Continuing on in the series about a fascinating (I think) developmental learning disorder that not many people know about.

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Cognitive Domains: Attention

Also associated with information processing theory is inhibition, which is the active suppression of irrelevant sensory input. Related to this is the idea of resistance to interference, or attention, which is the ability of an individual to concentrate on “central” information and ignore “peripheral” information. Normally-achieving students can complete an arithmetic worksheet in a noisy classroom with minimal distraction, and accuracy is usually very high. Students with developmental dyscalculia, however, may have issues with processing due to a deficit in inhibition.

Rosenberger (1989) offers evidence that low achievement in math is related to attentional deficits. He sampled 102 children for his study, and ran them on a series of paper-and-pencil tests and questionnaires; those children for whom the math achievement quotient was below 100, the reading achievement quotient above 100, and the difference between the two was at least 20 points (approximately 1.5 SDs) or greater were designated “dyscalculic.” Children who met the converse criteria were designated “dyslexic.” 72 children qualified as dyscalculic, and 30 qualified as dyslexic. Both groups were neurologically intact, and without history of epileptic seizures or structural central nervous system disease. The groups were highly comparable in overall scholastic aptitude as well; in fact, only the arithmetic score pre-experimentally distinguished the two groups.

Rosenberger found that the “freedom from distractibility” quotient from the Weschler scale was lower for the dyscalculics, although this is confounded with the score of the arithmetic subtest. Of four factors calculated from the DSM-III questionnaire that each participant received, only the factor of inattention was significantly different for the groups, and was higher for dyscalculics. Rosenberger offers that specific math underachievement is, in at least some cases, the result of failure of children with attention deficits to automatize number facts in the early grades. If true, “this finding would suggest that [attention deficit] is not merely an additive or aggravating factor in problems with math performance, but in fact interferes with the development of aptitude for this skill” (Rosenberger, 1989, p. 219).

Cited:

Rosenberger, P.B. (1989). Perceptual-motor and attentional correlates of developmental dyscalculia. Annals of Neurology, 26, 216-220.

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