4 Tips for Helping Your College-Bound Teen Manage Dyscalculia

Strategies and Tips for Teaching Life Skills

For those who have dyscalculia, a learning disability in math, it's very easy for friends and family to dismiss the disorder as a not-to-worrisome obstacle that can be easily overcome. Those on the outside of the disorder will simply suggest avoiding math-related subjects at advanced levels when they are no longer required.

However, what many don't understand is that dyscalculia is not simply a problem in which a person has trouble understanding, say, trigonometry.

It means having difficulty with basic numbers, the numbers we often use to navigate our daily existence. If your child is going off to college for the first time, this means she will have to take one many responsibilities that, for one, she had help with from you, and two, will require the manipulation of numbers. Think--paying bills, remembering deadlines, and managing a grocery budget. Here are some tips to help your child prepare for this challenging, but ultimately rewarding, new phase in her life:

  1. Use online tools to manage money and time-related matters. People with dyscalculia today have an unparalleled opportunity to harness the Internet to their advantage. Time and money management tools abound on the Internet, and are especially a boon for those of us who struggle understanding even the most basic rules of budgeting and time organization. Some excellent examples include, for money tools, Mint and SmartyPig. As for time and task management tools, check out Evernote and Workflowy.
  1. Help your child set up a schedule that can be easily followed. As you likely know all-too well, dyscalculics often have trouble getting tasks done in a systematic fashion. Once your child is in college, she'll be jumping into a whole different ballgame, one in which she'll have lots of free time that she'll have to manage on her own. Try helping your child set up a schedule that isn't overly-rigid, and encourage her to follow it independently.
  1. Have your child practice some of the tasks that she'll be doing alone while she's still at home. As with setting up a schedule, there will lots of different tasks that your child will have to complete on her own once in college. Send your child to the grocery store so that she can become more accustomed to managing food prices. Do the same with other related tasks that are of particular difficulty to your child, even non-number related activities like doing laundry and cooking a meal.
  2. If possible, visit the campus beforehand and help your child get acquainted with her surroundings. Another non-number related area in which dyscalculics often struggle is understanding space and directions. If time and money permit, be sure to visit your child's future college campus for a weekend prior to the start of the semester. Find out directions to places your child will likely frequent, including but not limited to the student center, the library, a local grocery store, etc. Practice routes to these spots so that your child won't be completely lost and confused upon her matriculation. Of course, even if you prepare well in advance for your child's departure to college, there will be struggles you may not have been able to foresee. Even students without learning disabilities often find making the transition to semi-independence a very difficult one. At the same time, however, it's important to know that what will ultimately help your child learn is tried-and-true experience. Offering as much support as you can will turn your child's experiences into lessons that will help them throughout their lives. Good luck!

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