Specific Learning Disability - Impairment in Mathematics in Children and Adolescents


ICD-10 code: F81.2

Specific Learning Disorder, Impairment in Mathematics is part of a cluster of diagnoses called Specific Learning Disorders. Specific Learning Disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that include:

  • Impairment in Reading
  • Impairment in Written Expression
  • Impairment in Mathematics

These disorders are categorized by a persistent difficulty learning keystone academic skills with an onset during the years of formal schooling. Key academic skills include reading of single words accurately and fluently, reading comprehension, written expression and spelling, arithmetic calculation, and mathematical reasoning. Difficulties learning to map letters with the sound of one’s language- to read printed words- is one of the most common manifestations of specific learning disorder. Children and adolescents with specific learning disorder experience a persistent, or restricted progress in learning for at least six months despite intervention. The learning difficulties are usually readily apparent in the early school years in most children.

Children and adolescents with Specific Learning Disorders also perform well below average for their age, and average achievement is only attained through extraordinarily high levels of effort or support. The low academic skills cause significant interference with school skills that is usually indicated by school report or teacher’s grades. These learning difficulties are considered “specific” for four reasons: (1) they are not attributable to an intellectual disability; (2) the difficulty cannot be attributed to external factors such as economic or environmental disadvantage, chronic absenteeism, or lack of education in the individual’s community context; (3) it cannot be attributed to a neurological or motor disorder and (4) the difficulty must be restricted to one academic skill or domain (i.e., reading single words, retrieving or calculating number facts).

Note that Dyscalculia is a general term used to describe difficulty in mathematics. If dyscalculia is used to specify this particular pattern of difficulties, it is important to specify what difficulties are present.

What is Specific Learning Disorder, Impairment in Mathematics?

Approximately 5-5% of individuals in the general population have a learning disorder. Of the children who have a specific learning disability, approximately half have a math impairment.

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Understanding Impairment in Mathematics

Impairment in Math is a condition that makes it difficult to make sense of numbers and math concepts. Children with math impairments have difficulty learning and memorizing basic number facts. They struggle to understand the logic behind math and how to apply their knowledge to solving problems.

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How is Impairment in Mathematics treated?

Impairments in mathematics are treatable using a targeted, individualized intervention. The intervention is uniquely tailored to remedy the child’s weaknesses in a targeted area of mathematics (e.g., number sense, memorization of math facts, accurate or fluent calculation, accurate math reasoning).

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