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What is Co-occurrence?

Maths difficulties are not always caused by dyscalculia and can be caused by many other factors.

However, there can also be some co-occurrence between dyscalculia and other learning differences. 20% to 60% (twenty to sixty percent) of people with dyscalculia also have other learning differences. We say that dyscalculia can ‘come with a friend’.

Co-occurance Dyscalculia

What is Dyslexia? 

Dyslexia has been around a long time. 

In 1877 a German Professor wrote about a condition he called ‘word blindness’ referring to persons who had difficulties with accurate reading and spelling and in 1896 an English professor, Dr. Pringle Morgan described a boy called Percy, who simply couldn’t learn to read with any fluency and spell with any accuracy despite the fact that he was in other ways as able as his classmates. 

Definitions have changed over the years and the more recently Sir Jim Rose defined of dyslexia (2009) as follows:

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. The British Dyslexia adopted this definition but also added that some people could also have visual stress.

However, this definition is currently under review.

Basic Indicators of Dyslexia. 

For a child to learn to spell, they need to be able to identify the sounds in words and then select the correct letters to represent those sounds in a word. Children with dyslexia tend to have difficulties with the accurate discrimination of sounds such as the sounds ‘p’ and ‘b’ (known as phonological awareness) as well as remembering what letters to use and the order of those letters (phonological or verbal memory). Hence learning to reading and spelling develops effortfully and slowly. However, in recent years assistive technologies such as computer readers and speech to text software have revolutionised leaners’ access to and production of the written word. 

Learners with dyslexia may also have weaknesses with the rapid retrieval of information from long term memory and difficulties with working memory and processing speed which impacts on all aspects of learning. They may take a long time to organise and get ideas down on paper, put their thoughts into words. They need extra time to process incoming and outgoing information. They need work delivered in small chunks and opportunity for overlearning.

Why do some learners with dyslexia struggle with maths?

Many of the cognitive functions that affect learners with dyslexia also affect maths learning including-

Phonological difficulties can impact on:

  • Learning early counting systems.
  • Learning of maths language and terms.
  • Learning to read maths word problems.

Working memory can impact:

  • Mental maths
  • Remembering the right order to do a calculation.
  • Remembering maths facts and procedures.

Rapid and automatic retrieval of information and processing speed can affect:

  • Ability to access maths facts easily from memory which affects fluency and doing things without too much thinking.
  • Learner’s ability to keep up.

Directional Difficulties can affect:

  • Remembering where to start a calculation and how to set up calculations and write numbers.

Visual Processing Issues can affect:

  • Clarity in recognising symbols and numbers.
  • Reading questions.

Motor or handwriting difficulties can affect:

  • Laying out calculations neatly which would cause errors.

More information on Dyslexia can be found here – https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/

Thanks to Brenda Ferrie at the British Dyslexia Association for this information.

What is dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a surprisingly common type of neurodivergence affecting approximately 5% (five percent) of the population. However, it is considered a hidden disability and is still little understood.

It primarily impacts movement and coordination in children and adults, but can affect all areas of life, making it difficult for people to carry out activities that others take for granted. Signs of dyspraxia/DCD are present from a young age but may not be recognised until a child starts school, or even later in adulthood.

Basic Indicators of dyspraxia

Each person’s experience of dyspraxia/DCD is different and will be affected by a person’s age, the opportunities they have had to learn skills, environmental demands and the support/understanding shown by people around them. There are, however, some common signs of dyspraxia/DCD:


  • Movements appear awkward and lack smoothness
  • Extra physical and mental effort is required to carry out movements that others manage easily
  • Poor spatial awareness means more trips, bumps and bruises.
  • Difficulty learning the movements required to carry out new practical tasks.
  • Difficulty transferring motor skills to new situations or activities.

Organisation and planning:

Many people with dyspraxia/DCD have difficulty organising themselves, their equipment and their thoughts. Some also experience problems with attention, memory and time management. Many adults with dyspraxia/DCD say these difficulties present more of a challenge in their daily lives than their underlying movement difficulties.

Speech and language:

Some people with dyspraxia/DCD have difficulty keeping up with conversations and there may be long, awkward pauses before they respond to a question or comment.

People with verbal dyspraxia (Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD), or now commonly referred to as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS)) have severe and persistent difficulty coordinating the precise movements required to produce clear speech. It is possible to have verbal dyspraxia on its own or alongside other movement difficulties associated with dyspraxia/DCD.

