What is Dyscalculia? Parent Advocate Laura Jackson Talks About her Family’s Journey with a Math Disability

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What is dyscalculia? If you’re wondering if your child has this often misunderstood math disability, this episode is for you. My guest is Laura Jackson, a mom, writer, and advocate who helps families struggling with dyscalculia move from confusion and overwhelm to understanding and connection. Laura’s passion is to provide advocacy, coaching, and encouragement for overwhelmed parents and discouraged children who feel alone in their journey with dyscalculia.

In this conversation, Laura shares insights from her new book, Discovering Dyscalculia: One Family’s Journey with a Math Disability, which was inspired by her own family’s journey of getting her daughter’s diagnosis, how they navigated working with the school, and finding strategies that work for her beyond her education. Laura also shared many, many strategies and resources for parents who want to learn more about dyscalculia and the early signs that they can look out for if they suspect their child might be struggling with it.


About Laura Jackson

Laura Jackson is a mom, writer, and advocate. She helps families struggling with dyscalculia, move from confusion and overwhelm to understanding and connection.

Dyscalculia impacts 5% of the population, yet there are very little resources to be found for those living with this math disability. Laura’s passion is to provide advocacy, coaching, and encouragement for overwhelmed parents and discouraged children who feel alone in their journey with dyscalculia. She also wants to create a safe place where parents can understand and appreciate their child’s uniqueness, and where connection, empathy, and meaning can be made in the midst of this difficulty.

Laura loves being out in nature, walking in the woods or camping with friends. She lives in the Seattle area with her best friend and husband, Sean, and their two creative and silly daughters. She learns the most from these three wonderful persons, and she is a better person herself because of them.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What the early signs of dyscalculia are that parents can look out for
  • How Laura navigated the journey of getting her daughter evaluated at school and what she did to help educate the special ed department about dyscalculia
  • Why some schools avoid suggesting an evaluation to parents but instead wait for parents to ask for their child to be evaluated
  • Laura’s favorite researchers and resources on dyscalculia
  • Examples of the adjustments Laura made at home to accommodate her daughter


Resources mentioned for discovering dyscalculia


Special message from our sponsor

Forman School, located in Litchfield, CT, is a coeducational preparatory boarding school for students in grades 9-12. Forman educates bright, motivated students with learning differences, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and executive function delays. Through a diverse curriculum and individualized learning, students are empowered to understand how their brains function and how they learn. Here, students embrace their differences and build a foundation for their future.

Learn more about what sets Forman apart at formanschool.org.

Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Forman School is the Connecticut coed college prep boarding school for grades nine through 12. dedicated to empowering bright students with learning differences like dyslexia, ADHD, and executive function delays. Get more information at formanschool.org.

Laura Jackson  00:17

The special ed department at the school hadn’t even heard of dyscalculia even though it’s between three and 8% of the population has it so it kind of averages out to, you know, we say 5%, one in 20 kids so one in every classroom has a dyscalculia adult or child in there. But they didn’t know much about it. And so I started feeding the special ed teacher resources I was finding online, I just think that was my full time job at that point I’m researching online.

