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Dyscalculia for Adults

Maths Difficulties for Adults

Whether your dyscalculia was detected when you were a child or it’s never been formally ‘diagnosed’, the Dyscalculia Network is here to help you on your journey to better understand your needs around maths and to access the support you need.

We are a volunteer-led organisation and our approach is guided by our volunteers on the ‘Adults with Dyscalculia Advisory Board’. This group share their experiences and insights with us in regularly-held meetings and offer advice on all our work. The chair of the Adults with Dyscalculia Board also sits on our general board ensuring that the voices of those with dyscalculia are heard and understood.

We speak with the dyscalculia community, rather than for the dyscalculia community.

What are the indicators of Dyscalculia in Adults?

Indicators of Dyscalculia

There are many indicators of dyscalculia in adults. While there are many common features and traits, each person is unique and so experiences dyscalculia differently. Please bear in mind that not all of the indicators may apply to you or describe your experiences.

It is important to note that dyscalculia is not the only cause of difficulties with maths. Maths difficulties can be caused by many other factors including, but not limited to:

  • missed schooling
  • Ineffective teaching
  • maths anxiety
  • other specific learning differences, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia (DCD)
  • medical conditions 

You may struggle with maths but it may not be due to dyscalculia. However, the more we talk and research dyscalculia, then the more we understand about the ways we learn and process maths.

If you would like to know more about potential indicators of dyscalculia you may have, you can complete a Dyscalculia Checklist. It is important to remember that a checklist is NOT a diagnostic tool, but it does help gather evidence and highlight any indicators of dyscalculia that you may experience.

What are the indicators of Dyscalculia in Adults?

Dyscalculia can occur on its own or it can co-occur with something else. As one of our adults with dyscalculia put it, ‘dyscalculia often comes with a friend’.


These friends can include Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia (Development Coordination Disorder- DCD), dyslexia, or dysgraphia, to name a few.

You can find out more about co-occurrence with dyscalculia here

Strengths of Adults with Dyscalculia

It is crucial to understand that dyscalculia is part of you and the unique way you think about, process and interpret the world around you. It can be a hard journey but we are always here to help you make sense of your dyscalculia.

The bad news is that research into dyscalculia is very under-developed, especially compared to some other neurodivergences. However, the good news is that research is growing and we are here to help and disseminate any relevant or impactful work that leads us to better understand dyscalculia.

You may have seen movements like ‘positive dyslexia’ that highlights all the unique skills that people with dyslexia have and how they can shape the world around them. While we are not in the position (yet) to make research-informed claims, we can speak anecdotely and with some authority that many people with dyscalculia have strengths.

If you look at our Adults with Dyscalculia advisory board you will see skills in communication, writing, performance, singing, acting, empathy, advocacy work, and strategic thinking to name a few.

Read about our Adults with Dyscalculia Advisory Board.

We believe that research into this area is one of the most important future directions for understanding dyscalculia. There are many, many talents and way you can make your mark on the world and you are not defined by your struggles with maths.

What are your strengths?

Our most frequently asked questions is: ‘Can an adult get a diagnosis of dyscalculia?’

The answer is YES!

A full dyscalculia diagnostic assessment can be completed for children and adults although the tests used vary slightly according to the age of the person. There is no age limit!

It is important to note that from February 2024 diagnostic assessments in England can only be conducted face to face (not online) so some travel may be required.

Diagnostic assessments are currently not available on the NHS. To get a full diagnostic assessment you must pay privately – approximately £450 – £900 (from four hundred and fifty pounds up to nine hundred pounds) depending on the area, qualifications, and experience of the assessor.

 

Find specialist maths support in your area or online

Masking and Unmasking

What is masking?

Masking is a strategy to hide learning challenges that you may experience.

It often manifests in people overcompensating in other areas that they find easier than maths. For example, one of the adults on our advisory board struggles with maths but is gifted in literacy and so they report over-stretching themselves and pushing themselves harder when it comes to anything literacy-based.

