I can vividly recall the frustration I had with Math since primary school. I was the mute student during Math classes and fully engaged one in every other subject. The transition from primary school to middle school and then to high school was quite smooth academically.
I loved school, thoroughly enjoyed all my classes, scored above average on exams and my parents would always come out glowing with pride after ‘Parent-Teacher Meetings’.
However, when it came down to Math, the story was quite the opposite; regardless of how many hours I spent filling notebooks practicing Math problems or going to the best tutors in town, I was never able to score anything higher than a ‘D’, or worse! When it came to writing, however, I was told from a young age that I was exceptional.
So, once I graduated high school, the goal was clear; to become a journalist, write things to make people think differently. At AUS, I was ecstatic as I chose all my courses as a freshmen Journalism major, but as I saw that my degree requirement had two mandatory Math courses, my heart sank.
I was dreading the helplessness I felt during Math classes through school, the chronic migraines before every test or exam, the constant frustration of not being able to understand even the simplest of concepts. It took me three attempts to pass the first Math course at AUS. Fast forward to my current year as a senior, I had finally taken the second mandatory Math course I needed to graduate.
The drill was as tough as it could be: senior level courses, extracurriculars and the never-ending hours I spent trying to comprehend my Math course material, along with the regular tuitions I attended on a daily basis. It was challenging, but I was determined.
The day of my first midterm arrived, and I mentally prepared myself.
All my confidence shattered when I saw the questions. The room started spinning, I was gasping for air and my head began to throb.
The very same physical ailments made a comeback as I received my grade for that midterm, 4/40 [Yes, you read that right]. Both family and friends were genuinely alarmed to see that an otherwise bright student like me had scored so low.
It was then that I took action and went to speak to the AUS Director of Senior Academic Advising. The Director, also being a clinical Psychologist, heard my history, made a detailed analysis of my University transcripts, and suggested I get myself tested for a Math learning disability called Dyscalculia.
My mother, who holds a Masters in Psychology, immediately understood the delicacy of the matter and agreed to get me tested. My father, being a traditional man, could not absorb that his daughter could be linked with the terms ‘learning disability’. After much convincing, he agreed to take me in for my screening, and sat right by my side as I gave my test.
The results that followed concluded that, at the age of 22, I had the learning disability Dyscalculia. My parents, siblings and close friends became my backbone.
Personally, it was not easy to accept that I had a disability; that there was something I could not do, but then again we’re all human beings, we all have limitations and nobody’s perfect. My only regret is that I should have been diagnosed at a younger age.
If you’re a parent or a sibling and you’ve seen a child struggle academically, regardless of how hard they work, keep an open mind and have them tested. Having a learning disability is nothing to be ashamed of – it is an eye-opener.
Some symptoms of Dyscalculia include:
- difficulty when counting backwards.
- poor sense of number and estimation.
- difficulty in remembering ‘basic’ facts, despite many hours of practice/rote learning.
If they are diagnosed, at least proper treatment can be applied instead of holding the child responsible.
We must also allow our ideology to evolve and break barriers to raise awareness about learning disabilities. When they know it’s not a lack of effort, they’re likely to come to terms with their limitations given the right emotional support.