Many are familiar with dyslexia; those of this neurotype struggle with words. A lesser known neurotype is dyscalculia, one of my neurotypes. Dyscalculia, a Latin term that translates to “counting badly”, disables me from math-related concepts. In college, despite routine tutoring and extra study time, I passed only one math class, a remedial course.
Dyscalculic struggles are not limited to numbers. In my experience, dyscalculia also means I can’t really read music notes, or maps, and am slow to remember my left from my right. I have little sense of direction. I have little sense of time. Hours can pass before I notice. My home is full of clocks, some of which are analog, though I’m slow to read them. I’m constantly comparing my analog and digital clocks, though I never feel as if this activity improves my relationship to time or numbers.
At school and at work, I’ve always been one of the last people to learn technology. This was especially a problem when in graduate school, where I was teaching and researching, and had to learn to use learning management systems as an instructor.
I don’t, however, see dyscalculia as a problem. I see my dyscalculic experiences the way I see the experience of loss of senses: of closing one’s eyes to find that sounds, tastes, and smells are intensified. I suspect other dyscalculics have heightened abilities in areas unrelated to numbers.
Some disabled people believe disability doesn’t mean inability, but means an ability to find new routes, new ways of achieving and living. My inabilities in numbers have taught me that there are multiple ways to achieve my goals. Despite what I’d always been told, I didn’t need to pass a math class to earn a college degree. Colleges allowed me to take additional science classes to make up for my lack of math credits.
Though slow to learn learning management systems and other forms of technology, I’ve gained from these experiences the confidence to independently develop my own systems for using these and other tech tools. I’ve learned to learn. Though no human is truly independent, as we are all interdependent, dependent on many people, I often felt as if I was on my own, as my struggles were largely unnecessary. I struggled due to unsupportive, standardized systems that failed to believe in my struggles. One lesson I’ve learned from my struggles as a dyscalculic is that tasks that seem impossible only seems impossible until I’ve found my way into them.