Impact on Mental Health​
It is very common for people with dyscalculia to mask their difficulties with maths due to embarrassment or fear of being ‘found out’. Masking can often lead to mental exhaustion and affect self-esteem. It can also impact relationships with family and friends.

It can be difficult to ‘unmask’ as it can make us feel vulnerable.There can be times when it doesn’t feel safe to unmask and that is okay. You also should never feel like you have to ‘explain’ your dyscalculia to anyone.


However, in safe and suppoırtive environments, there are huge benefits to unmasking and being open about your relationship with maths. It builds an inclusive and trusting environment, helps you get the support you need and improves your personal well-being.

It can be difficult to ‘unmask’ but being open and honest about your challenges with maths, in a supportive setting, is the best way to ensure your longer-term happiness.

Talking to a trusted friend, family member or work colleague can be a good place to start. It can help build your confidence and help you gain the trust needed to talk to other people within your circle.

Connecting with other adults with dyscaulia can also be beneficial as it may help you realise that you are not alone and there are many others like you who find maths challenging.

Check out our ‘Case Study’ blogs to read about the experiences of other people with dyscalculia. We are also always here to offer any support we can. 

Mental Health Strategies

Strategies for daily living

These are suggestions from our Adults with Dyscalculia Advisory Board. We are always willing to update information and provide additional tips so if you have a tip you would like to share, please do contact us!
Budgeting
  • Banking apps like Monzo and Starling allow you to split your income into different ‘pots’ and use visual pictures so you can ‘see’ how much you have in each pot. These features can help you save money for bills or things like holidays and purchases you need to make. Peter has found that it has taken away some of his anxieties around finances.
  • Plan ahead. The last thing we need is unexpected bills!
  • Ask for help - many of us have a family member or friend who help us with our finances.
  • Give yourself a treat for dealing with something that feels overwhelming 🙂
Time Management (Apps)
  • ‘Fabulous’ - Helps you set and get into a routine for the morning or evening – it sets alarms, tells you what to do to help you keep on track.
  • ‘Pomodoro’ - Helps you set time for an activity to completely focus and then have a break (called the pomodoro technique)
  • ‘Keep me out’ – blocks you from getting on social media for given periods of time so you don’t get distracted!
  • ‘Flexibits’ is a helpful online Calander and task app - https://flexibits.com/fantastical
Around the Home
  • We find being organised around the house makes things seem less overwhelming. We try to make sure each thing has a ‘place’. It especially helps to keep important financial documents in one place.
  • Cooking – we find electric scales a life saver although some of us prefer to use measuring cups. We also don’t worry about timings too much; we use our common sense- does it smell/ look cooked?!
  • If we do need a timer, we use our phones or Alexa.
  • Use digital alarm clocks.
  • Some of us find using songs for time durations helpful- Rose has Taylor Swift play lists for different time durations so she knows how long she has to get ready or how long until work.
  • Whenever possible use pre-set programmes on appliances such as washing machines or on air friers.
  • Keep a Note pad by the phone to take down notes or phone numbers – ask for any important information to also be sent by email or as a message. Emily always has a note pad with her!
  • Did you know you can get electronic or actual sticky notes for the back of your iphone here - https://ilovehandles.com/
Exercise and Health
  • Medicine -If you aren’t sure on the dosage or instructions ask the pharmacy to write down the exact times and the dosage clearly for you.
  • Dieting/ calorie counting – ask for photos of what amounts look like on a plate so you can compare rather than having to measure and weigh – Joe says this would have helped him as he couldn’t imagine what a ‘small’ or ‘large’ portion would look like.
  • Exercise – Acknowledge that it can be challenging in the gym with all the different numbers on the different machines but it’s okay to ask for help and no-one knows what a lot of those numbers mean at the start!
  • You might find it easier to use timers rather than counting in the gym e.g. 1 minute per exercise rather than do 20 of this exercise. You can then focus on the exercise and not the counting!
Out and About
  • Pay by card from only one of your ‘pots’ so it is harder to over-spend/ get in debt e.g. have pots for bills, rent, saving, day to day money so you know when it is gone it is gone!
  • Ask friends to help work out bills or tips in restaurants etc – Josie always tells asks her friends to help!
  • Use historical dates, birthdays or words for passwords so that you have something to remember other than numbers!
  • Use Equatio/texthelp can help with calculations and explanations.
Strategies for Work
  • Use tools like Notion, Asana and Jira to help manage the workday.
  • Use a calculator and/or a times tables grids.
  • Use the notes function on your phone.
  • Utilise assistive technology – Excel, an add on for Outlook to ‘easily’ file and organise emails (this is like One Note only simplified) and use Outlook Calendar.
  • Keep clear posters/ notes with key information e.g., the company address, postcode and phone number.
  • Keep notepads or coloured paper (white paper doesn’t work for everyone) handy.
  • Highlighter pens are really useful!
  • Share the site https://accessiblenumbers.com/ with your work colleagues so they can learn about displaying numbers clearly.

