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Expert Q&A

I think my niece might have dyscalculia, but her teacher won’t consider additional accommodations. What should we do?

I am convinced that my 20-year-old niece, who has cerebral palsy, also has dyscalculia, a math disability. She is only doing fourth and fifth grade math. Her math teachers have written her off as unteachable. She wants so badly to earn her diploma, but the math teacher says that will never happen because of the math.

The teacher, in my opinion, has absolutely no patience with learning disabled children and no interest in trying anything different. At present, she attends the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis, Indiana. We are desperate to find her real help, an individual or school that knows how to teach someone with dyscalculia. Can you please guide us in our desperate search before it is too late for yet another learning disabled child?

First, given that you believe that your niece has a neurological math problem that the school is not recognizing, it may make sense to either obtain a private evaluation by someone qualified to assess this issue or to request an independent evaluation at public expense. In any event, since the school is denying the problem, you need to find independent evidence to support your suspicion.

Assuming that testing confirms the previously undiagnosed dyscalculia, the school would potentially both have to make accommodations and potentially provide compensatory educational services to remediate the math problem that they had previously failed to recognize. Some of the University- or Hospital-based diagnostic clinics in your area may be able to help with the diagnostic end. You may also want to contact the Indiana Resource Center for Families with Special Needs, InSource , to get advice on ways to deal with the situation and for resources that can help you to advocate for her.

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