Defining the 3 D's: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia

Parent Guide
For Parents & Students
4 min read

Learning differences come in many iterations, looking different from one person to the next. You might have heard the expression "The 3 D's" in the learning and medical communities. But what does that mean? The 3 D's represent dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. While many children and adults might be diagnosed with just one of these learning disabilities, there are also times when someone is diagnosed with all three. In this blog we break down each of these LD's and what to look for. 

Dyslexia (Specific Learning Disorder: Reading)

The most well known of the 3 D's is dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disorder which causes difficulty in reading as a result of challenges with identifying speech sounds and their relationships with letters and words, also known as decoding. Dyslexia is also known as a reading disability as it affects the areas of the brain which process language (Mayo Clinic). 

There are many different signs that might indicate your child could be at risk for dyslexia. In the preschool years, signs include: late talking, difficulty remembering letters, numbers, and colors, learning new words slowly, and trouble with nursery rhymes. 

In the elementary years, your child might exhibit difficulty reading and writing, struggle with spelling, have difficulty processing information, have trouble seeing similarities and differences in letters and words, and demonstrate an aversion to reading activities.

As your child progresses into their teenage years, you might notice a continued struggle with reading and writing tasks, difficulty learning a foreign language, struggles with memorization and math, problems with spelling, etc.

Dysgraphia (Specific Learning Disorder: Written Expression) 

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that affects a person's writing abilities. It is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Dysgraphia will often manifest as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting, and challenges transferring thoughts to paper ( 

Signs to look out for if you suspect your child might be struggling with their written expression include: a cramped pencil grip, inconsistency in letter and word spacing, difficulties with spelling, a tendency to over-erase, trouble with spacing and margins, and an unusual hand and body position while writing. 

Dyscalculia (Specific Learning Disorder: Mathematics) 

The last of the 3 D's, dyscalculia, refers to a range of struggles with mathematics that include difficulties understanding the meaning of numbers, and challenges using mathematical principles to solve math problems. Individuals with dyscalculia will have trouble with both basic and more abstract math concepts. Unfortunately, dyscalculia is seldom identified early. 

Signs that someone might be dealing with dyscalculia include: trouble recognizing numbers, a delay in learning to count and easily losing track when counting, a need to have more visual aids or use fingers when solving problems, challenges in identifying patterns and ordering, and difficulty connecting numerical symbols with their words. 

While it is very common to see children exhibit some of symptoms of the 3 D's in their emergent years (ages 4-6), if your child appears to be struggling more than what is considered developmentally appropriate, continues to face challenges into higher elementary grades, or your child's teachers suspect there might be something deeper going on, it is important to seek the help of professionals in figuring out what could be causing certain issues. With early intervention and the right support team, many children with one or more of these LD's learn ways to navigate these differences and thrive. For more information on how Parallel can help, please click here.

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