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This category is included in the DARE scheme

 Dare Category:

Specific Learning Difficulty (incl. Dyslexia & Dyscalculia)

 Type of documentation required

Full psycho-educational assessment.

 Appropriate professional


 Age of report

Must be less than three years old i.e. dated after 1 February 2013 for 2016 applicants.


What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is classified as a Specific Learning Difficulty affecting numbers and maths. Students with dyscalculia have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures.

Dyslexia and dyscalculia can co-exist or they can exist independently of one another.


People with Dyscalculia may confuse maths symbols like plus (+) or minus (–). Sufferers may not be able tell which of two numbers are larger. They may tend to use fingers to count.  

They may struggle with things like reading clocks or counting change; budgeting or estimating costs; reading timetables or doing mental arithmetic. Sufferers often experience difficulties with judging time; discerning left from right and may have a poor sense of direction.

A lack of confidence in their own maths ability can exacerbate the difficulties a dyscalculic student experiences.

Learning Strategies

  • Provide students with extra time to complete tasks and encourage the use of rough work for calculations
  • Avoid creating anxiety for the student
  • Establish the student’s preferred learning style
  • Build on student’s existing knowledge
  • Make use of mnemonics and visual prompting cards to assist students in memorising rules, formulae and tables etc.
  • Repetition is very important for this learner
  • Encourage students to use computers and calculators, especially to self-correct
  • Use concrete materials and start from practical activities
  • Try to understand the student’s errors, do not just settle for wrong
  • Concentrate on one concept at a time
  • Keep language to a minimum and give specific cues for various mathematical operations in word problems
  • Encourage students to visualise mathematical problems. Allow students to draw a picture to help them understand the problem and ensure they take time to look at any visual information such as charts and graphs
  • If the student does not have co-existing reading difficulties, encourage him/her to read problems aloud
  • In the early stages of teaching new mathematical skills ensure that the mathematical problems are free of large numbers and unnecessary calculations
  • Provide examples and try to relate problems to real-life situations.;
  • Provide students with graph paper/squared paper and encourage them to use this to keep the numbers in line
  • Ask the student to explain verbally how he/she arrived at particular solutions
  • Explain new concepts in a logical manner. Encourage students to teach a concept back in order to check understanding
  • Ensure worksheets are uncluttered and clearly laid out and provide ample room for uncluttered computation.
  • Limit any copying of work from the board

 Supports available

Parents of infants, toddlers and young children with disabilities can access the HSEʼs Early Intervention Teams. These multi-disciplinary teams consist of a range of professionals with expertise in child development including medical professionals, psychologists, social workers, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. They provide assessment and intervention services to the 0-5 age group.

If a parent has concerns regarding their childʼs developmental progress, they may seek to have the child referred for an Assessment of Need by the HSE. The assessment may screen for concerns in relation to the childʼs physical, cognitive, emotional, social and adaptive behaviour and identify areas of need. Following the assessment, a HSE Liaison Officer is required to prepare a service statement within a month of the assessment being completed. This service statement will state what services the child will require and an action plan will be developed to deal with how these are to be provided subject to resources.

Parents seeking an Assessment of Need can ask their GP, Public Health Nurse or the childʼs Consultant to refer the child or they can make a parental referral by contacting their local HSE clinic.

At Primary Education Level:

Children with Dyscalculia attend mainstream primary and secondary schools with their peers, unless they have additional needs requiring a special placement. Whilst having the same level of ability as their peers, children with dyscalculia can be at risk of underperforming, however, the focus of available supports tends to be on literacy. 

School-based learning support will not be provided unless the child is performing in the lowest range at school. The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is responsible for providing assessments within schools. The School can commission a small number of assessments each year through the NEPS but waiting lists are lengthy and private assessments by NEPS approved psychologists will be accepted for this purpose.

If the child meets the assessment criteria, they may be awarded a set number of hours of resource time per week and may also be eligible for a Special Needs Assistant. It is important to discuss any support concerns with the school principal in the event that an assessment is warranted.

The Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) is an officer of the National Council for Special Education with responsibility for allocating resources to pupils with special needs and related issues in schools see www.ncse.ie for a list of SENOʼs in each county.

At Secondary Education Level

A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level, once they continue to have a special educational need.

The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level. This typically includes specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both now referred to as Special Education teachers).

This support is provided based on need, with the number of hours of support determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school.

Reasonable Accommodations at the Certificate Examinations (RACE)

The Race scheme aims to assist students who are at a disadvantage due to a disability, by facilitating access to the state certificate examinations. The scheme has been the subject of much discussion and controversy in recent months and is currently undergoing changes.

Details of the revised 2017 scheme of reasonable accommodations will be available here on the State Examinations Commission website soon.

At Third Level Education:

Dyscalculia is one of the specific learning difficulties covered under the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) system.

DARE - Disability Access Route to Education - School leavers with SLD (Dyslexia / Dyscalculia) who are under 23 years old (at 1st January of the application year) can apply for a college place through DARE:

Applicants complete the CAO application by 17.15pm on 1st February. CAO opens for applications on 5th November at 12.00 noon. See www.cao.ie

By 1st March, applicants must answer YES to Question 1 ('Do you wish to be considered for DARE?') on Section A of the Supplementary Information Form (the SIF is a part of your CAO application). 

Applicants with SLD are required to provide:

Evidence of their disability (Full psychoeducational assessment AND Evidence of Disability Form 2016 and report from a Psychologist that is less than three-years old i.e. dated after 1 February 2013 for 2016 applicants).

Educational Impact Statement - must be completed by the applicant and your School Principal, Teacher or Guidance Counsellor and returned to the CAO by 17.15pm on 1st April.

Full details of the DARE screening criteria are available here.

Research findings from AHEAD released in 2015 show that, of the total disabled student population (9,694) at Third Level 2013/14 represented in the research, 4939 (50.9%) have a Specific learning Difficulty. The full report is available here.

Common Educational Supports - a range of common educational supports are in place at Third Level for students with specific learning difficulties. These include:

  • Priority registration
  • Reader service
  • Use of audio-tape to record lectures and tutorials
  • Assistive technology
  • Materials in alternative formats
  • Word-processing facilities
  • Photocopying Facilities 
  • Copies of lecturer's notes and/or overheads 
  • Notetaker
  • Time extension on out-of-lecture assignments
  • Special Library Arrangements
  • Counselling and Medical Services
  • Study skills courses
  • Examination provisions 

These and other supports available are outlined in detail in our 'Third Level Supports' area.

In the Workplace

Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups.  Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.

Impact on Career Choice

Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.

Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here

People with Dyscalculia:

  • Exhibit normal or accelerated verbal, reading and writing skills and often possess above average poetic ability
  • Typically have good visual memory for the printed word
  • Are good in science until they reach a level that requires higher math skills
  • Tend to do well in the creative arts
  • Experience difficulties with maths, but the advantages of technology now enable a fairly high-functioning life and professional careers  



Useful Links
SESS - Dyscalculia 
Brief description of Dyscalculia from the Department of Educations Special Education Support Service.
Five ways to understand dyscalculia 
Discussion of Discalculia from the SEN website [UK]
The Dyscalculia Centre 
UK site with lots of information related to Dyscalculia
Disability Access Route to Education
Higher Education Access Route
Student Finance