Verbal Math and Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is well known that children on the spectrum do not follow the same developmental path as their neurotypical peers. Dysgraphia (a learning disability that affects writing), apraxia (a disorder of motor planning), and dyslexia are common learning disabilities that are often associated with  this group. Young children, especially, struggle with the mechanical skills, and resist any task requiring handwriting.

The prevailing thought is that children hate math. You hear it all the time – children find math frustrating and boring, and refuse to do their worksheets or learn multiplication tables. In a seminal work titled Mathematical Talent Linked To Autism, published in Human Nature Journal (July 3, 2007),  researcher Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues demonstrated a five-fold increase in mathematical talent in an autistic population versus a control group of non-autistic children. The spectrum group demonstrated higher interest in systematizing and quantitative skills. The study concluded that Asperger syndrome [Autism Spectrum Disorder] is not a barrier to achieving maximum potential in systematizing domains such as mathematics, physics, or computer science. And yet, these children often do not perform well in math.    

When children approach math in a different way, they take it with ease and enthusiasm. In most public schools, teaching of math involves copying long pages filled with math problems, showing work, and writing down answers. It might be an impossible task for a child with poor fine motor skills who find handwriting tiresome. These children would dislike arithmetic not for their lack of skill, but because they find traditional math exercises so tedious. Children with reading disorders won’t do well either. They will struggle to understand written problem before even attempting the math portion.

The Verbal Math Lesson Series, an innovative and unique set of three books, avoids these pitfalls and teaches children to do math mentally. There is no need for paper and pencil, and no need for copying problems from the worksheet to paper. They only need to focus on math and nothing else.  

Verbal Math Lesson Books are engaging and easy way to teach children on the spectrum and those with vision problems, reading and writing disabilities.  Verbal or, as it used to be called, Mental Math is neither new nor untested. In fact, in the nineteenth century, elementary math was successfully taught this way. With the availability of low cost paper and pencils, the method was all but forgotten, only to be resurrected in this century by math enthusiasts. 

Here are the ways verbal math can help your child:

1)  Handwriting is the barrier to young children learning math. The Verbal Math Lesson Books address this issue directly. The books completely remove handwriting from the process of learning math, allowing the child to learn concepts without usual frustrations. They learn to visualize numbers in their heads, and don’t have to worry about having to write anything down.

2)  Children with ASD crave predictability, system, and structure. Often, their world is chaotic and confusing with ever-changing scenery and rules. These children like familiarity and prefer simple repetition and gradual approach to flood of instructions and numbers. Common Core standards for math place emphasis on verbose conceptual explanation of mathematical principles. In combining equal portions of language and math, the latter loses. Children on the spectrum get overwhelmed easily with this approach.

The Verbal Math series uses an intuitive approach to math, starting with simple and familiar exercises and movies steadily to more complex concepts. Most basic mathematical concepts are already programmed in children’s minds and don’t require elaborate explanation.

The Verbal Math Lesson program is a clear, and brilliantly structured program. It naturally leads children from one concept to the next. In a step-by-step fashion, each chapter builds on concepts learned in the previous chapter and book. There is no confusing or irrelevant information – just a focus on important concepts, and quiz-like questions to reinforce them.

3)  The Verbal Math Lesson helps build better auditory processing skills and sustained auditory attention. Because the books are taught completely verbally and without the use of pencil and paper, children do not split their attention on multiple tasks and focus on what you, the instructor, is saying. They learn to focus on what is being said and not get distracted by “busy” pictures, words, and numbers on a page.

4)  The Verbal Math Lesson can be taught by anyone, in any setting. The book requires no special props, anything in your view (paper clips, matches, toothpicks, etc.) can be used as a manipulative. No educational credentials are required – anyone can teach math! The books can be used at home or in waiting rooms. The teaching methods are self-explanatory and the books are compact and easy to use.

The Verbal Math series is unique – it presents math in a way that other books and classrooms do not. The books are affordable and comprehensive but most of all practical. Verbal Math skills are essential. After all, math we need for daily life (adding items on the bill, calculating discounts, figuring out tip, etc.) we do in our heads, not on worksheets.    

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