Over the past 30 years, it has become clear that there are two major clusters of learning difficulties. The most commonly known is reading disability, sometimes called dyslexia. There is no difference in meaning between the terms dyslexia and reading disability.
Another equally prevalent but less commonly known disability is arithmetic (mathematics) disability, sometimes called dyscalculia.
Reading proficiency is crucial to success in school and is also essential for economic survival in a technologically oriented world. Most children learn to read without any difficulty, yet up to 25% of all children experience reading problems in school. A subset of this population, 4% to 6% of school children, is diagnosed with a reading disability. Without assistance, these children face almost certain school failure.
Longitudinal studies have indicated that children who are identified as having a reading disability in early grades continue to demonstrate reading difficulty in the fourth grade, and through at least ninth grade, raising questions about the efficacy of special education services.
Just like reading disability, arithmetic disability can be a debilitating problem in school and in later life. In today’s world, mathematical knowledge, reasoning, and skills are no less important than the ability to read. The effects of math failure during the years of schooling, as well as math illiteracy in adult life, can seriously handicap both daily living and vocational prospects.
According to the statistics approximately 6% of school-age children have significant math difficulties and among students classified as learning disabled, arithmetic disability is as pervasive as reading disability. This does not mean that all reading disabilities are accompanied by math problems, but it does mean that math disability is widespread and in need of equivalent attention and concern as reading disability.
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- Angiulli, A. D’, & Siegel, L. S., “Cognitive functioning as measured by the WISC-R: Do children with learning disabilities have distinctive patterns of performance?” Journal of Learning Disabilities, January 2003, vol. 36.
- Riccio, C. A., “A comparison of multiple methods for the identification of children with reading disabilities,” Journal of Learning Disabilities, May 2002.