Debbie Reber  00:48

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. This is the last new episode of this winter spring season. And to close it out. I’m sharing my conversation with Laura Jackson, a mom, writer and advocate. Laura helps families struggling with dyscalculia move from confusion and overwhelm to understanding and connection. So Laura’s passion is to provide advocacy, coaching and encouragement for overwhelmed parents and discouraged children who feel alone in their journey with dyscalculia. She also wants to create a safe place where parents can understand and appreciate their child’s uniqueness, and where connection and empathy and meaning can be made in the midst of this challenging learning disability. In this conversation, Laura shares insights from her new book Discovering Dyscalculia: One Family’s Journey with a Math Disability, which was inspired by her own family’s journey of getting her daughter’s diagnosis, how they navigated working with the school, and finding strategies that work for her beyond her education. Laura also shared many, many strategies and many resources for parents who want to learn more about dyscalculia. And the early signs that they can look out for if they suspect their child might be struggling with it. This is the first episode we’ve done on dyscalculia. So I’m very excited to be sharing this today. One important announcement before I get to my conversation with Laura, you may remember that a few months back I mentioned that neuroscientist speaker and author of Insight Into a Bright Mind, Dr. Nicole Tetreault offered to run a meditation class just for the tilt parenting community. So Nicole and I have been planning this behind the scenes and we are ready to get started. Nicole’s mindful practices guiding the heart and mind will run for four consecutive weeks starting May 4. And she’ll be guiding us through a process to experience greater breath and heart awareness, as well as mindfulness practices to encourage the growth of inner resources that can calm our nervous systems, understanding the brain science of our own neuron uniqueness and techniques to ground us in the present moment with greater compassion. Each session will be an hour long and will include a meditation, a Dharma talk and community reflection and connection. And this is the first time we’ve offered anything like this here at tilt parenting. I’m so excited to learn from Nicole and with all of you to see the details and get registered, go to tiltparenting.com/meditation. That’s tiltparenting.com/meditation. And one last thing, though, this is the end of the season of new episodes. I’m already busy recording interviews for this summer season, which will begin on June 7. I’m always excited to dive into research and find new voices to bring to this show. And I can already tell it’s going to be a fantastic lineup between now and then I will be opening the doors to my Differently Wired Club. That’s the last week of May. So if you have been thinking of joining us, be sure to sign up for the interest list at tiltparenting.com/club so you don’t miss that enrollment period. And just a quick thank you again, thanks for being a part of the Tilt Community. Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping us reach that 4 million downloads milestone for the show, and for celebrating six years of Tilt Parenting with me. And I’ll be back with more new episodes soon. But of course, there’s one more to listen to for now. And that is the following conversation on dyscalculia with Laura Jackson. So here you go and enjoy the show.

Debbie Reber  04:45

Hey, Laura, welcome to the podcast.

Laura Jackson  04:47

Thanks, Debbie. It’s fun to be here chatting with you.

Debbie Reber  04:51

This is going to be just a lovely conversation and I’m honored to be your first podcast interview. Your book is important and I really think fills a gap in In, you know what’s available for parents. And so when I found out you’re writing it and you know, we’ve been in touch for a while I was really excited to, to bring you on to talk about it. But usually I have guests tell me their personal why and all of that kind of stuff. But your personal Why is really your story. So I would love it if you could just give us a little bit about your story, as we were discussing before I hit record, this wasn’t your plan to be writing this book, I’m sure when you became a parent you didn’t know you’d be going down this journey. So can you tell us a little bit about your story and how you came to be doing this?

Laura Jackson  05:29

Yeah, that’s, that’s funny, I once heard a therapist say that our values in life come out of the places of joy and places of pain. And so I think about that when I think about how the book came up, out, and even just my work with parents, who have children with dyscalculia. And when my daughter was nine years old, she was in third grade. And that was when I really started wondering why she was struggling so much in math. And she had been struggling previously. And looking back knowing what I know now about dyscalculia, I maybe would have recognized it sooner. But I really didn’t, as a parent, I thought, you know, all kids learn differently, and they’re at their own pace. And I wasn’t stressed out about the things that were happening so far. But in third grade, she was very bright, articulate, loved school, and was really struggling with math. And this was after receiving two years of pullout help at school. And I was having lunch with a friend. And she mentioned to me something about her own math, learning disability. And I thought I, I mean, I’m kind of embarrassed about what I thought at that point, I thought you can’t have a learning disability and math, can you? It’s so black and white. And I Googled it and found the understood.org website, and the description of dyscalculia matched my daughter to a tee. I remember just staring at it thinking oh my goodness. So that started the journey of learning more, reading everything I could find on it, which honestly wasn’t a whole lot available. Most of what I found was coming out of the UK, but that really started this process of learning about it, and then eventually getting her evaluated privately and at school. That’s the journey of dyscalculia. The book happened because a couple of years ago, our family made a big pivot, and we moved out of the city to a kind of a quieter pace of life. And I quit my job in real estate, I was working part time. And I started reading through Julia Cameron’s Artists Way book. And it’s all about unblocking parts of creative parts in yourself that are blocked. And I started writing every day. And as a part of that writing, I started a blog and I thought, I’m just going to start sharing about dyscalculia, and at that point, my daughter was in sixth grade. And we were in the middle of a lot of changes. And so I was just writing one to process my own, like story and what was happening and to, I knew there must be someone else out there like us who were having similar struggles. And I could not for the life of me find another blog online that was writing about dyscalculia from a personal point of view. So one thing led to another and GHF Press found my blog, reached out. And an editor asked if I’d write a book. And I, you know, maybe I wanted to write a book and like the next 10 years of my life, but I I hadn’t imagined so soon and during a pandemic, but I decided to say yes, I thought they’re gonna, they’re gonna help me write a book. So let’s do it. And it was a really rewarding process actually, for processing my own journey. And also just realizing how far we had come in that time. And so really all that happened just during the pandemic, and here we are.

