Addressing Dyscalculia, Sequencing Challenges
Addressing Dyscalculia, Sequencing Challenges
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The Yellin Center

News from The Yellin Center: 2024

In this edition:

  • Addressing Dyscalculia
  • Sequencing Challenges: More Common Than You Think

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Happy New Year!
The past year was incredibly busy here at The Yellin Center. We saw a record number of students – many coming to us from across the U.S. and even internationally. We continued to build our relationships with professionals, schools, and special education attorneys, who reached out to us to work with the students they serve. And we valued the opportunity to work on an ongoing basis with students and families and to welcome back those who have returned after several years for a re-evaluation. As we start 2024, we hope that you and your loved ones have a year filled with peace, good health, and happiness.

--Dr. Paul Yellin and the staff of The Yellin Center

Addressing Dyscalculia

An article in AM New York this past fall that looked at how recent efforts to combat dyslexia could be used to address dyscalculia – math disorders – quoted Dr. Yellin:
Dr. Paul Yellin of The Yellin Center for The Mind, Brain, and Education … added that recent math scores among fourth-graders as students returned to in-person learning show how easy it is to fall behind in math, which can be worse for dyscalculics. 

“It doesn’t take much to fall behind,” Yellin said. “Math is a cumulative practice and so much has happened. Not having number sense can hold you back.”

Even though dyslexia has received most of the research for many decades, dyscalculia is only now starting to get the same. Yellin says researchers are learning much more about the disorder and previous beliefs are turning out to be incorrect. 

“Dyscalculia has caught up in the last 10 years,” said Dr. Yellin. “We’ve learned it is a neurologically-based processing disorder… You can also be smart and have a reading challenge or a math challenge. Early screening in early grades is also encouraged.”

 “I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he says. “The way reading is taught will change and now let’s move on to math. It will save a lot of pain and frustration.”

Navigating Special Education

Susan Yellin, Esq. continues to provide support for Yellin Center families needing guidance on how to navigate the special education system and continues her work for ADDitude Magazine, most recently writing about how parents can respond when schools use “informal removal” or “off the books suspension” to address discipline issues

Sequencing Challenges: More Common Than You Think

Are you feeling frustrated because your child has only just begun working on her term paper, which is due tomorrow, despite having had the assignment for over a month? Does your teen believe he can start packing his backpack for a weekend ski trip just as the Uber arrives to take you all to the airport? Is your fifth grader completing all his math work in his head, only to lose points for "not showing his work"? Are you frustrated that your first grader can read above grade level but still struggles to recall the month that follows March?

When children present with these difficulties, it is important to consider that weak sequencing may be at the root of the problem.

Temporal-sequential ordering, or sequencing, refers to our cognitive processes for managing information and activities that are made up of individual pieces arranged linearly in a specific order. It is what we engage in when planning a project or acquiring a new skill. If you have ever questioned the significance of sequences, have you ever tried following a new recipe but mistakenly changed the order of the steps? 
Children who struggle with sequences often have trouble breaking complex tasks into steps, and then procrastinate because each task seems overwhelming. They just don’t know how or where to start.
Sequencing is important for developing a sense of time, remembering the steps in a math procedure, mastering routines, making a logical argument, and anticipating the likely outcome of a decision. 

If you ask someone to tell you the months, and they ask, “In order?” chances are they have a sequencing problem.  The good news is that with computers, other digital tools, and now, artificial intelligence, there are many strategies available for supporting sequencing difficulties. In fact, one of my favorites is the horizontal “To Do List” or timeline.  Traditional vertical “To Do Lists” can be challenging, even anxiety-provoking, for people with weak sequencing, because the list tells you what needs to be done but not how, when, and how long you need to work on each item. 

By using a horizontal timeline, not only can someone with sequencing challenges see what needs to be done, but when/how long they should focus on that task. 

Students with sequencing challenges often have trouble with procedural recall (i.e., mastering skills and processes that involve steps or sequences). We see many bright students with sequencing difficulty who are frustrated when they get the right answer to a math problem but lose points because they did not show their work. When we work with them, we frequently find that they either use mental math (i.e., they do it all in their head) or they’ve developed elaborate ways to work around the expected procedure (e.g., using addition to work around multiplication). These students benefit from creating a Math Atlas, consisting of color-coded examples of procedures done correctly, with the steps written out and a mnemonic to help them remember the steps. Here is an example of a Math Atlas page for multiplying two digits by two digits.
Because most children have little trouble mastering common sequences (e.g., days of the week, months of the year, the alphabet, or counting by 4’s), those who have trouble with them may feel that “all those kids are so much smarter than me.”  As parents, you may be equally frustrated because these sequences seem so simple, and because they are everywhere. Please be patient. Bear in mind that sequencing difficulties are very common; they do not mean your child is not bright, and there is an ever increasing collection of strategies and tools to support weak sequencing. 
The Yellin Center | 104 West 29th Street | 12th Floor | New York, NY 10001 | | | 646-775-6646
©Paul B. Yellin M.D. P.L.L.C.

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