Social skills:

People with dyspraxia often report feeling lonely, isolated or anxious. This can result from the impact dyspraxia can have on social skills, such as understanding social cues or structures of conversation (e.g. interrupting), or from feeling left out of social situations where the movement difficulties associated with dyspraxia are noticeable (e.g. playing sports).

Why do some learners with dyspraxia struggle with maths?

They can struggle with:

  • Recording and saying numbers; may reverse or mistype numbers, signs, or decimal points.
  • Estimating numbers on a mental number line.
  • Mathematical sequencing.
  • Pattern recognition including numbers and/or shapes.
  • The concept of prepositional language (e.g. before, after).
  • Holding information like numbers, mentally and then doing something with that information, e.g. adding up numbers. (working memory).
  • Memorization e.g. of times tables facts
  • Problems with coordination when counting or using equipment.
  • Keeping place when reading from tables/charts or lists of questions.
  • The fine motor skills needed for intricate mathematical drawing (such as graphs and tables) can be difficult for someone with dyspraxia, as they may find using a ruler and pencil difficult or holding a pencil steady for detailed line drawing.
  • Using a protractor or compass.
  • Setting out questions or lining up column sums correctly.
  • Copying numbers from the board.
  • Following instructions or remembering instructions.

More information on DCD / Dyspraxia can be found here – https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/

With thanks to Lucy Owen from the Dyspraxia Foundation for her help with this content.

What is Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)?

DLD (Developmental Language Disorder) is a relatively new term. It is used to describe a severe ongoing difficulty with expressive language and/ or understanding what other people say and sometime impacts speech. There is no obvious cause.

Basic Indicators of DLD – Developmental Language Disorder

  • Problems with finding the right words, answering questions, or expressing themselves.
  • Problems following directions or understanding information.
  • Difficulties paying attention.
  • Difficulties with socialising with peers.
  • Difficulties with written language.

Why do some learners with DLD struggle with maths?

Children with DLD are 4 times more likely to have maths difficulties and particularly struggle on tasks with higher verbal demands.

They may also have difficulties with:

  • Writing and naming numbers
  • Counting, especially higher numbers
  • Solving arithmetic problems especially if they need to be solved quickly
  • Solving maths problems written in sentences
  • Learning new vocabulary for maths concepts

(From https://dldandme.org/i-have-dld-why-is-math-so-hard/)

You can find more information on DLD here –

https://dldandme.org/ and https://radld.org/

With thanks to Louise Mitchell from Leap Interaction for her advice on this content.

What is Autism

Autism (also called autism spectrum disorder- ASD), is a lifelong, developmental condition. It affects the way a person communicates, interacts and processes information.

Every autistic person is different and has different experiences. But there are some characteristics that are common in autistic people.

These characteristics are ways in which an autistic person can differ from a neurotypical person (someone who does not have a neurodevelopmental condition like autism or ADHD).

The way these characteristics show themselves can change with age and the environment.

(NHS inform- https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/brain-nerves-and-spinal-cord/autism/autism/)

While estimates of prevalence vary due to historical under-diagnosis, Autistica say that they currently use a figure of 1 in 67 people (about 1-2% of the population).

Common autistic traits include:

• Social communication and social interaction challenges- difficulty relating to others
• Differences in communication including speech patterns, eye contact, tone and body language. Autistic people may find it difficult to understand non-literal speech such as metaphor and sarcasm.
• Repetitive and restrictive behaviours. Autistic people may have a strong preference for routine and experience anxiety during times of change or uncertainty. They may move in repetitive ways, known as stimming, to regulate sensory input or express emotion.
• Difficulties with flexibility of thought
• Over- or under-sensitivity to light, sound taste or touch. Some autistic people may take longer to process speech or other sensory information.
• Highly focused, more intense interests or hobbies. Some autistic people may find it more challenging to focus on other topics outside of these interests.
• Extreme anxiety
• In extreme distress, some autistic people experience meltdowns, which can include a range of uncontrollable outward signs of distress including crying, shouting, rocking or self-injury. Some autistic people instead or additionally experience shutdowns, in which they become “zoned out” and unresponsive to the environment.

Masking: Some autistic people can “mask” their autism in some contexts by suppressing autistic traits and mimicking the communication and behaviour of others; this may happen consciously or unconsciously. This can often only be managed for limited periods of time and can lead to exhaustion.

Why do some autistic learners struggle with maths?

Autistic learners can be great mathematicians but equally can find it challenging and may need different approaches and additional support to unlock their potential.

Learners may exhibit some weaknesses that could impact their learning abilities such as impairmentsin executive function e.g. working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility.