Debbie Reber  09:11

That’s awesome. That’s a great story. Another example of a parent creating what they needed. And it really is generous then for everyone else to follow. I want to go back to, you know, kind of earlier in your story, because first of all, it’s lovely that you had a friend who mentioned a math disability, like we all have that friend who says something that connects the dots for us. And you know, like, oh, oh, like, there might be something going on here. And then we can kind of go down that rabbit hole. But you said that you then realize that there were things that you were seeing that your daughter had struggled with in math that you didn’t realize was dyscalculia or some sort of math disability. What were some of those things? I’m just wondering what are some of those signs that a parent who’s listening to This might be thinking home, I wonder if this is what’s going on with my child.

Laura Jackson  10:03

I think I’ll start back at some signs that now I know we’re scientists calculating even as early as kindergarten. And dyscalculia. Experts now say that it can be, and should be, it’s great if it’s discovered in kindergarten in first grade, because the help can begin so much sooner. So as a small child, she was never really interested in numbers. And, you know, she was interested in a lot of other things. So I wasn’t worried. But looking back on her counting sequences would often be off, and she would kind of laugh about it. But it was almost like counting one through 20. As a young child, she either couldn’t do it, or she would mix up numbers, kindergarten, the teacher said to me, she’s not keeping up with her math, as well as the other kids. Well, I didn’t really like our kindergarten teacher for other reasons. And so I didn’t pay a lot of attention. And I thought, She’s a very, very bright kid. And so I thought, I just didn’t register that you could be learning disabled and bright. Just, honestly, that’s how it was at that point. Now I know differently. And then in first grade, and second grade, the teachers started sending us home with flashcards for simple addition and subtraction, that they said she should know, by heart. And she also started receiving, they said, you know, she’s kind of struggling with just some of the regular math, why don’t we put her in a small group, you know, outside the classroom, we’ll do some extra stuff a few times a week, and we thought that’s great, you know, like math’s not her thing, but let’s get her some extra help. So she was already having trouble with those. And then in third grade, what we are seeing as there was a multiplication drill every Friday, and she the whole year, she could not get past the one times tables for her multiplication, while all of her friends could do all of them, you know, by the end of the year, and even, we’re just we’re making progress. I think there were a couple of the two times tables she knew, but honestly, she went through the whole year unable to fill out the worksheet. And her anxiety about math was starting to go through the roof. So she was starting to worry, I remember her being in tears and asking me mommy and my stupid and I knew she wasn’t stupid. But I didn’t know what was going on either. And at home, we were doing flashcards, simple ones, like, I would ask her, What’s four plus two, and she would give me six, I would immediately say, what is six minus two. And she would have no idea. Like the idea of switching those numbers, it just didn’t make sense. Another really telltale factor is reading a clock and having a really hard time reading an analog clock, whether it was at school or home. I mean, I would get frustrated. And I would say don’t teach you to read a clock at school, you know, and then I would work on it at home. And she was always confused by the numbers on the clock. And I remember later reading about this. And all of these things, there is a reason why that happens. But clocks, for example, a clock is really a number line that’s been pulled into a circle. And this calculus does not have a number line in their head like most of us do, where we can just kind of see the numbers in which order they’re in. And you can kind of move up addition and subtraction in your head, but they don’t have that number line. And so that’s confusing and the other one there see a number line, they get confused about whether they’re counting the lines or the spaces between the lines. And I know that sounds crazy. But it really is something that is confusing to them. So when they look at a clock, and we’re measuring, you know, that whole space between the one and the two to be the one o’clock hour. They don’t see it that way. There’s just this arrow in the middle of nowhere. And they have to guess, is it a one or two? You know, they don’t have a sense of that.