Content Design for Users with Dyscalculia or low numeracy

Numbers are all around us and are often used in ways that make it difficult for them to be accessed by those with dyscalculia and maths difficulties.

We were delighted to be part of the consultancy process for this poster researched and created by Laura Parker with support from Rachel Malic and Jane MacFadyen for the Department of Work and Pensions. It sets out how to create inclusive content for people with dyscalculia and low numeracy.

Laura, Rachel and Jane write that,
‘We need to deliver services which convey numbers plainly and in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. There are simple ways we can design to help people make better sense of numbers. And this is vital. It could mean the difference between people using a service to access the support they need or not being able to use it at all.’

You can read more about the project here:
You can download this poster to raise awareness and to inform your employer of simple ways to help here:

One of our brilliant Adults with Dyscalculia advisory board members, Laura Parker, was one of the team who created this poster. She has also created this fabulous website with tons of useful information on how to make numbers more accessible to people with dyscalculia and low numeracy. We are proud to endorse this project: https://accessiblenumbers.com/

Content Design

Workplace Support

There are several schemes in the UK to help people with work and workplace needs. Here are some important tips and bits of information for those with dyscalculia:
Reasonable Adjustments

You can ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ in your workplace to help you manage your job with dyscalculia. 

To meet the Equality Act (2010) employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs. This applies to all workers, including trainees, apprentices, contract workers and business partners.

You can find out more about ‘reasonable adjustments’ here: (https://www.gov.uk/reasonable-adjustments-for-disabled-workers) and here:  (https://n-attc.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Are-You-Neurodivergent-2.pdf)

A workplace needs assessment does not give a diagnosis. It is designed to identify reasonable adjustments that can be implemented to support a person in the workplace. 

The assessor will complete an impartial evaluation and will work with the individual and their employer to identify potential solutions to any workplace issues. The assessments takes into account the specific needs of the individual alongside the job role, job responsibilities and the workplace environment. 

There are many companies who offer workplace needs assessments and your employer may already have a company that they work with. 

We have worked with, https://n-attc.co.uk/workplace-needs-assessment/ and https://www.positivedyslexia.co.uk/employers/

You can get support via the Access to Work Scheme. 

Through access to work you can apply for:

  • a grant to help pay for practical support with your work.
  • support with managing your mental health at work.
  • money to pay for communication support at job interviews.

Access to work could also give you a grant to help pay for things like: 

  • specialist equipment and assistive software.
  • support workers, like a BSL interpreter, a job coach or a travel buddy.
  • costs of travelling to work, if you cannot use public transport.
  • adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work.
  • physical changes to your workplace.

Your workplace can include your home if you work from there some or all of the time.

You can find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work

If you need help with the process of applying our friends at NATTC would be happy to  assist  https://n-attc.co.uk/access-to-work/

Blogs for Adults

Case Studies For Adults

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