The prevalence of specific learning disorder in mathematics and comorbidity with other developmental disorders in primary school age children

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    Mathematics difficulties are common in both children and adults, and they can have a great impact on people's lives. A specific learning disorder in mathematics (SLDM or developmental dyscalculia) is a special case of persistent mathematics difficulties, where the problems with maths cannot be attributed to environmental factors, intellectual disability, or mental, neurological or physical disorders. The aim of the current study was to estimate the prevalence rate of SLDM, any gender differences in SLDM, and the most common comorbid conditions. The DSM‐5 provides details regarding these only for specific learning disorders in general, but not specifically for SLDM. We also compared the prevalence rates obtained on the basis of the DSM‐IV and DSM‐5 criteria. We investigated the performance of 2,421 primary school children on standardized tests of mathematics, English, and IQ, and several demographic factors over the primary school years. We applied the DSM‐5 diagnostic criteria to identify children with a potential diagnosis of SLDM. Six per cent of our sample had persistent, severe difficulties with mathematics, and, after applying the exclusion criteria, 5.7% were identified as having an SLDM profile. Both persistent maths difficulties and consistently exceptionally high performance in maths were equally common in males and females. About half of the children with an SLDM profile had some form of language or communication difficulty. Some of these children also had a diagnosis of autism, social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties or attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Our findings have important implications for research and intervention purposes, which we discuss in the study.


    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)917-940
    JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
    Journal publication dateNov 2018
    Early online date05 Jul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

    ID: 154591209