Laura Jackson  14:14

So those are some of the really early signs. Some ones that I didn’t know were happening. But after I started noticing I could tell that this was happening. She couldn’t subitize and that means like to see a small quantity and know what it is instantly. And you’ll see this right away with dice. So I didn’t know that she was actually counting the dots on the dice to know when we played games to know what number it was where the rest of us can basically look at any dice up to six and instantly know what number it is. So that’s another sign with dyscalculia when they’re playing dominoes or dice games, they often will still be counting on their fingers. And there’s so much controversy on this online. But basically, if they’re still counting on their fingers when their peers move on to other methods, that can be a sign that they haven’t learned other more efficient ways to count, other than using their fingers. So that was another thing we noticed. And she was starting to become aware and hiding under the table to count. There was confusion with dates, and time. So even if we weren’t using an analog clock, and you were looking at a digital clock, and if it was 1050, we, you know, be like, Oh, we have, you know, 10 minutes to 11. She was just like what, you know, like that didn’t make sense. And for discount Kulick, it’s hard for them to know, to remember that they’re 60 minutes in an hour. So that’s one thing that’s difficult. And then you just have these numbers that just even the sight of a sequence of numbers is so befuddling to their mind, it can stress them out, and they don’t know what they’re looking for. So those are some of the things that started popping up. Later. We also noticed, shortly after we learned she was dyscalculia, there were certain board games that were very stressful to her and that she never could never win at so connect for, you have to be able to see when there’s going to be four dots in a row and kind of change your play. Well, she couldn’t instantly see that there was four. So unless she’s gonna sit there and count each one with her fingers. She was just popping in coins to the grid. And there were some other games like that pen day, she couldn’t instantly see the numbers. And then even some strategy games like our family enjoys playing, playing Settlers of Catan. And we realized all the math that was involved at any given moment, she had to see how many of a certain type of object another person had, and do a math calculation in her head. And she hated that game until we realized why she did. And we’ve come up with some alternative ways. And now she enjoys it. But those were some other things that came up. There’s more. 

Debbie Reber  17:08

Yeah, I’m sure there is. But you’re giving such a good picture of what this might look like. And it’s so many things that you just wouldn’t necessarily, you know, go to that conclusion, as you said, like, oh, there must be a math disability here. And, you know, you said ideally, this is something that would be discovered in kindergarten. I know, that’s the same for dyslexia, which is, you know, more common, and it’s pretty easy to identify yet so many kids go undiagnosed for years. I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your journey, because we really do rely on schools to flag these things for us not to send home more worksheets, but to understand what’s really going on. So what happened in your situation, as you started to discover and make sense of what might be going on? How did you navigate that with the school? Yeah.

Laura Jackson  17:59

Well, when I first read about the description of dyscalculia, and, and realized that it matched my daughter, I reached out to the school, we already had a team, I think it’s called an SST team, our team set up for that she was receiving extra help and math. So I met with them. And I said, Hey, I was doing this reading and came across this description of dyscalculia. A, what do you think, do you think my daughter could have this learning disability? And at that point, I didn’t know how to approach the school going backwards. I learned later that they weren’t allowed to tell me, oh, you should get your child evaluated, at least in the school district we were in. And I found out later. So they didn’t say anything. They just said, the teacher confirmed your child is trying way harder than everybody else, and isn’t getting the math. And the math specialists who have been working with her for a couple of years now. She was a real advocate for us. But they all just agreed. There’s some huge math problems here. And the conclusion was, let’s wait until fourth grade and see what the teacher says, Well, this was halfway through third grade. And I thought, okay, because I just didn’t know any better. So I started reading, and the more I read, I thought more time is not going to help this child if she really does have dyscalculia and so at that point, I reached out to some parents who had navigated the school systems for the child with dyslexia and I said how do you do this? How do you get the help you need at school? And so they let me know you have to request you have to officially request that your child be evaluated at school and so I jumped through all those hoops which took I mean, she didn’t get evaluated till the following November so almost took nine months to get through that. And meanwhile another parent said you need to have your child privately evaluated because the school All will have their own evaluation. But they really just are testing for what services do we need to provide your child and you’re going to have a much better picture if you have a neuro psych eval done on her. And we were really grateful to get in with someone, and it was a nine month waitlist as well. But so worth it. We had that after the school evaluation. So the school I would say, honestly, wasn’t very helpful. And I think one, their hands were a little bit tied. They had so many students they were evaluating, and when they looked at my daughter, initially, they didn’t want to test her because they said, she loves school, she’s doing well, she has friends. And basically, her scores were coming in average, because she was doing so well in some areas, and really poorly and others and it just kind of averaged her out. And so she was not someone they were worried about. 