They may have difficulties with:

• Learning in a classroom environment due to sensory overload
• Finding changes challenging e.g. new concepts, new teaching strategies and new methods.
• The speed in which maths is taught; they may need more time to process information
• Grasping concepts when they are taught in an abstract way or making links between previously ‘taught’ concepts and new concepts; it is important to use concreate manipulatives and give ‘real life’ examples.
• Understanding vocabulary
• Solving word problems due to difficulties with organising information and moving between pieces of information or focusing on unimportant information.
• Expressing when they don’t understand; careful questioning and support is needed
• Not knowing if they have got it ‘right’ or not due to not following the ‘social clues’; extra positive reinforcement will be beneficial.

Thanks to Georgia Harper from Autistica for her help with this content.

More information can be found here-



What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is defined through analysis of behaviour. It has a high global prevalence (5.29%- Just over 5%/ five percent). People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and a lack of impulse control that interferes with day-to-day functioning.

Basic Indicators of ADHD

There are three clinical presentations of ADHD.

Predominantly inattentive type (ADHD-I)

Having a short attention span and being easily distracted.

  • Constantly changing from one activity to another.
  • Appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions.
  • Seeming not to learn from mistakes, making careless mistakes, for example, in school.
  • Appearing forgetful or often losing things.
  • Having difficulty organising tasks and time.
  • Being unable to stick to tasks that are boring or time-consuming.

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (ADHD-H)

  • Being unable to concentrate on activities.
  • Being unable to sit still.
  • Excessive physical movement.
  • Seeming to show little or no sense of hindsight or foresight.
  • Seeming to show little or no sense of danger.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Being unable to wait their turn.
  • Interrupting conversations or calling out answers.
  • Struggling in situations where there is an expectation to be calm or quiet.
  • Fidgeting
  • Acting without thinking.

Combined type (ADHD-C)

Why do some learners with ADHD struggle with maths?

There are only a limited number of scientific studies focusing on ADHD and maths. However, the majority of them show that a significant percentage of people with ADHD performed lower on mathematical tests compared to the control population.

Inattentiveness was stronger related to this lower performance in test than hyperactivity/impulsivity.

In several studies, difficulty with maths learning in primary school has been attributed to executive function including things like planning and organising information using working memory, processing speed, and understanding a task: all this impacts maths development.

Learners with ADHD can also have a lower tolerance for frustration and so can give up more easily when a problem requires a lot of processes, and this can then impact mental health.

They can struggle with

  • Remaining focused on the task
  • Paying attention to details
  • Remembering and following directions
  • Planning and organising in a sequential way
  • Recognising basic operations (+ – x ÷) and might mix them up
  • Multi-step word problems – losing their place and having to start over
  • Shifting between different topics/ problems especially in test situations.
  • Time management – especially in tests
  • Remembering formulas
  • Keeping up with homework – planning their time

All of these can mean there are gaps in the learner’s maths knowledge and understanding



With thanks to the ADHD foundation for their contribution


You can also find information on ADHD here-


What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is the name given to the genetic condition of Trisomy 21 – the presence of an extra (three) chromosome number 21 at birth. We celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March as a nod to the 3 and 21! Those individuals born with Down syndrome still have 26 chromosomes and therefore have their own personalities and genetic similarities to their parents. However, the extra chromosome does cause some challenges when learning and can increase the likelihood of some medical conditions.


As Down syndrome is genetic, you either have Down syndrome or you don’t. And just like with typically developing children, children with Down syndrome have a varied spectrum of ability and achievement.

Why do some learners with Down syndrome struggle with maths?

Some learners struggle with maths as it very abstract and can be difficult to relate it to life and understand why it is important. As it takes longer for those with Down syndrome to progress through the stages of development, it also takes longer for them to achieve mathematical milestones. There is little research into Down Syndrome and maths. What has been noticed is that there is a great variability between individuals and maths skills are typically lower than literacy skills.

They can struggle with:

• Understanding one to one correspondence
• Cardinality -the last number counted is how many in the set
• Identifying more/less
• Understanding the relationship between numbers
• Understanding place value
• Visualising a mental number line
• Performing calculations – due to demands on working memory and attention.
• Language difficulties – listening, comprehension and receptive vocabulary.
• Motor skills- impacts recording, using rulers etc.
• Attention span.

The result is that most children with Down Syndrome not meeting age related expectations. 



With thanks to Karen Mcguigan from Maths for Life for her advice and help on this content.

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