“I’ve always hated maths and the feeling is quite mutual”
“I don’t think I have that dyslexia with maths thing, I’m probably just stupid!”
These are just some of the opening statements that hooked me into assessing and supporting adults with dyscalculia and why it’s been such a fantastic journey.
I started my leap into education as a teaching assistant when my children were small. My husband and I live, and work, on a livestock farm in rural County Durham and I needed a job that I could stay at home and look after them in the school holidays. After being encouraged by the teachers I supported, I retrained to be a primary teacher and absolutely loved it.
My last primary class was a challenging Year 4 one with brilliant children and a lot with undiagnosed special needs. Money for the school was tight, the waiting list for support was long and we had to wait months before an educational psychologist could assess them. Even then, it was only the ones who were really struggling. “So, what about the others?” I asked.
Disillusioned by the response I received which was basically…a shrug of the shoulders, I resigned and, not knowing what I was going to do next, joined an agency supporting adults in Higher Education. It turned out to be the best move ever! The adults were so in need and soaked up every scrap of information I gave them. They worked hard and we had many, many tears which was tough for everyone.
When the government changed the rules and said I needed a degree in dyslexia to continue, I got my big girl pants on once more, and stepped back into training. From being a dyslexia specialist to being one which also assesses and supports those with dyscalculia was a natural progression and I started my own business supporting all ages.
Although I can, and do assess children, I have found that assessing and supporting adults is one of the most rewarding things I do. They come with great anxieties, they are fearful and tearful. But they are resilient, they are determined and they absolutely NEED answers. The biggest fear is that they do not have anything ‘wrong’ with them and they are simply stupid (their words not mine). They are complex and have become masters at hiding their difficulties. I often liken my job to being a detective. It is hard assessing adults but I am tenacious and take pride in finding out the answers they have so long needed. Knowing helps to ease concerns and learning becomes much easier as a result.
Living on the farm helps put their anxieties on hold and you can often find me walking around the farm with the person I am assessing. Whilst feeding the animals, playing with the collies and collecting the eggs, we chat about what they feel their problems are with maths and why they feel they need answers at this stage in their lives. They open up and we get to grips with misconceptions and social difficulties such as always heading for the toilet on a night out when it’s their turn to add up the bill! How they are afraid that they have ‘passed on’ their maths difficulties to their children and how their grandchildren know more about maths at 10 years old than they ever could.
Once they have been assessed then it’s time to put things in place to support them. Sometimes I tutor them and sometimes they just need advice. They then start their own learning journey and often get back in touch to ask for any top tips, general maths advice or just to tell me how well they are doing. They want to learn, they want to be successful and they NEED to know that whatever happens, they are not stupid, they just need a bit of support to help them along the way.
Alison can be contacted here – [email protected]
or on 0774 506 7754