Laura Jackson  20:57

So I had to play that really uncomfortable role of which probably most parents on your podcast have had to play, were really standing up and saying, No, something something is off. And, we need to figure out what that is. So we can get her the help she needs. And so she was evaluated, she did qualify for an IEP with, you know, they didn’t give a diagnosis, but they just said she qualifies for help in math, because she has received all this help, and is not progressing as her peers are. So they set up an IEP. But one struggle with that was that the special ed department at the school, hadn’t even heard of dyscalculia even though it’s between three and 8% of the population has it. So it kind of averages out to, you know, we say 5%, one in 20 kids. So one in every classroom, has a dyscalculia adult or child in there. But they didn’t know much about it. And so I started feeding the special ed teacher like resources I was finding online, I was just, I think that was my full time job at that point I’m researching online. We did that for the rest of that year, and the following year, and really, my daughter made no progress at math. She had such a lovely, nice teacher, but who didn’t know a thing about dyscalculia. And I didn’t either, so I thought, well, you just have to help them in math the usual way. And the problem is what I’ve learned now is that does calculix They’re wired differently, and they need a different way of learning math. And so during that kind of frustrating time with IEPs and special ed, that was also when we made a move. And so I was excited about the new school districts and their IEP set her up with a pullout math class for a full hour every single day. And I thought that was going to be amazing. And it was not amazing. Turns out they also did not know not only do they not know how to teach a child with dyscalculia there was a lot of trying to be tactful, but not a lot of skills and how to help students with anxiety and the anxiety they were facing because they felt like something was wrong with them. And that wasn’t just my own daughter, but it was all the students in the class. After a while of that my husband and I thought that her anxiety had returned. She was biting her nails, she was unable to sleep. She was so anxious about going to school. And I just thought we can’t do this to her. This is causing more harm than good. And I don’t know what that next step is. But it’s certainly not staying in this class. And so we pulled her out. And in our state, you can do partial homeschooling. So what we did is we stayed home in the morning for homeroom, and I taught her math and I found some books out of the UK. And then she went to the rest of the school day at school. That was actually the beginning of something really great, actually. And we are still doing that same system now where she’s homeschooled for math and science. And then she has the rest of the day at middle school. I really thought in the early days that it was the school’s responsibility and I didn’t realize this isn’t how it is. I thought they would let me know if something was wrong with my kid. You know, and I saw other kids struggling at our school and we were at a I mean, it’s a large school district. But we were at a school that had high parental involvement. And I would say more resources than the average city school. But still I would look at my daughter and I would look at other kids who obviously needed extra help. And nobody was saying anything to the parents like it was strange and I thought if they’re not letting me know, then probably everything’s okay. And I quickly realized that’s not actually the case. And I hear that from other parents too, whose kids are struggling and they keep saying to me, but I’ve checked with the school And the school hasn’t said anything. And I’m thinking, there’s a lot of reasons the school can’t say anything legally, for fear of lawsuits. But secondly, a lot of them don’t even have training on various learning differences. So, and especially dyscalculia, math learning difference, I mean, there’s just hardly anything out there, yet, but there’s more and more coming.

