because I was feeling dumb enough already so imagine having to ask again how to add a fraction. I was never given a test or diagnosed because every thing else seemed to be fine. I won’t self diagnosis myself as having ADD but I think I might have a bit of that as well. My grades in school were just okay. Some subjects I did well in; but, others I was just maintaining. I was an average student. Sitting in a classroom never interested me and everyone else seemed to be doing a much better job at learning. It became easy for me to just not perform my best. I often wouldn’t turn in homework or wouldn’t complete it. Time management seemed to escape me. I was separated from the rest of my class in math because I just wasn’t keeping up or understanding the assignments. Without a diagnosis it only made me feel worse about my ability to do something that so many others seemed to have no problem advancing.
I could go on about things in my learning years that I look back on and wonder about. I also can’t read sheet music; which is pretty odd for a person who played an instrument in band since I was in the fifth grade.
I am a pretty smart person. I just happen to lose things, lose track of personal items, or have problems understanding measurements of time. I have several alarms or timers on my phone. I am now always early for things because I midjudge how long it will take me to get there and I hate being late.
I also cannot count back money or count back change. I have to use a calculator. I cannot do it in my head; and I have had the comments said to me like, “Can’t you do it? It’s just a quarter.” And how society is going to hell because no one can count back change any more. Some days I would just nod my head and other days I would say, “I can’t do it. It’s a hard thing for me to do mental math because of my learning disability.” I would try to smile when I said it but shame would often over take me.
Now let’s get to the part where I finally figure out, with some help, what in the world is going on with me. It was like a veil had been lifted and I could see.
I had decided to go to Dental Assisting school after my ex and I first separated. It was his way of helping me with a career and I really loved learning for the first time. I never missed class and made some friends along the way. It was challenging and I really enjoyed it. Until we had to start remembering the numbers on teeth. Yes, our teeth in our mouth get numbered. That way in a chart the doctor or assistant can make sure they are working on the right tooth in the right part of the mouth. It took me longer to learn the order of the teeth both backwards, forwards and upside down. I would often get confused and have to start over or get them completely wrong. It should be simple but my brain couldn’t go from looking straight on to a persons mouth to being behind the chair and count. No one could figure out why this is the part I was struggling with until one of my advisors looked at me and said, “I think you have Dyscalculia.”
We sat in her office and talked about it. She explained what it was and why she thought it related to me. I started having these “AHA” moments. I went home and did research. All of the sudden my life started making sense.
The fact that I had always struggled with numbers of any kind: I cannot find North or follow directions well. I have no sense how long it will take to drive from point A to point B. Even simple things like cooking is hard because I have to measure or work with fractions. I started figuring out how to learn things and used guides to help me memorize things like how the teeth were numbered. I also didn’t feel so bad about not knowing mental math or understanding fractions. I went on to pass and graduate from Dental Assisting. I worked in that field but struggled finding a job; and most of it was me holding me back. My fear of doing anything with numbers is a big hurdle.
Now some time has passed and I recognized the signs in my daughter. I wish I would have known exactly what was going on when she was in the third grade and started to struggle. After I was (self)diagnosed it has been easier for me to notice why she struggled with numbers. She has help built in with her schooling, things like extra time for tests or can take her test in a different room and all of her teachers are aware of her needs. She says she hates to ask for help because she already feels “dumb” and she doesn’t want to stand out any more. I keep telling her that I wish I had all the tools she has available to help her when I was in school; and I always stress she isn’t dumb numbers are just hard for her and they will get easier. She has all the tools and she walks around holding a calculator in her hand, so things are a little easier. We just can’t cook together because if she asks me about measurements we both end up starring at the measurement cup or I have to break it down into parts; which isn’t always a bad thing. We have work arounds. She has more information available to her now and I am grateful for her teachers that continue to help her along the way.
We both are creative. She draws and I write. I would like to think we excel at both those arts. Numbers just aren’t our jam. And that’s okay. God had to keep us humble.
It’s okay to ask for help. Even as an adult. We are always learning. I don’t feel as ashamed when someone asks me to do subtraction in my head. It’s just not how my brain works. I do have stories always going on in my brain. Every thing I do I have a story line. It’s how my brain handles tasks. I daydream, I spend a lot of time writing, and some times those stories are short or go unfinished. We all have our gifts. It’s what makes us unique.
We weren’t meant to be the same so the next time you try to fit someone into your box and they don’t fit; it might be because they weren’t meant too.
*For more information visit https://www.additudemag.com/category/adhd-add/related-conditions/learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/