Our son has shown mild signs of dyslexia for quite some time, but it appears that it is dyscalculia that is his main difficulty. He is now a senior in high school, and has passed his English courses without much problem. But he is now failing Algebra I for the third time. He has had difficulty with mathematics since early grade school. This has had a large impact on his self-esteem. He now tends to assume that he is just not very intelligent, which I am certain is not the root problem.

We have been aware of dyslexia for some time, but it is only recently that we were aware of the existence of dyscalculia.

Both my son and my wife are Michigan natives. My son has always hoped to attend the University of Michigan, but must first graduate from high school.

We are looking for help in finding a facility that could provide comprehensive testing of these learning disorders to help understand his situation better. Could you please help, or guide us to someone who can?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

Well, dyscalculia is not my specialty area, but here are some thoughts. We know that dyslexia has an underlying language component to the disorder. Language is a conceptual system, reading is a conceptual system, and math is a conceptual system—so it is not unusual for kids with dyslexia to have problems from everything to learning those times tables to understanding math story problems. Additionally, math puts quite a demand on working memory, so perhaps that needs to be assessed.

And, many kids like your son do get that belief that they are not smart—which is SO FAR from reality. The problem is they work so hard at academics and yet repeatedly fail. It really breaks my heart as I hear this story (and experience it with the kids I see) over and over.

Does your son receive services under an IEP for his needs? Or does he have a 504 Plan? This is the year to get those things in place so that he can get accommodations in college. We’ve got a really good resource on this page developed by the Denver Academy to help guide you.

Given that I am in Ann Arbor, it is difficult for me to refer you to someone in Indiana. DyslexiaHelp is a donor-funded web resource offered through the Services for Students with Disabilities office at UM, which does not assess or diagnose. Purdue University has a highly regarded speech-language pathology program, but I searched website and didn't find anyone doing assessments for dyslexia; neither did I find anything at Indiana University, which also has a good speech-language program. You could delve more deeply into the programs at those schools, including a special education department for help. I typically refer people from out of state to the International Dyslexia Association's list of providers from their state. Surprisingly, the list for IN is quite sparse with only 2 people who may be able to diagnose. Not very helpful, unfortunately.

I am sorry that I couldn't be of more help. Your son should start reading some of the success stories on DyslexiaHelp so that he can begin to learn of other dyslexics' struggles AND importantly, their successes. He should not give up his dream of UM! Go Blue!