Debbie Reber  25:24

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Debbie Reber  26:08

Yeah, there’s so many things that came up, as you were talking about that I’m remembering one of the very first episodes of this podcast I did almost six years ago, it was about dyslexia. And it was someone who had gotten her Master’s as a reading specialist. And she said, dyslexia was never mentioned in any of my graduate school courses, and you share it, and you write about the fact that you were the one educating the special education teacher on what dyscalculia was. And I think that’s where so many of us get stuck. It’s a real challenge, also, for parents who don’t have the resources to be as involved. And we are really counting on the school to bring our attention to things or to understand how to navigate, and they’re not aware of it, and then your child is also twice exceptional. And you talk about that in the book. And that is such a common experience, right that these two week kids, they learn how to compensate for their challenges, or their relative weaknesses, and therefore they’re doing okay, right. And we don’t know necessarily, that they’re how hard they’re working behind the scenes to do things or that they are struggling with so much anxiety. I wanted to just ask you a question. I don’t know if you know the answer to this. But you said that the school couldn’t recommend that you do an evaluation for this or look for this. Can you say a little bit more about that? You said it might be your school district, but what have you heard from other families navigating this because I don’t understand what’s really going on there. 

Laura Jackson  27:41

I wish I did. I can only speak from my experience in and talking into different school districts in our state. So it could be very different in other places. The school definitely could say your kid is struggling in math, and we’d love to give her some extra pullout help. And so they did that. I ended up asking a couple parents whose child had gone through the evaluation process at school, and was asking them, why wouldn’t the school say to me when I suggested it, let’s have your child evaluated for dyscalculia. And I was told by a few other parents that they had had that experience as well. One of them worked for the school district, and was told that they were not allowed to suggest to parents that they have their child evaluated for learning disability. And the reason could be, what if they suggested that well, they represent the school district. And by the IDEA, they have to evaluate a child whose parent has asked. And they’re also required, if the evaluation shows a struggle, they’re required to provide that help. So the school district doesn’t necessarily want teachers saying that, because then they have to follow up in all these ways that they may not want to, they may not have the staff, which is probably most likely they don’t have the staffing to take on all those issues. So like, could face lawsuits on that point. So say, they don’t hold up their end of the deal of evaluating and providing services, they can be sued. The other problem could be what if a teacher says, I think your kid has dyslexia or dyscalculia? What if the parent doesn’t want to hear that? And they’re upset? You know, I wanted to know, I wanted to know what’s going on. And that’s kind of my personality, like what’s really going on? But you know, what, if the parent was upset with that they could get upset with the school district and your teachers making false claims about my kid and legally cause trouble that way. So those are the two I would just say guesses. I didn’t get to hear especially that, you know, staff slash parent members if, if the school district explained why they weren’t allowed to do that. They were just told they were not to do that. And then when we moved school districts to a smaller school district I was meeting with some coaches here on the island. And they said it’s a similar situation. So parents really have to advocate for their own child to be evaluated. So it’s very tricky for me. And I honestly have had so many questions about that. I’ve started asking people in other states, because I’m just wondering if that was a local thing? Or if that is really a problem, like with policy that we have like a little hiccup?

Debbie Reber  30:26

Yeah, I think so. It’s interesting to hear what you shared. And it does make sense. And all I keep thinking is that it’s the students who are the losers in this situation, because if they are catching these things early, it’s really helpful for so many reasons, right? Self esteem, like so many things that can go off the rails, if a child has an undiagnosed learning disability. It’s just unfortunate that there’s so many kinds of barriers to getting that information, you wrote in great detail in the book, the way you kind of navigated this road of getting an evaluation, a private evaluation, finding the right person.

Laura Jackson  31:07

I had a lot to say about all that because I could ask the same thing I was just writing because there were so many details in it, like I said, it felt like a full time job. And I was one of those parents where I thought I was at the time, I think I was just doing, I wasn’t working part time, I was helping my husband’s counseling practice in the back end of things. But I was, I was able to give all this time that most parents cannot do and very well aware. So I thought, if I can write it down, that could help some parents who don’t have as much time navigate it much quicker. I do think some changes are happening. Like I know some school districts in some states are starting to do some early screeners for learning differences, like much sooner. And so that could really be a benefit to students who don’t have parents that you know, are like all over it like I was, and also for parents like me, who would have liked to know so much sooner. So do you think there are some positive things happening?

