Is there a Dyscalculia Test?

This is a scenario that has been coming up more frequently lately. As parents become more informed, we are better able to advocate for our kids. If you go back even 10-20 years, not many parents had even heard of learning disabilities like dyscalculia.

Thanks largely in part to the internet and social media, parents can learn about these various conditions and their kids can begin to receive targeted interventions. But, getting those interventions can be a struggle. So, you’ve been told, “There is no test for dyscalculia.” What are your options?

child being evaluated for dyscalculia

When you’re told “There is no test for dyscalculia,” you’re not getting the full story. To my knowledge, that sentence by itself is correct. There is no one specific assessment that says YAY or NAY to dyscalculia like the ADOS, which specifically assesses kids for autism.

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But that does not mean that a child cannot be evaluated for the skills that make up math proficiency or lack thereof.

It would be refreshing to hear a school team say, “There is no specific evaluation just for dyscalculia, however we can evaluate your child for the subsets of skills that make up math skills.” Because that is the correct answer. When parents are not given their actual options, and are just told “No” it diminishes the trust they have with the IEP team.

What is Dyscalculia?

There are 4 Ds, as they are called. I have another entire article devoted to dysgraphia that was written by an OT who specializes in dysgraphia. Dyscalculia is another “one of the 4 Ds.”

  1. Dyslexia– A child with dyslexia struggles to read unless given specific interventions that address their struggles with decoding, fluency or comprehension.
  2. Dysgraphia-A child who struggles to write–it may be either the fine motor skill of actually writing, or writing fluency, organization and written expression.
  3. Dyscalculia-This condition means the child struggles with math and mathematical concepts.
  4. Dyspraxia-This learning disability (not to be confused with apraxia) affects some of the executive functioning skills such as the planning of actions and leads to difficulties in perception, language, thought, speech and memory.

“a neurodevelopmental disorder of biological origin manifested in learning difficulties and problems in acquiring academic skills markedly below age level and manifested in the early school years, lasting for at least 6 months, not attributed to intellectual disabilities, developmental disorders, or neurological or motor disorders.”

Yes, it is very common for a child to have more than one of these conditions.

Dyscalculia in DSM 5

Dyscalculia is listed in the DSM 5. Remember, schools do not diagnose, I am providing this for informational purposes only. Bold is mine.

Dyslexia and dyscalculia have been reintroduced into the DSM. Three specific learning disorders – impairment in reading, impairment in the written expression, and impairment in mathematics, described by subskills – are now part of the DSM-5. Three subcomponents of the reading disorder are expressly differentiated: word reading accuracy, reading rate, and fluency and reading comprehension. Impaired subskills of the specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression are spelling accuracy, grammar and punctuation accuracy, and clarity and organization of written expression. Four subskills are found in the mathematics disorder: number sense, memorization of arithmetic facts, accurate or fluent calculation, and accurate math reasoning. Each impaired academic domain and subskill should be recorded. A description of the severity degree was also included. The diagnosis is based on a variety of methods, including medical history, clinical interview, school report, teacher evaluation, rating scales, and psychometric tests. The IQ discrepancy criterion was abandoned, though that of age or class discrepancy criterion was retained. The application of a discrepancy is recommended by 1 to 2.5 SD. All three specific developmental disorders are common (prevalence 5 %-15 %), occur early during the first years of formal schooling, and persist into adulthood.

If you have concerns, please seek a diagnostician, such as a neuropsychologist.

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How do you test for Dyscalculia?

First, please remember that I’m not an OT or neuropsychologist, nor do I play one on the internet. If you have specific questions about your child, I recommend you see one of those professionals who is familiar with this condition. And, if your school has told you that they cannot test for dyscalculia, then I would not look to the school staff. They have already admitted they cannot.

Also, schools do not diagnose. They find your child eligible or ineligible for special education services, using one of the 13/14 categories of disability. If one of the 4Ds is your child’s primary area of need, the eligibility category would be SLD or Specific Learning Disability.

When we talk about dyslexia, as an example, we talk about much more than “struggling to read efficiently.” You hear terms like fluency, decoding, comprehension and written expression.

The same applies to dyscalculia. You will hear subsets of skills such as:

  • Matching
  • Sequencing
  • Computation
  • Fluency and application
  • Quantifying and Reasoning

These are skills that a child needs to be proficient in math. Mind you, it’s important to remember–if they have a comorbid condition such as dyslexia, they may not even be able to get to the math equations. Make sense? If a child cannot read proficiently in ELA class, they cannot do it in Math Class either.

Dyscalculia Tests

Several of the most common IEP evaluation tools contain components that assess a child’s math skills. These whole assessments contain sub-tests that assess specific skills. This is why it’s important for parents to understand how to read these reports.

Ask the team! Per IDEA, there must be someone present at the IEP meeting who can explain evaluations to you.

I have another article, including video explanations, of how to understand your child’s IEP assessments.

Math Computation and Fluency

  • Woodcock-Johnson
  • WIAT (Weschler Individual Achievement Test)
  • CMAT (Comprehensive Math Abilities Test)
  • M-Facts (Math Fluency and Calculations Test)
  • KTEA aka “the Kauffman”

Math Computation

  • WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children)
  • PASAT (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test)
  • WRAT (Wide Range Achievement Test)

Math Reasoning Skills

  • WIAT (Weschler Individual Achievement Test)
  • Portions of the Woodcock Johnson
  • CMAT

If you’ve read my post on common IEP evaluations, you see that the Woodcock Johnson, the WIAT and the WISC are all on that list. Many, many IEP evaluators use these assessments. SLD is something that your child is going to have to learn to manage their entire life. We do not outgrow learning disabilities–they do not disappear when we become adults.

Understanding these subtests and pinpointing your child’s specific needs can lead to better outcomes for your child.

Remember, if you disagree with the team’s evaluations and eligibility, you can request an IEE.

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