How Executive Functions Are Affected By Dyscalculia?

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REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON MARCH 16, 2022

Accomplishing a task swiftly may be one of the reasons behind efficiency.  To ensure this, one needs to make a perfect plan of action to achieve. Executive functioning skills are often needed for creating these strategies. Some individuals take additional time to complete responsibilities due to compromises like numbers and letter comprehension. Does this imply that Dyscalculics incapacitate Executive functioning as well? If yes, what strategies need to be ensured to improve?

To outreach appropriate answers, we here thereby elucidate what precisely are executive functioning skills and how are these skills affected in Dyscalculia in detail. These insights may assist you in making fitting decisions about accessing these abilities and how to edify yourself with such expertise with Dyscalculia. 

Executive functions- The trait of white-collar?

Some believe executive functions as the management system of the brain, while others perceive them to be the trait of a professional. While both of these inferences may be true, to comprehend better we need to read through the definition.  Executive functions may be defined as the virtuous attitude of an individual to handle multiple tasks efficiently by ensuring appropriate mental control and self-regulation. To excel personally or at the workplace, the following executive functions may need to be mastered:

  • Attention to the details of the task to comprehend it better.
  • Ability to organize, sequence and prioritize multiple tasks, if any. 
  • Warranting discipline to accomplish duties before deadlines.
  • Multiple points of views on the issue to come up with fitting solutions.
  • Finally, Optimizing mental health and balance for the scenario. 

Dyscalculia and executive functions- Are these managerial skills compromised?

To infer appropriately what is the status of executive functioning in Dyscalculics, here we explore various areas where special individuals may face constraints in executive functioning. By this, we can later outreach appropriate inferences. 

1. Attentional Skills and Focusing on the task 

Those who may encounter learning or number incapacities may also have attention issues. Focusing on particulars often implies making a note of letters, numbers, and codes mentioned depicting various tasks. In such scenarios, these aspirants may face constraints in inferring details swiftly. All of these are often a result of focus compromises. 

Sarit Askenazi[1] made a detailed study of attentional networks in dyscalculia to see how these perform in attentional tasks. One of the prime reasons behind this research was to determine the status of executive functions. 14 university students with dyscalculia were chosen. The results marked that the attentional indispositions in these individuals were evident and were caused due to deficits in the altering network. These inferences show that these individuals may take time to notice details and strive to manage focus. 

2. Sequencing and Organizing Skills 

 Organizing various subtasks and entities in place may ensure the duty to address nimbleness. Nonetheless, some special people may feel it is taxing inferring sequencing and specific arrangements. Due to this, they may take additional time to cope with various tasks as they are not ordered or prioritized. 

Isabelle Rapin[2] studied the calculating abilities of Dyscalculics. In the research, it is outlined that these can have incapacities to identify the number of dots at a glance. Further, schoolers may learn the visual symbols and names of numbers but may miss on inferring their ordinality and cardinality. Accordingly, they may repel to sequence or organize tasks.  

3. Emotional Balance and Self Control

Considerations like mental balance and emotional strengths may be evident in people.  These may arise from math-related anxieties as well. Lack of emotional balance may come upon challenges during long work hours and may hamper the flow of exertion. 

While there are no definitive proofs of such incapacity in Dyscalculics. Relevant inference can be taken from David C Geary[3] and his research. Here, the social and emotional functioning of these individuals were discussed. It is outlined that due to some cognitive deficits in Dyscalculia, stress for math can result in frustration and anxiety, which may persist for longer periods. These inferences show that these individuals may have to manage their emotional and self-balance. 

Flexible thinking- A clear edge for these innovators!

Being supple to the situations and acting accordingly can be perceived as crucial. As an executive, one may need to plan to accomplish responsibility according to the given obligations and deadlines. For that reason, being flexible assists. Fascinatingly, Dyscalculics may ensure resilience with their strong attribute of creativity. Implementing innovative alternatives can turn flexible at moments when needed. 

Flexibility may often be a crucial part of creativity. Yoed N. Kenett[4] did a study on the flexibility of thought in highly creative individuals. Here he outlined that creativity needs flexibility. The study of semantic networks of creative individuals showed a more robust tendency to defend situations, thereby implying their flexibility. From these results, we can infer that being creative, Dyscalculics may ensure flexibility with ease. 

Can dyscalculics master executive functions?

Going through areas where people may excel and constrain executive functioning. One can create a mixed opinion of the same.  While researchers like Sarit Askenazi comment that these are deficits in Executive functioning, a few edges like flexibility and management of other traits may let them oversee duties at the workplace or home. For that reason, Dyscalculics may not be concerned about snags, rather focus on how to rejuvenate them. Accordingly, here are a few strategies for working methods one can look into:

1. Opting Associative tools and resources

Many assistive tools are resources that can be opted to assist executive functions as an individual.  Most of the professionals employ handy habits like maintaining to-do lists, schedules, and planners to organize and prioritize tasks over time.  

2. Neuropsychological therapies 

A specialized therapeutic approach can be fabricated for special children to improvise various traits like memory, judgment, emotional functioning, and behavior. While most of these assist managerial skills and empathy, such treatments can aid in mastering executive functions. 

Dehghani Yousef[5] made a study on whether Neuropsychological therapy has a relevant effect on executive functions. A sample of 40 students was considered, where half of them were a control group and the rest as an experimental group. The results outlined that emphasis on the importance of such therapies can be used as an effective method for intervention in math compromised students. 

3. Improve Mindfulness – To amplify self-regulation

Self-regulation in individuals can be addressed by ensuring a free thought process and peace. Thereby, ensuring mindfulness for the same is necessary. Maryam Akbari[6], from research done on 30 sample people, found that being mindful can improve self-regulation in Dyscalculia.

Ensuring mindfulness can be effortless with facile practices like taking small breaks at work, going for a nature walk, and checking some mindfulness apps like calm and Insight Timer

Concluding thoughts

Instead of looking over the incapacities, looking out for relevant strategies to ameliorate may help in growing in life. With or without numbers, some people may be constrained in manifesting their executive functioning skills. Checking out the area to address and then opting for a befitting strategy may evidently succor.  Mull over how executive functioning may affect dyscalculics and probable strategies to come over to outreach an appropriate inference of the scenario. 

References:

  1. Askenazi, S., & Henik, A. (2010). Attentional networks in developmental dyscalculia. Behavioral and brain functions, 6(1), 1-12.
  2. Rapin, I. (2016). Dyscalculia and the calculating brain. Pediatric neurology, 61, 11-20.
  3. Geary, D. C. (2006). Dyscalculia at an early age: Characteristics and potential influence on socio-emotional development. Encyclopedia on early childhood development, 15, 1-4.
  4. Kenett, Y. N., Levy, O., Kenett, D. Y., Stanley, H. E., Faust, M., & Havlin, S. (2018). Flexibility of thought in high creative individuals represented by percolation analysis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(5), 867-872.
  5. Dehghani, Y., Afshin, S. A., & Keykhosrovani, M. (2017). Effectiveness of neuropsychological therapy on executive functions and educational performance of students with dyscalculia.
  6. Akbari, M., Arjomandnia, A. A., Afrooz, G., & Kamkari, K. (2014). The influence of mindfulness on self-regulation of students with dyscalculia. Advances in Environmental Biology, 942-947.

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