Debbie Reber  32:08

I’m wondering if you can share some of your favorite resources. You mentioned understood.org, which we refer to a lot here on Tilt Parenting… I love those guys. And they have been around for a while and are expanding, you know, the resources that they have to share, but any other kind of places that you would direct parents to if they’re thinking this is happening.

Laura Jackson  32:32

My favorite researcher is Brian Butterworth. He is a professor at the University London University College London. And he’s written a few books. My favorite book is this one. “Dyscalculia: From Science to Education.” It’s a bit technical of a read. Mine is more of a quick parent read. But he was my favorite person. And you can find he has some YouTube videos online. If you just search Brian Butterworth dyscalculia. He is probably just at the forefront of research and information. And he’s very entertaining to listen to. He has some great videos by some people who have interviewed him. He has another book coming out. He told me so we were in conversation about my daughter’s dyscalculia. And his book, actually before I wrote my book, and I said you know these are the people I’ve been following. I’ve been following Jane Emerson. Jane Emerson and Patricia Baptie have written a few books on dyscalculia and their educators in the UK. And I’m also following Ronit Bird who’s a dyscalculia educator in the UK. And Doreen Yao and they’re these people, and he’s like, oh, yeah, they’re basically all they all trained under some of the same people together. But those are the people I’m following the most in the US. There’s Dr. Schreuder of Dyscalculia Services. I just met with her this weekend for coffee, a wonderfully warm person. So she’s a doctor, and she’s really focusing on growing tutors that are trained for dyscalculia. But she really understands her stuff. And she’s a great resource. In the UK, the dyscalculia network is really growing. So they’re kind of taking all these resources and have given a really great new website, like literally I think in the last two years dyscalculia network. So they’re combining like, where can you get training for dyscalculia where can parents go? Where do you get tutors, they’re doing online teaching, they have a YouTube channel, so there’s someone else I love and stay in touch with. I found there’s a lot of people who claim to be dyscalculia tutors online and offer dyscalculia services and honestly when I look at their stuff, I kind of hold it up. These people I follow in the UK are kind of like my filter And for because they all match, like how they teach, you know, really matches. Steve Chen is another one who’s kind of in with them. And he does a lot of work with dyslexia. But then he kind of has pulled in the numbers stuff too. But I kind of hold up when I find someone new, who claims to be at this calculator resource, do they kind of match with all these other experts are saying,

Debbie Reber  35:22

Well, that’s great. There’s so many good resources and listeners, I’ll have links to all of these in the show notes page. So just go there. And you can check all of these out. It’s interesting that so much of this work is happening in the UK, that’s also the case for PDA which is something a lot of listeners are exploring. It’s very under-resourced in the United States. And there are a lot of practitioners in the UK and in Australia, who are really kind of just further ahead, and their knowledge and understanding of that, before we wrap up, you have a chapter in there called practical supports at home that I thought was really interesting. And I’m just wondering if you could share just personally, like what are one or two game-changing supports that you implemented in your family to support your daughter?

Laura Jackson  36:09

Well, the first piece was, it’s going to leak into the education piece, but it was really taking her math understanding back to using handheld manipulatives Brian Butterworth and Dorian Yeo, they really believe that the main problem with poor discalculias minds is that the area in the brain that processes numbers, that it’s they don’t know exactly what it is or isn’t doing. But it’s doing something different than it is in an average mind or the other 95%. And so there’s a problem there. And the problem seems to be the lack of understanding numbers as sets, so hard to explain. But like when you see a four, or something that is what you would be, whatever is for on a dice. They don’t understand that as a grouping of two and two, or three and one, like four is just this number, it doesn’t have something anchoring it as such. So you can imagine when you start to go, working out calculations, if you don’t have a sense that four is these four dots, or two and two are like what that set is, and you’re combining it with another set. Of course, it’s very confusing. And you may think, well, they’re fine, because they can count up. And most dyscalculics can count up. So they may say 45678, but they don’t have a sense of like, two groups of four. So really, the hands on materials really help solidify some of those, that understanding of numbers being a set. So that’s practical for school, but at home one tool we use that is very practical is the Time Timer, and probably a lot of your listeners use it. It’s really helpful for lots of learning differences. But we use the Time Timer too, because it’s a visual timer. So my daughter has been using it so long that she can have a sense of how long she has. In fact, for this podcast, we went to set it so she would know how long to be quiet in her room. Well, we met so she can visually see. And it really gives her a sense of how long an hour is how long 30 minutes is. And she’s come to recognize that because it takes her so long to look at a clock. And one figure out what time it is, but then figure out what would be 20 minutes from then and then hold that in her mind. You know, it’s very complicated, so she can set her timer for getting ready for school, for knowing how long to do her homework, how long till we leave. It’s like one of our best friends sitting on her dresser. I explained more about their timer. I just put out a guest blog that I wrote just explaining a little bit more in detail why it helps. But another real practical tool we use is that our houses we have welcome industries visual, measuring spoons, and there, instead of just different sizes, like the teaspoon is a circle, half teaspoon is a half a circle. And she loves those. So the kitchen can be very daunting for her and overwhelming. But when she pulls out her little spoons, it just gives her more competence. And she just feels like she understands what she needs to grab to measure whatever she’s making. So that’s another practical thing. We’ve modified some games so we love to play Settlers of Catan as a family and now because she can’t look at each person and know what their point score is we each have a little dry erase board in front of us that we’ve just made with tape and paper. And it is the five dot patterns. That’s something I didn’t talk about that’s really important but dot patterns really helped us calculix have a sense of numbers of sets and recognizing numbers without having to count each one. So we have the symbol of the number 10. And we color it in as we’re playing the game. And so at any moment, she can look around the board and see how many points everyone has from our board. And now she really loves the game, because it has a lot of strategy and critical thinking and reasoning which she’s very gifted in. So she can really enjoy that part without being stumbled by calculating dot patterns. That was another practical tool that helps with learning, but also just all sorts of numbers. And Ronit bird has an ebook, which is where we learned it. And it’s very colorful, it has little videos. If you have dyslexia, it’s kind of a lot of words. So I wouldn’t recommend it for that situation. Anyone else, thought patterns, help does calculix understand numbers of sets, and also be able to look at a quantity and know how many there are. And also just to be able to visually, in their mind, imagine subtraction, addition, multiplication with the dot patterns, that’s been a huge, huge help for us and also other families that I’ve worked with. Very simple, but very complicated at the same time, and very helpful.

Debbie Reber  41:11

So great, you’ve shared so many awesome resources. And again, I can already tell this is going to be a very long show notes page. But that’s great. I love being able to direct people towards more information.

Laura Jackson  41:22

I would also say at the end of the book, I listed most of those resources, I think in the back of the book, so if you miss anything, they’ll be in there.

Debbie Reber  41:31

Awesome. So listeners, if this is something that you are suspecting you’re dealing with with your kids, or your child has a math disability and you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out discovering dyscalculia when families journey with a math disability, it’s Laura’s new book gets out as you’re listening to this, check out Laura’s blog, where can people see your blog and connect with you on social media or anywhere else? 

Laura Jackson  41:59

Yes, I made my website easy. So you don’t have to spell this calculator. But my website is lauramjackson.com. And there, I have a few resources for parents, I do teach a parent class. And then there’s downloadable PDFs of where to find teaching resources, good recommended reading. So you can find all that there. And then I’m on Instagram at @discoveringdyscalculia. And Facebook, the same @discoveringdyscalculia and just started Twitter, same thing, except for @d_dyscalculia.

Debbie Reber  42:34

Excellent. Okay. Again, those links will also be in the show notes page. Thank you, you shared so much. We got through a lot of my questions. I had three pages of questions. So I’m very pleased with how much we got through. And I know there’s so much more we could have talked about. But I just want to say thank you so much. First of all, congratulations on writing the book. And thank you just for everything you shared. You shared so many strategies and ideas and just lots of things for parents to be thinking about and paying attention to if this is something that they suspect might be going on with their kids. So thank you so much. 

Laura Jackson  43:09

Yes, thank you. Thank you for having me. We’ll be in touch.

Debbie Reber  43:15

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